Penn football battled to the very end in a messy thriller against Dartmouth(2-1, 1-0 Ivy), but were eventually defeated after a 37-yard game-winning field goal in overtime. Even with the game being so close, the Quakers (2-1, 0-1) seemed far from the version of themselves we saw in the past two weeks. Inconsistent play riddled all phases of the game for the Red and Blue, which added up to a disappointing finish.
To start, the Quakers were abysmal on defense in the first half, allowing 20 points and a 10 point deficit. Dartmouth ran the ball with great success throughout the game, and effectively used quarterback Nick Howard’s mobility — he finished the game with 58 rush yards — to keep the sticks moving. Things changed in the second half as the Quakers effectively stifled the Big Green offense, especially their pass defense. Dartmouth failed to score from halftime until their game winner in overtime.
On the flip side, the Red and Blue offense put up 10 points in the first half but then failed to capitalize on the defensive stops in the third quarter. This included a failed fourth and two attempt midway through the third. Breakout star sophomore wide receiver Jared Richardson was barely used in this game (two catches for 18 yards on four targets), which was odd considering his monster performances in the previous two contests. The only four targets are concerning — the ball should be headed in the direction of arguably the best wideout on the team.
The fourth quarter was a showcase of what we’ve seen to start the season — junior quarterback Aidan Sayin was on fire (going 36-55 for 357 yards and two touchdowns), the defense forced stops, and junior kicker/punter Albert Jang hit an incredible 51-yard field goal to tie things up. But for every impressive play, there was another to scoff at. Sayin poorly tossed the ball during a failed running pitch play, which ended a late fourth quarter drive, and senior kicker Graham Gotlieb missed a crucial kick in overtime, leaving the door wide open for Dartmouth. Even more worrying, Penn’s run game was non-existent and mostly bailed out by the passing game, hence the 55 attempts from Sayin.
The inability to put together four quarters of consistent football on all sides of the ball including special teams is what led to this narrow loss. Had Penn cleaned up a few mistakes, we’d be singing their praises as they would remain undefeated. Unfortunately, though, that is not the case.
Luckily for the Quakers, there was a lot to praise from this game — mostly because of Sayin’s 357-yard performance and good defense in the second half. Junior tight end Bryce Myers and sophomore wide receiver Bisi Owens both showed out. However, if Penn wants to contend for a title like last year, they cannot have games like this where the defense is clicking and the offense is not — and vice versa.
It’s important not to overreact, as even on an unusually imperfect day for the Quakers, they were in a position to win the game multiple times. It’s early in the season, the team is still trying to find their groove, and a 23-20 loss should not trigger panic mode. The Quakers have not reached their full potential yet and I have no doubt that they will be a dominant force in the Ivy conference when the offense and defense are both in sync. Sitting at 2-1, the Red and Blue have a chance to right their wrongs against Georgetown next Saturday at home, before they travel to Columbia for their next conference game.
ASHIL SRIVASTAVA is a junior and current sports associate studying neuroscience and bioengineering from Palo Alto, Calif. All comments should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.