Football Starts Fast But Falls to Lehigh in Opener, 49-28

Penn-Lehigh Box Score (PDF)

PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania football team was crisp on offense through 30 minutes Saturday night, and the result was 28 points and a tie with Lehigh at halftime. The second half proved to be a different story, however, as the Quakers were shut down by the Mountain Hawks and took a 49-28 loss.

The first half was a high-energy affair on both sides, as the Penn and Lehigh offenses combined for 593 yards and neither team punted in the opening 30 minutes.

Even though Penn was playing its first game of the season -- compared to Lehigh, which was in Week 3 -- the Quakers offense wasted no time asserting itself. It took the Red and Blue just seven plays to go 87 yards for the first score of the campaign. Not coincidentally, the TD combination was a familiar one, senior quarterback Alek Torgersen to junior wide receiver Justin Watson, covering 24 yards.

Lehigh responded by scoring on its opening drive, the Mountain Hawks covering 75 yards on 10 plays that ended with Nick Shafnisky scampering in from three yards out to tie things up.

Penn drove but could not convert, missing a 39-yard field goal attempt, but shortly after that Mason Williams picked off a Lehigh pass deep in Mountain Hawks territory. The Quakers took advantage, needing just three plays to cover the 25 yards as Torgersen ran it in from nine yards.

Lehigh again answered with a touchdown. This time, the drive was a 15-play, 69-yard slog and it ended with Shafnisky bringing it home the final 15 yards on a rush.

Penn needed less than two minutes to go back up. The Red and Blue covered 75 yards in just six plays, the final 58 coming on consecutive Torgersen-to-Watson hookups that covered 31 and 27 yards, respectively, the latter hitting paydirt.

Lehigh again tied it up. This time, Shafnisky took to the air on the scoring play, hitting Gatlin Casey for 30 yards to cap a 70-yard drive that needed just five plays and took just 2:07 of clock time.

Penn scored its fourth touchdown on its most sustained drive of the half, going 65 yards over nine plays. The Quakers went for it twice on fourth down and were successful both times, the second coming on Torgersen’s seven-yard run that ended with him leaping into the end zone. 

Penn caught an unlucky break after that, as its squib kick hit a Lehigh player and the Mountain Hawks recovered near midfield. With just 1:12 left on the clock before halftime, that proved to be exactly the amount of time Lehigh needed to get in the end zone. The final play came with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock, and instead of taking the points via field goal the Hawks went for it and scored as Shafnisky ran it over left end from one yard out.

Lehigh then opened the second half with a nine-play, 65-yard drive that took only 2:23 and ended with Shafnisky hitting Micco Brisker for a six-yard TD pass.

The defensive adjustments from halftime kicked in on both sides after that, as Penn punted twice around Lehigh’s first punt. However, the Mountain Hawks took the Quakers’ second punt and drove 90 yards in 10 plays to go up 42-28. The scoring play was Shafnisky’s third TD pass of the game, this time he found Troy Pelletier for 20 yards.

The back-breaker came midway through the fourth quarter. Penn punted and downed the ball at the Mountain Hawks’ 3-yard line, but Lehigh covered all 97 yards over 12 plays and made it 49-28 when Shafnisky found Drew Paulsen for a 10-yard connection. That closed out the scoring for the night.

Torgersen -- a CFPA National Player of the Year Watch List member entering the season -- finished the night with 222 yards passing and 103 rushing (on just 12 attempts), and figured in all four touchdowns. Watson, meanwhile, had eight catches for 133 yards. Tre Solomon rushed for 57 yards and caught five passes for 47 more.

Penn returns to action next Saturday at Fordham, kicking off with the Rams at 1 p.m. in The Bronx.