Most of the fans who filed into Franklin Field on Saturday night to watch the Penn sprint football team expected a fourth consecutive week of late-game theatrics.
They left disappointed.
Against Army, the Quakers were unable to mount any comeback from their 14-7 halftime deficit, instead falling, 35-7.
It was a tale of two halves for the Red and Blue, as a taut first-half affair quickly descended into chaos as Army’s Marquis Morris shredded the Quakers’ defensive front.
Though Morris never broke a run longer than 16 yards, his 23-carry, 103-yard effort opened enough holes for quarterback Javier Sustaita to pick apart the Penn secondary with screen pass after screen pass.
Penn never found the answer to Army’s screen game.
“We didn’t really contain and push the play back inside,” Penn coach Bill Wagner said. “And I think [Cody Nyp], who caught most of the quick passes, is a very talented football player.”
Nyp tallied 132 yards on 10 receptions, nearly all of them from screen passes.
Deep inside the Quakers’ territory, Morris finished off drives, scoring three second-half touchdowns on runs of one, two and 14 yards, respectively.
Penn never recovered from the Black Knights’ second-half offensive onslaught, after keeping Sustaita in check for much of the first half.
The Red and Blue offensive unit underwent a similar ordeal, as first-half effectiveness quickly went up in smoke.
Playing from behind, quarterback Keith Braccia was forced to throw — and throw often — putting up 36 pass attempts on the night but completing only 15.
The Quakers moved the ball relatively well in the first half, reaching Army territory on five of their eight first half drives.
In the second half, however, Penn entered Army territory only once, on a drive that was snuffed out by a Braccia interception to Army cornerback John Barnett on a deep shot downfield.
Without the short-to-medium passing game that was working so well in the first half, the Penn offense was cut off at the knees.
“They made adjustments at the half,” Braccia said. “They were playing our wide guys a little different. They just adjusted to our short pass and shut us down … That hurt us in the second half.”
The Quakers’ only score on the night came on a four-yard pass from Braccia to senior wideout Whit Shaw on a fourth and goal in the second quarter, cutting Army’s lead to 14-7.
After the score, the Quakers looked as if another stirring comeback was on the way.
This time, though, it was not to be.
With the loss, the Quakers drop to 2-2, and a visit to Franklin Field from Post is on the schedule for Friday.
Wagner knows they’ll be ready.
“We’re gonna look at this game tomorrow, and we’re gonna flush it away,” he said. “We’ll be ready to play Post on Friday night.”
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