VALPARAISO | The scene played out the same over and over for Valparaiso Friday night.
The Vikings would surrender chunks of yards on the ground to Penn until the Kingsmen scored, and then Valparaiso would come back with a turnover that started the process all over again.
Penn corralled four interceptions and ran for more than 300 yards in a 49-7 blowout at Viking Field in the season opener for both teams.
“We never got into a rhythm,” Valparaiso coach Dave Coyle said. “One minute we’d do something good, and then we’d do three things to shoot ourselves in the foot. It was frustration from top to bottom.”
The Vikings struggled to get on track in the first half, falling behind 21-0 at halftime. It wasn’t until the second half when Valparaiso finally moved the ball deep into Penn territory. Senior quarterback David Hittinger got the Vikings on the board with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Michael Rastovic late in the third quarter.
“David is a hard worker and a competitor, but I think there were some first-game jitters that he needed to get out,” Coyle said. “I don’t think we knew what hit us until it was too late.”
The Kingsmen (1-0) responded to Rastovic’s touchdown with an 88-yard kickoff return by state sprinting champion Tim Deal. Penn then capitalized on two fourth-quarter interceptions to turn a definitive defeat into an ugly beat-down.
“This was not indicative of what this senior group has been doing or how they’ve been working,” Coyle said. “It’s week one. We’re going to get better, and that starts with getting into the film.”
Hittinger finished with a team-high 66 rushing yards and 88 passing yards while throwing three interceptions. Mark Johnson and Collin Vinyard struggled in their first chance to replace the powerful running duo of Stephen Simms and Andrew Kittridge, combining for just 15 yards on the ground.
The Kingsmen were paced by Central Michigan commit Zach Oakley. The senior quarterback ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 64 yards. Tyler Carpenter led Penn with 101 rushing yards, including a 64-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. The Kingsmen tallied 365 yards of total offense with more than 300 coming on the ground.