Former Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs is credited for coming up with the term red zone. He coined it in 1981 to motivate his 0-4 team, which had dreadful offensive efficiency within the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Penn could have used that same motivation on Saturday since a lack of production in the red zone helped lead to a 28-7 loss to Princeton in their season finale at Franklin Field.
Failures to convert from Princeton’s 5-, 6-, and 1-yard line on fourth down doomed the Quakers. They finished 1-for-6 in the red zone.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “We had opportunities to put the ball in the end zone. We were in a lot of gray-area situations where we were too far for a high-percentage field goal.”
On Penn’s first drive of the game, the Quakers slashed through the Princeton secondary to get to the Tigers’ 15-yard line. However, instead of attempting a field goal, Penn threw a screen on fourth-and-1 that was dropped.
“Those are critical,” Priore said. “You need to keep the chains moving and keep moving that way. Some times those kinds of things begin to snowball a little bit.”
On the following Penn possession, the offense delivered. Nick Robinson tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rory Starkey to give Penn an early 7-0 lead.
Despite a big first half from Robinson (171 yards passing), Karekin Brooks (84 yards rushing), and Starkey (49 yards receiving), those would be the only points for the Quakers.
Brooks, who finished with 21 carries for 95 yards and six catches for 62 yards, became the 12th player in school history to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season.
“That is definitely something very special,” Brooks said. “I’m glad I was able to do that and I’m thankful for my teammates and my coaches for believing in me. Right now I’m just mad about the game we played, though.”
Fortunately for Penn, the Tigers were just as eager to leave points on the field early in the game.
After the Tigers tied the game, 7-7, Princeton defensive back T.J Floyd intercepted a Robinson pass to put the Tigers in Penn territory. Four plays later, Princeton turned the ball over on downs.
Princeton held a 10-7 lead at halftime thanks to a 28-yard field goal from Tavish Rice. The Tigers took a 17-7 lead in the third quarter when running back Collin Eaddy, who converted on multiple third downs, scored on a 2-yard run.
“It is a rivalry game and we aren’t necessarily fond of Penn,” Eaddy said. “We just want to have the seniors go out on a good note, and the way we finished today was impressive for us.”
Princeton tacked another field goal and touchdown, plus a two-point conversion, to put the game out of reach. The Tigers received an outstanding performance from Eaddy, who ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
“The O-line got going today and when they get going I don’t think we can be stopped,” Eaddy said. “A big thing was having efficient runs. It may not be a touchdown every attempt we have, but if we had efficient runs every play that was a big thing.”