Did success go to the heads of the Penn Quakers, who spent nine days savoring their September 24 upset of Villanova, knocking off the Wildcats for the first time in 104 years? After all, nobody could’ve seen Saturday’s 41-20 loss to Dartmouth coming, especially considering the Big Green hadn’t left Franklin Field celebrating since 1997.
This one was never in doubt, though, as Dartmouth rolled to a 27-6 halftime lead, which grew as large as 41-6 after three, before Penn scored two late touchdowns. Those came on a pair of touchdown passes from senior Andrew Lisa, who was pressed into duty when starter Alek Torgersen was diagnosed with concussion symptoms after taking a blow to the head during a late first half drive that culminated in his 1 yard touchdown run. The way Dartmouth had taken control by then it likely wouldn’t have mattered, but it did snap the 6-foot-3, 230 pound Junior’s 10-game touchdown pass streak.
Torgersen’s abbreviated 7-for-10 for 29 yards day also moved him into sixth in school history with 317 completions and 10th in total offense with 3,388. While it’s uncertain if he’ll have to miss any upcoming action, it’s apparent the kid from Huntingdon Beach, Cal. has become an East Coast sensation.
And to think the only reason he wound up here was because current coach Ray Priore, then the Quakers defensive coordinator, just happened to be in the neighborhood the night Torgersen came of age in the CIF Championship game.
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“Coach Priore recruited me out of Southern California,” Torgersen said back during training camp, “I only started one year in high school. I was playing against one offensive lineman, Nick Whitton, who he was recruiting and Coach Priore came to that game. Afterwards he asked me if I’d want to come to Penn and play quarterback He was in my house in Huntingdon Beach after that game sitting on my couch talking up Penn Coach Priore had faith in me. I continue to thank him.”
While he made quite an impression on Torgersen, Priore says it wasn’t such a big deal.
“I was recruiting in California,” recalled Priore, revealing Penn currently has 19 Californians on its roster. “I know his high school coach real well, because that was my territory. As a junior he didn’t play a down. Nobody knew him. I was there for the California championship game in Anaheim Stadium. After that I knew we had a special young man. He wanted to come East.”
While the weather’s not the same as home, Torgersen’s had no regrets, other than the fact it’s hard for his family to come 3,000 miles regularly to watch him play.
“It’s an awesome school,” said Torgersen, who’s majoring in economics, but says he might go into law. “Through high school I always wanted to come East and experience a new part of the country. The East coast is definitely a big shock, especially being in a big city, which I’m not used to. And the weather’s completely different. In Huntingdon Beach it’s 75 and sunny all the time. I talk to my family all the time, but obviously it’s not the same as seeing them.”
What they’ve missed has been a quarterback who’d been making steady strides since assuming the reigns late in the 2013 season. Last year Torgersen’s 26 completion’s per game ranked third in the nation. Ironically, he completed 40 passes at Dartmouth, which was undoubtedly on the Big Green’s minds the way they kept him under wraps Saturday — until the injury forced him to the sidelines.
With Torgersen down and the Quakers’ defense unable to contain quarterback Dalyn Williams, who threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 73 yards and two more scores, they were never in this one despite Tyler Drake’s career high 15 tackles.
That’s quite a fall to earth after being so sky high just a week ago. With or with his California star recruit, Alek Torgersen, Ray Priore won’t have much time to pick up the pieces Fordham comes to town next week.
It might help if they can get their heads into the game, rather than up in the clouds.