Penn football's 37-14 loss to Dartmouth was not the opening to Ivy play the team was looking for. The Quakers were dominated on both sides of the ball, as the game got out of hand quickly in the third quarter. Here are three takeaways from the game.
The defensive back depth is suddenly a problem
One of the strengths of the defense coming in to the season was that the entire secondary was returning. Led by senior safety and captain Sam Philippi, the Quakers had plenty of experience and familiarity with each other. But Philippi is out indefinitely after suffering a hip injury in the season opener, and senior cornerback Jyron Walker did not return against Dartmouth after getting helped off the field in the first quarter.
Those injuries have forced the rest of the group to step up, which they have done to mixed results. Junior free safety Jacob Martin is second on the team with 30 tackles and first with two interceptions, freshman cornerback Mohammed Diatke leads the team with two pass breakups, and six other players have recorded a breakup. But the secondary got torched for 224 passing yards and three touchdowns against Dartmouth. If the Quakers have any chance at rebounding in Ivy play, they need more consistent play from their defensive backs.
The lines might not be as good as we thought
Through the first two weeks, both Penn’s offensive and defensive lines had played nearly perfect football. Buoyed by a formidable front three, the defense had racked up 17 sacks, while the offense had yet to give one up. The defense was providing constant pressure, while the offense was giving sophomore quarterback Ryan Glover time to throw and junior running back Karekin Brooks room to run.
But that all changed this week. Dartmouth bullied the Quakers’ lines on both sides of the ball. Brooks struggled to find space, rushing just 11 times for 41 yards. Penn also allowed its first sack, and Glover was frequently forced to scramble out of the pocket. On the other side of the ball, Dartmouth punished the Quakers early on in the run game, and sophomore quarterback Derek Kyler was only hit once all day. Part of it might have been Dartmouth’s lines playing well, but part of it might be the Quakers built up unrealistic expectations while feasting on lesser competition earlier in the year.
We still don’t know much about this team
I wrote a column before the season began about how this year was going to be full of discovery for Penn football. It’s now three weeks into the season, and I still feel like I don’t know anything for certain about this team.
They have a quarterback in Glover who has shown flashes of brilliance, but also is wildly inconsistent and has been careless with the ball. They have a running back in Brooks who has proven to be a dynamic threat, but hasn’t had the same level of success against Ivy teams as he has against non-conference opponents. And no one has emerged yet at wide receiver as an option for Glover to consistently trust.
The defense has even more question marks. Are they the team that recorded 17 sacks and let up just 27 points in two weeks? Or the one that let Dartmouth put up 37 points and accumulate over 400 yards of offense? I just don’t know, and I think it’ll be a few more weeks until we find out.