Yet again, Saturday’s Penn football game was a nailbiter.
Saturday’s Homecoming matchup with Brown came down to the final minutes, as Connor Loftus kicked a 35-yard field goal to give the Quakers a 20-17 victory.
“It obviously wasn’t a Picasso,” coach Al Bagnoli said. “It was two gritty football teams that play hard and determined. The game was probably as choppy a game as we’ve had.”
The game started off as a defensive battle, with both sides struggling to move the ball in the first half. The only scores came in the three minutes before halftime on a 22-yard touchdown reception by Penn receiver Conner Scott followed by a 46-yard field goal by Brown kicker Alexander Norocea.
“[The offense] was choppy, just like our team,” Bagnoli said. “We were just able at the end to make a few plays when we needed to.”
The second half was a different story, with both teams cruising through each other’s defenses. A 10-yard touchdown by Tellef Lundevall — who had 16 receptions for 162 yards against the Quakers — gave the Bears (4-3, 1-3 Ivy) their first lead of the day, 10-7.
On the subsequent drive, Billy Ragone found a wide-open Jason Seifert for a 36-yard touchdown.
“It was good to see Jason Seifert catch a hitch, run out on a play and score a touchdown,” Bagnoli said. “We’d been looking for a little bit of a spark opposite of Conner [Scott] ever since Joe Holder went down with his [broken fibula].”
Penn defensive back Drew Harris then made a crucial play, an acrobatic redzone interception of Brown quarterback Patrick Donnelly to prevent a Bears score.
But Brown responded with a one-yard touchdown run by fullback Cody Taulbee.
On the next sequence of plays, set up by Dexter Davis’ 46-yard kick return, Loftus tied the game at 17 for Penn (3-4, 3-1) with a 45-yard field goal, a career long for the kicker.
With the game on the line, another interception — this time by Trevor Niemann — gave the ball back to the Red and Blue at the Brown 44-yard line.
“We were just in a little cover two and expected him to take a shot deep as they had tried it a couple of times in the game,” Niemann said. “I thought he might try to throw that way — it was a good defense to be in. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
After the takeaway, the Quakers set up Loftus for the game-winning field goal.
“That first [field goal], he hooked, and I thought, ‘Geez … I hope he didn’t hook it too much,’” Bagnoli said. “The second one would’ve been up in the bleachers if it wasn’t tipped — the ball shot off his foot.”
Defensive back AJ Cruz returned the following kickoff all the way to Penn’s endzone, but the touchdown was nullified by a holding call against the Bears. The game ended as Feerooz Yacoobi intercepted Donnelly and the clock ran out.
The Quakers now sit at 3-1 in the Ivy League as they head to Princeton next weekend. And every player will have to continue to do his part.
“This week’s focus was just ‘do your individual job’ … not worrying about what everyone else was doing,” Niemann said. “I think that mentality definitely helped us out today.”
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