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Football vs Brown Credit: Thomas Munson , Thomas Munson

A fter Penn football’s 21-13 loss to Brown on Saturday, coach Al Bagnoli was not about to make any excuses for the Quakers’ offensive performance.

But curiously enough, Brown coach Phil Estes was.

“I think it was more the weather,” he said when asked about the struggles of Penn quarterback Alek Torgersen in the face of the Bears’ fearsome pass rush. “The ball was heavy. I saw at times when he got the snap, he wasn’t getting laces, and it was really awkward in his hand. I think a lot of those throws were due to pressure — he had to get it off quick — but it was also due to the weather and the heavy ball.”

The final stats say that Torgersen was sacked only twice — but he was hit far more often than that. As a result, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the sophomore was quick to take off running — he carried the ball 12 times, more than double the amount of totes of any other Penn player— rather than stay home and get drilled in the back again.

That strategy isn’t good for the hearts of the Penn coaching staff — and it didn’t do much to help the Quakers win in the end either. Torgersen only gained seven total yards on the ground all day.

As a whole, though, the running game came up small when the Red and Blue needed it the most in order to stick to their game plan — in a rainy game when passing would be difficult.

“I don’t think [the weather] snuck up on us,” Bagnoli said.

No one on Penn’s roster had a carry longer than seven yards all afternoon, which is more an indictment of Penn’s young offensive line than any of the running backs — Kyle Wilcox and Eric Fiore combined for only eight carries once the coaching staff realized there wasn’t going to be much running room.

And as a result, Penn ultimately leaned too heavily on its quick-hit short passing game — which didn’t fool anyone on the Brown defense. Of Torgersen’s 30 completions, 20 of them resulted in gains shorter than 10 yards.

By game’s end, the time of possession advantage favored the Bears by over 13 minutes, a testament not only to Brown’s ability to control the line of scrimmage and establish a run game, but also Penn’s failure to do exactly that.

In three of their six losses this season, the Quakers have averaged 2.0 yards per carry or fewer. It’s grown obvious that unless Penn’s offense can force opponents to respect the run, all those quick hit screens and drag routes that Bagnoli likes to dial up won’t gain very much.

“We very rarely could stay on schedule,” he said. “Things just kind of play off each other, and it makes it very difficult to be a consistent, cohesive offense.”

If Penn wants to show some pride and put together competitive games in the last three weeks of the season — and Bagnoli’s coaching career — these are the things that need to be focused on offensively: winning the battle in the trenches and establishing all parts of the offense.

Yet at this rate, the ultimate solution to Penn’s offensive struggles may not arrive until after its venerable coach retires.

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