The 125th anniversary celebration of Franklin Field brought out fans, alumni, and plenty of first-half touchdowns.
But unfortunately for the Quakers, those touchdowns were not distributed evenly, as Penn fell to Dartmouth, 28-15, in the Ivy League opener.
To start the game, Dartmouth (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) and Penn (1-2, 0-1) traded scoreless drives, alluding to a defensive battle that would not manifest in the opening half.
On the Big Green’s second play of their second possession, senior quarterback Jared Gerbino found sophomore Zack Bair running uncovered out of the backfield and delivered him a perfect ball for a 57-yard touchdown.
Dartmouth was then able to add to its lead via its defense, which caused a Penn fumble in the backfield that led to an easy scoop and score for linebacker Jack Traynor.
However, the Quakers would respond in haste with help from senior Karekin Brooks. The star running back once again put the Penn offense on his back, turning a fourth and 2 into a 43-yard touchdown that cut the Big Green lead to 14-7.
Unfortunately for Penn, the Dartmouth offense proved unrelenting, driving down the field and finishing with Bair’s second score of the half, a 17-yard run that ballooned the score to 21-7 at halftime.
The scoring pace slowed significantly in the third quarter, as neither team was able to generate points, with both squads failing to convert on key fourth downs.
Fourth down attempts were a staple of Penn's offense in this game, with three conversions on five tries. According to coach Ray Priore, that decision-making process all boils down to the numbers.
"We delve pretty deeply into analytics," Priore said. "We study ourselves and our opponents. We're sort of by the book in terms of when we go for it with our opportunities."
Any hope of a Penn comeback was squashed in the final quarter though, when Dartmouth marched the ball downfield on a drive that lasted over eight minutes and resulted in a Gerbino touchdown, pushing the Dartmouth lead to 21 points.
In response, the Quakers drove down the field and added their first points of the half with a Brooks touchdown. But despite the onside kick, the 28-15 score proved too much to overcome with just 2:15 left.
Bair and Gerbino were a potent combination for the Big Green, with the former producing 81 total yards and two touchdowns before bowing out with an injury, while the latter contributed 119 yards passing, 79 yards rushing, and two scores.
For the Quakers, Brooks proved to be the main source of offense, with 91 yards on the ground, 31 yards receiving, and two touchdowns, continuing his torrid start to the season.
Noticeably absent for the Quakers was leading receiver Ryan Cragun. The sophomore came into the game with 273 yards through two games but was sidelined for this matchup, and the Red and Blue passing attack was stunted as a result, generating 209 yards but no scores.
According to Priore, Cragun's absence was due to a hit sustained in last week's game, and he looks forward to reinforcements at the skill positions.
"Hopefully he'll be back for next week," Priore said. "You have a handful of really good players on every team, and when you lose one of those guys, there will be a bit of a drop off. But you saw other kids step up tonight and play well in his place."
Whether it comes from Cragun's return or the play of someone else, the Quakers will need more explosiveness in their offense to get back into the win column next week against Sacred Heart.
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