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Penn Football beats Dartmouth at Hanover 30 - 24 Penn 96 Andrew Samson 18 Kyle Derham Credit: Katie Rubin

HANOVER, N.H. — As a sophomore last year, kicker Andrew Samson went 16-for-19 on field goal tries. His success was good enough to earn him preseason All-American honors going into his junior campaign.

However, so far into the young season he has yet to live up to his billing. Only three games into the season, he has missed four kicks and had another blocked in his first ten attempts.

Upon probing deeper, it becomes clear that his talent hasn’t leveled off. Despite missing two field goals (39 and 44 yards) in Saturday’s rainy game against Dartmouth, Samson made three (29, 35, and 39 yards). Last year, he attempted only two field goals of 40 yards or longer, making them both. This year he has tried four, connecting on only one.

So increased confidence from coach Al Bagnoli could account for the decreased field goal percentage — at least in the stat book.

The more troubling explanation, though, is the offense’s inability to put itself in legitimate scoring range. While the Quakers have been able to put points on the board in the red zone — they’re 7-for-8 on the season — getting inside the opponent’s 20 seems to be a bigger problem.

Penn drives ended between the opponent’s 20- and 30-yard lines three times against Dartmouth Saturday, two of them ending with Samson misses.

All three of those drives were at least 35 yards long, and two of them lasted 12 plays and ate up over five-and-a-half minutes on the clock. Putting forth so much offensive effort and running the clock should lead to more than just a difficult field goal attempt, even if you have one of the best kickers in the Football Championship Subdivision in your arsenal.

The problem may prove to be difficult to correct. The quarterback situation is obviously troubling right now, with starter Keiffer Garton and backups Kyle Olson and Billy Ragone all nursing injuries of various severity.

“We were a little bit limited on what we could do,” Bagnoli said, “given that we didn’t have a quarterback that could throw the ball.”

But without any legitimate passing threats, the play-calling — especially in Dartmouth territory — became predictable, and Dartmouth’s defense was able to buckle down and keep Penn to only 30 points, despite the fact that the team looked unstoppable at times.

Scoring 30 points will usually equate to a win; on Saturday, it did. But the team’s difficulty with penetrating the red zone is an issue that Bagnoli and the offense must address.

Saturday, these struggles resulted in a closer-than-necessary 30-24 victory over winless Dartmouth. If Penn can’t resolve this issue in the future, however, it could result in the loss of more than just Samson’s All-American status.

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