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Penn Football team 2009 wins against Bucknell at Franklin Field 21-3 Credit: Priscilla des Gachons

It’s usually a bad sign when the official scorer doesn’t know the identity of the home team’s starting quarterback.

But so it goes for the injury-ravaged Quakers, who handed the offense to sophomore John Hurley Saturday.

Hurley — or “17,” as the early stat sheets called him — had not taken a varsity snap since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in high school, but played well enough to lead Penn to a 21-3 win over Bucknell at Franklin Field. The Quakers have now won five straight over the Bison.

Somehow, through four games — and four quarterbacks — the Quakers (2-2, 1-0 Ivy) are sitting comfortably at .500.

“I think he managed the game,” Bison coach Tim Landis said of Hurley. “That’s a compliment for a young quarterback in his first start. He didn’t try to play outside of himself.”

Hurley, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound product of Cincinnati, completed his first two collegiate passes for 11 yards apiece and finished 14-for-27 (52 percent) for 148 yards.

He notched no scores — those would come on a trick play and two late fourth-quarter rushes — and threw two interceptions, though both were the result of fluke deflections.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad afternoon for someone who began the year as the fourth-string option. Quarterbacks Keiffer Garton (elbow), Billy Ragone (broken collarbone) and Kyle Olson (ACL) are all injured.

“I felt pretty comfortable coming into it because I had a lot of guys helping me out, supporting me, and I knew that I wasn’t going to be the one that was going to have to carry the whole team,” Hurley said. “I had butterflies, but I was ready.”

He was ready even though he had not even taken snaps in practice until last week, using the few sessions he had to work on timing with his wideouts.

And he did not get quite as much help as he might have liked. Running backs Mike DiMaggio and Matt Hamscher dressed but were not close to 100 percent, receiving just four combined carries.

“The X-rays are negative,” coach Al Bagnoli said, “but neither one of them are really hitting the hole the way they’re capable of and lack the explosion that they normally have.”

So Bagnoli had to dig deep to complement Hurley with a set of suitable weapons.

Wide receiver Kyle Derham, whom Bagnoli called a “built-in failsafe,” returned to the position he played in high school for parts of several series. His first attempt was intercepted, but he completed the next three passes.

And Hamscher, the sophomore tailback, lined up under center in the first quarter. He received the snap, rolled right and tossed a little floater to fullback Luke DeLuca in the front corner of the endzone for a five-yard score.

It was only the team’s third touchdown through the air this season, perhaps because seven different Quakers have thrown passes in 2009.

After a Bucknell fumble in the fourth, Bradford Blackmon recorded his first rushing touchdown of the year, and freshman Lyle Marsh’s three-yard rush with 1:52 remaining sealed the win.

Penn’s defense stopped the Bison dead in their tracks. The Quakers were without captain and preseason All-American Chris Wynn for the second straight week, but still held Bucknell to three points — their fewest allowed since shutting out Princeton, 7-0, on Nov. 3, 2007 — and just 92 passing yards. They also forced four turnovers.

“This might be the best defense I think Penn has had,” said corner Jonathan Moore, who hauled in his third interception of the year.

But to beat Bucknell, the Quakers needed their previously unknown quarterback to play within his element. Hurley did. And Bagnoli, once again, had to craft a new gameplan to accommodate his changing personnel.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge,” Bagnoli said. “We’re not bored, let’s put it that way. We’re certainly not bored Sunday, Monday, Tuesday nights.”

This article has been updated to reflect Penn's correct Ivy League record. We originally said Penn's record was 0-1.

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