PHILADELPHIA - After winning games earlier this season on the strength of a punishing offense and even more punishing defense, the University of Pennsylvania football team had the tables turned on them Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field.
Playing before a Homecoming crowd of 20,036, the Quakers were stymied by the Tigers throughout the game offensively, turned the ball over a few too many times, and struggled to stop the Princeton attack. It all added up to a 30-13 loss, Penn's second in a row in the Ivy League (the first time that has happened since October 1999).
"We seemed to lack a tremendous amount of rhythm out there today; we were all over the place," said Penn head coach Al Bagnoli, who was again denied his 100th coaching victory at Penn. "At times we had momentum, at other times we didn't. For whatever reason, we aren't playing with the cohesion that we normally play with.
"For two weeks in a row, we have dug ourselves into a hole, and against the better teams like Princeton and Brown it is especially hard to come back," he continued. "With our inability to make big plays, our inability to stop big plays, along with the turnovers and kicking miscues, it spells defeat."
Princeton (6-2, 4-1 Ivy) took it right to the Quakers, punishing them with the first two touchdowns that set the tone for the day. After a sustained first drive led to a punt, the Tigers tried a different tack on their second drive and were successful -- Jeff Terrell aired it out for Derek Davis, who snagged the pass behind the Penn defense and ran it in for a 60-yard score on the drive's first play.
While Penn continued to struggle getting its offense untracked, Princeton came back with a drive that bridged the first and second quarters to score again. The 10-play, 69-yard effort was concluded when Terrell found Rob Toresco from seven yards out.
Penn (5-3, 3-2 Ivy) finally got things going after that, putting together an 11-play drive to paydirt. Pat McDermott, who returned to the lineup at quarterback, threw a series of passes to keep the Princeton defense honest, but the scoring play came on just the second rush of the drive as Joe Sandberg ran it in from 25 yards out.
As quickly as the Homecoming crowd got into it, though, the Tigers stunned them by blockingDerek Zoch'sextra-point attempt and returning it all the way to the other end for two points. That made the score 16-6. The theme was repeated later in the quarter, when a Zoch field-goal attempt was also denied by the Tigers.
Nevertheless, Penn seemed to be back in the game early in the third quarter when McDermott found Dan McDonald for a 21-yard touchdown to cap a seven-play, 81-yard drive. After the made extra point, the score was 16-13, and charged by the touchdown the Quakers fooled Princeton with a pooch kick and recovered it at the Tigers' 32-yard line to get the ball back. However, that drive stalled, and the Quakers missed a golden opportunity to tie when Zoch's 46-yard field goal went wide.
Things stayed tense in the fourth quarter, when Princeton's Jay McCareins picked off McDermott at the Tigers' 45-yard line and returned it to midfield. The Tigers then put together a seven-play drive that looked like it might end with a touchdown; however, on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Toresco was popped by a Penn defender and the ball squirted out of his hands direcntly into the arms of Michael Johns.
Penn was unable to capitalize on the turnover, and the next time Princeton had the ball the Tigers left nothing to chance -- Terrell found Jon Dekker for a 33-yard score that made it 23-13. On the ensuing kickoff, Sandberg coughed the ball up on the return and it was recovered by Jon Stem at the Quakers' 31-yard line. Princeton sealed the victory by carving out a five-play drive that ended with Toresco rushing it in from five yards out.
McDermott finished the day with 229 yards of passing, but he was picked off four times. The Quakers also struggled to run the ball, as Sandberg had 46 yards and was matched by Sam Mathews (whose 46 came on 20 carries). For the game, Penn had 84 yards rushing.
"We took some shots at their secondary early in the game, and they made some great plays," said McDermott. "We definitely went after them, and I give them credit for playing a good game."
"Things just weren't clicking today offensively," said Sandberg. "When you don't execute, you cannot expect to win."
Defensively, Kory Gedin had 12 tckles including three tackles-for-loss, while Ric San Doval had 11 stops.
Penn will attempt to end its losing skid next Saturday at Harvard; kickoff is slated for noon in Cambridge, Mass.
Written by Mike Mahoney, director of athletic communications