PHILADELPHIA - It was an uncharacteristic night for the University of Pennsylvania football team. A blocked punt, three turnovers and a flurry of penalties led to the end of the nation's longest winning streak - a 37-12 drubbing at the hands of Lafayette Saturday evening at Franklin Field.
The second-largest home loss in the Al Bagnoli era was the season opener for the Quakers, while the Leopards improved to 1-2 on the season.
After a relatively innocent first quarter that produced barely 100 yards of total offense, Penn and Lafayette combined for 28 points in the second quarter. The points came in all sorts of manners.
The Quakers sought to establish an almost-new offensive line and during the second quarter they were hitting on all cylinders when Penn drove down to the Lafayette 4-yard line. Penn opened the scoring with freshman Connor Loftus' first career field goal - a 21-yarder following a drive that resembled the 2010 title team - 15 plays, 78 yards and 7:05 off the clock.
Lafayette, meanwhile, started airing it out, and that paid off midway through the stanza when Andrew Shoop connected with Ross Scheuerman for a 44-yard touchdown with 6:32 remaining. It marked the first time in six games that Penn trailed at any point.
So, Penn answered immediately. The Quakers continued to run the ball with authority, and a nine-play, 76-yard drive culminated with fullback Greg Schuster running it in from eight yards out to give the Red and Blue a 10-7 advantage.
This time it was Lafayette’s turn to respond, and the Leopards did. Once again it was Shoop through the air, this time to Mark Ross for 37 yards as he caught the ball between two Penn defenders at the goal line.
The score was 13-10 Lafayette at that point, but Penn got momentum back on the ensuing ensuing point-after. Senior Brian Giesecke blocked Austin O’Brien’s attempt and the 9,438 in attendance erupted when Justyn Williams collected the bouncing ball at the 8-yard line and went on a wild, 92-yard run to the other end zone to give the Red and Blue the two points. It was the first time Penn had returned a blocked PAT since Sept. 26, 1998, when Joey Alofaituli did it against Richmond.
It was Lafayette’s special teams that had the final laugh of the half, however. After the Leopard defense held Penn to a three-and-out, Mike Boles blocked Scott Lopano’s punt attempt and it went out of bounds at the Quakers’ 41-yard line. With just 15 seconds left in the half, Lafayette got 10 yards, and then O’Brien ended the half with a 48-yard field goal that was never in doubt. That put the Leopards up 16-12 at the break.
The Quakers never really threatend on offense in the second half. Penn used three quarterbacks. Sophomore Ryan Becker replaced junior quarterback Billy Ragone in the third quarter and junior Andrew Holland finished the game. Ragone had a team-high 91 passing yards.
Ten minutes into the second half, Lafayette started to pull away. It was a pair of big plays that did in the Quakers. Shoop connected with Ross for a 73-yard score and a 23-12 lead at the 4:41 mark.
Then, on Penn's next possession, Lafayette's Kyle Simmons corralled a tipped ball and ran the interception back 31 yards for a 30-12 Leopards advantage.
The Leopards added another score midway threw the fourth quarter on Schoop's fourth touchdown pass of the day.
The 37 points were the most allowed by Penn in 11 years. It was the worst season-opening loss for Penn since a 40-7 defeat to Dartmouth to start the 1980 season.
On the defensive side, senior linebacker Jason Rasmussen set a career high with a team-best seven tackles. Sophomore safety Evan Jackson also had a career-best with six tackles, second on the team. Senior captain Erik Rask, who finished with five tackles, had Penn's only sack.
It won't get any easier for the Quakers next Saturday. Penn was 17-1 in its last 18 games entering the season opener. The only loss came at the hands of cross-city rival Villanova on the road last season, 22-10. Penn led into the fourth against the then-No. 1 Wildcats, but the Schuylkill Showdown went to the home team and extending Penn's 99-year drought against Villanova.
Kick off against Villanova is at 7 p.m. at Franklin Field.