Penn sprint football had its chances. But the one big play Penn was waiting for never came. Instead, the Quakers just suffered penalties and gut-punching missed opportunities.
Coming off a huge win against Cornell where the defense and rushing attack played a huge role, the Quakers looked to keep the good times going against divisional rivals in Chestnut Hill. However, the Red and Blue would undergo quite the opposite story, falling to the Griffins 31-26.
Throughout the game, Penn (2-1, 1-1 South) was forced to deal with a number of penalties and setbacks, such as in the first quarter, when a bad snap led to a 13-yard loss on third down — even though junior quarterback Reed Connor bounced back to connect with sophomore wide receiver Joshua Trybus for a 50-yard catch. On the next play, senior running back Jake Klaus ran the ball in for a touchdown, tying the game at seven.
“When we came together, we had some good drives and we were able to score touchdowns when we were moving the ball,” Trybus said.
The passing game was a huge part of the Quakers' offense, as they passed for a total of 331 yards. Towards the end of the second half, Connor connected with junior wide reciever Billy Murphy for a huge 62-yard gain, putting them in prime position to reach the end zone. However, the drive came to a halt and the Quakers were forced to settle for the field goal.
“We just didn’t execute, and when we did make some big plays, we had the flag go … and it went right back,” coach Bill Wagner said. “When you got a penalty, you got to start over, first and 15 instead of first and 10 at midfield.”
Penalties were in fact the story of the game, as the Quakers were called for 11 penalties for a total of 133 yards. These flags not only affected the team yardage wise, but also took momentum out of the team’s drives.
“It was pathetic, and it was not our style of play,” Wagner said. “We beat ourselves.”
While Connor came up big last week after coming in for injured quarterback Eddie Jenkins, this week was a very different story. Connor started the game, and went 12-for-26 with two interceptions before Wagner decided to switch Connor out for Trybus in the third quarter. Trybus was more effective, going six for seven with two touchdowns.
“We had to change it up, and get a different spark possibly and hopefully it would happen, and it probably could have happened,” Wagner said.
“We were splitting reps all week at practice, and the coaches did a great job having us both ready,” Trybus added. “I felt like when I came in I could handle the offense pretty well, and just keep the team going in the right direction.”
Penn's special teams unit made a crucial play in the fourth quarter with a blocked punt which led to a safety and swung the momentum in Penn’s direction. The safety gave Penn a chance with the score at 19-24 and six minutes left on the clock. With the ball back in the offense’s hands, the Quakers were not able to get anything going, and were forced to punt. The Griffins (2-1, 2-0) would then complete a 51-yard touchdown pass, putting the Quakers' chance for a comeback away.
“We could have won the game at the end, but we had so many different times in the game to win,” Wagner said.
The combination of missed opportunities, drive-killing penalties, and another mid-game quarterback change was too much for Penn to overcome, as it was handed its first loss of the season.
“We’re still alive, I mean, the season’s not over,” Wagner said. “The season is there in front, we have to learn from all our mistakes and correct the things that we didn’t do well in this game.”
With a bye week next week, the Quakers will hope Jenkins returns and look forward to capitalizing on big opportunities at Army (2-0) after the bye.
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