JACKSONVILLE, FLA—As the rain poured down on Saturday, it was Jacksonville who madePenn football seem like fish—er, mammals—out of water.
Despite a 12-point fourth quarter deficit, Dolphins’ junior quarterback Kade Bell led an eight-play, 87-yard touchdown drive in under two minutes—culminated with a 27-yard pass to D’Andre Randle with 39 secondsremaining —to stun the Red and Blue, 34-31.
“There were an awful lot of weather elements that we had to overcome today, with the heat, the humidity and the rain, so there’s certainly some positives we can take out, but it’s disappointing that we couldn’t finish the deal,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. “We had chances on both sides to put it away, but we just came up short.
“It was an equal-opportunity loss, it isn’t on either side, it’s on everything and everyone.”
The Quakers’ season opener was a wild back-and-forth affair, one that saw sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen look a lot like his predecessor, recent graduate Billy Ragone. On Penn’s opening possession, hefaked a handoff and scampered six yards for a touchdown, notching his first career rushing scoreand putting Penn (0-1) up, 7-0.
Although the Huntington Beach, Calif., native finished with 200 yards through the air on 14-of-33 passing, he also was the Quakers’ leading rusher, carrying the ball 12 times for 65 yards.
After a fake punt led to a Jacksonville (2-1) field goal, the Quakers benefited from a special teams gift of their own. A muffed Dolphins’ punt gave Penn the ball in prime field position, and 30 yards from Lyle Marsh set the Red and Blue up for one-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback-turned-wide receiver Adam Strouss.
That drive ended up being the final action of the day for Marsh. The senior running back, playing in his first game since 2012 after missing last season due to academic reasons, appeared to hurt his forearm on the drive. Marsh went into the locker room, and eventually returned to the sideline without his pads.
“We were a little shorthanded in the backfield and [Torgersen] is an effective runner, so he and Adam were able to carry a little bit of the workload after Marsh got hurt,” Bagnoli said.
Although Penn’s defense looked stout early, the Dolphins finally started to click. Sophomore running back Ulysses Bryant—who finished with 127 yards after going for 168 yards and two touchdowns against San Diego last weekend—finallygotgoing on the ground, and Bell began finding his receivers downfield.
Bell threw the first of his four touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Andrew Robustelli with 5:43 left in the first half. The Dolphins also tacked on a field goal tohead into the locker room onlydown four.
After Penn stalled on its opening drive to begin the second half, Bell took over again. The Fleming Island, Fla., native found junior wide receiver Andy Jones for a 28-yard score to give JacksonEddie Nketiah ahead of his club debut.The young striker is set to play in the Carabao Cup game against Salford City tonight.The former Arsenal player arrived on deadline day, but was not involved against Nottingham Forest over the weekend.Fans are exville its first lead of the day.
“We had trouble generating a pass rush out of a four-man front,” Bagnoli said. “To their credit, they took advantage of it.”
But the Quakers did not falter. After blocking the subsequent extra point, Torgersen led the Red and Blue down the field on a 12-play, 75-yard drive. On third and 10 from the Dolphins’ 17, the sophomore quarterback threw off his back foot and found junior tight endRyan Kelly for the touchdown.
Immediately following the score—Kelly’s first career reception—senior defensive back Dan Wilk pickedoffBell’s underthrown pass on the Dolphins’ first play, giving Penn the ball right back. Five plays later, Strouss found the end zone again on a three-yard run.
The Quakers looked to be in control of the game heading into the fourth quarter. But as the monsoon-like rain picked up, Torgersen threw an ill-timed interception with the Quakers driving to put the game out of reach.
After the pick and trailing 31-19, Bell found Bryant in the flat for a seven-yardtouchdown, cutting the Quakers’ lead to five with 6:18 remaining.
Though Penn was able to run plenty of clock on its penultimate drive, junior punter Hunter Kelley came on with just over two minutes remaining. Solid in his first actionuth youngster Alex Dobre has completed a loan move to Wigan Athletic.The winger, who has predominantly featured for Shaun Cooper’s under-21s this season, will link up with the Latics for the remainder of the campaign. Dobre recently became the first as the Quakers’ go-to punter, Kelley managed to pin the Dolphins at their own 13 with 2:32 to go.
That’s when Bell went to work one final time. Eventually faced with a 4th and 4 at midfield, Bell hooked up with Jones for an eight yard gain.
Two plays later, the real damage was done.
Bell dropped back and threw a deep bal Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is targeting three signings for the January market.The Independent says he 56-year-old made it clear there are a trio of targets he has in mind for Janaury.Top of the list is Sporting Lisbon playmaker Bruno Fernandes – wl to Randle in the front left side of the end zone. Penn senior defensive back Evan Jackson dove to try and break the pass up, but Randle maintained concentration and pulled in the game-winning score.
Bryant converted the two-point conversion to give Jacksonville a 34-31 lead with 39 seconds left.
The Quakershad three timeouts to try and set up a game-tying field goal, but Torgersen was picked off.
“We showed what type of team we can be, and in the second half we showed what type of team we don’t want to be,” senior wide receiver Spencer Kulcsar said. “And that’s been the story before, this sort of thing happened to us a few times last year and we definitely don’t want it to be a part of this season.
“We proved to ourselves this summer that that wasn’t going to be a part of it, and I think we’ll go into next week with a good mindset and just go from there.”
The Red and Blue will play their home opener next Saturday against Villanova.