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Penn’s offense struggles in homecoming loss to Harvard

Four turnovers led to a disappointing 29-7 loss and elimination from the Ivy League title chase.

Penn's Mike Akai catches a pass as Harvard's Bennett Bay defends at Franklin Field in Philadelphia..
Penn's Mike Akai catches a pass as Harvard's Bennett Bay defends at Franklin Field in Philadelphia..Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

A happy Homecoming Game celebration for Penn fans at Franklin Field was interrupted on Saturday when the football team's offense was thwarted by turnovers and a balky run game. The result was a disappointing 29-7 loss to Harvard and elimination from the Ivy League title chase.

"It simply comes down to … protecting the football," said Penn coach Ray Priore, who watched his team commit four turnovers.

Penn's offense has often struggled in the first quarter this season. But the Quakers have sometimes figured it out by the end of the third quarter. On Saturday, that didn't happen. Both the passing and running games could not gain traction, and the wind played a role as well as Penn (6-3, 3-3 Ivy League) managed just 58 rushing yards and lost two fumbles. Quarterback Ryan Glover threw two interceptions.

Abe Willows led  the Penn rushers with 24 yards on eight carries.

"When teams can make you sort of one dimensional, it's always hard," Priore said. "We could never find that crease early on. … We need to be more consistent in our game."

Penn's defense went into the game with solid numbers, and cornerback Conor O'Brien got an interception on Harvard's opening drive at the Penn 20-yard line. But the Quakers offense was not able to capitalize on the error, and Glover threw his own interception on the following play to give the ball right back to Harvard (5-4, 3-3).

The Quakers' offense suffered another blow at the end of the first quarter when it was stopped at Harvard's 1-yard line. Penn went for it on fourth down, but Glover threw an incomplete pass to Karekin Brooks, giving the ball back once again to the Crimson.

Midway in the second quarter, Priore went to backup quarterback Nick Robinson in a effort to light an offensive spark. But Glover returned on the next series. The pair switched off throughout the third quarter, but neither could get the offense going. Harvard led at halftime, 16-0, and 29-0 after three quarters.

Penn tried to get its comeback in gear on the first drive of the fourth quarter. Glover led the team down the field with a handful of passing plays that was capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass to Kolton Huber with about 10 minutes to play. But that was all the offense could  muster.

Penn's defense struggled all day. Harvard's running back combination of Aaro Shampklin (84 yards) and Charlie Booker III (74 yards) torched Penn for 158 yards on 33 carries. Running back Devin Darrington chipped in an additional 56 rushing yards for Harvard, and quarterback Jake Smith competed 7-of-11 passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Glover finished 9-of-16 for 150 passing yards for Penn.

"We kind of struggled with a few different fronts," said Penn cornerback Nick Miller. "We just weren't able to get the job done."