It has been hard to get a read on Penn this season. The Quakers took a ranked Delaware team down to the wire in Week 1, but then struggled to put away Lafayette, which was riding a seven-game losing streak. The question heading into Friday night was which Penn team was going to show up?
Unfortunately, the Penn team that showed up at Franklin Field Friday night dropped its first Ivy League matchup of the season to Dartmouth, 28-15.
Dartmouth (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) jumped on Penn early. Senior quarterback Jared Gerbino connected with wide-open sophomore running back Zack Bair for a 57-yard touchdown. Three minutes later, Dartmouth’s senior linebacker Jack Traynor scooped up a Trey Flowers fumble and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 14, a lead the Big Green wouldn’t relinquish. Bair scored on a 17-yard run in the second quarter to extend Dartmouth’s lead to 21-7 at half.
“It was a big thing for us,” Dartmouth’s head coach Buddy Teevens said. “It gave us some confidence to be able to execute a little bit. To be able to come out and do things right early on. We were able to kind of settle in.”
Penn’s offense struggled to find any kind of consistency. Though some drives began with a couple of big plays, when they needed to convert, the Dartmouth defense was simply too much. The Quakers (1-2, 0-1) finished an abysmal 4-for-15 (26.7%) on third down. The Quakers’ only score of the first half came on a 43-yard touchdown run by their star senior running back Karekin Brooks.
Dartmouth, one of the preseason favorites in the Ivy League, has a solid offense and it picked up where it left off last weekend. Through two weeks, the Big Green outscored opponents, 73-9, and on Friday they were able to create some big plays against a Penn defense that had looked impressive so far this season.
“They run a complex offense,” senior free safety Sam Philippi said. “They shifted in motion a lot. We tried to play a base defense to limit our moving around so we could just focus on playing hard and fast.”
The quarterback combo of Gerbino and junior Derek Kyler gashed the Quakers’ defense through the air and on the ground. Gerbino particularly excelled, adding a rushing touchdown to his stat line late in the fourth quarter. The pair’s mobility proved problematic as Penn’s defensive line struggled to create pressure, an area where the Quakers had been excelling through their first two games.
“The way you get them out of that is to score points,” Penn head coach Ray Priore said. “Then they can’t run like that. They were able to control the clock and did a really good job managing their time.”
Late in the fourth quarter, the Penn offense seemingly rose from the dead. Brooks ran in his second touchdown of the night and Penn converted on the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 28-15. Even with an onside kick recovery following the score, the late-game surge was too little too late.