The way the Penn sprint football team has been playing recently, the training staff may want to invest in a couple of defibrillators.
Holding on after a 20-yard Kai Peng field goal with just over a minute to play, the Quakers defeated Mansfield, 16-13, at Franklin Field on Friday night.
This time, it was the defense that provided the heroics. The Red and Blue (2-1, 1-1 CSFL) defensive front harassed and harried Mansfield (1-2, 1-2) quarterback Michael Doyle all game long, sacking him nine times.
Leading the charge was freshman defensive end Mack Pierson, who notched a fumble recovery on top of three-and-a-half sacks.
Pierson noticed a special energy surrounding his defensive squad.
“After the Cornell loss …we’ve come out these next two games just wanting it,” Pierson said. “All week, we’ve been pushing each other. The defense really pulled together. They were getting on me, wanting me to make a play, and I just did.”
With the way the offense performed for much of the night, the Penn defense couldn’t have picked a better time to have its most complete game of the season.
The Red and Blue experienced success on the ground, with Mike Beamish running for 123 yards and quarterback Keith Braccia adding 75 of his own.
The passing game, though, was a different story. Braccia hit on just five of his 15 attempts for 54 yards and a pick.
Senior receiver Whit Shaw, the hero in last week’s thriller against Franklin Pierce, was held to just one catch for 19 yards and committed a special teams gaffe that nearly cost the Quakers the game.
With the game tied at 13 early in the fourth quarter, Shaw muffed a punt on his own 2-yard line, setting up Mansfield with first-and-goal.
With their backs against the wall, though, the defense rose to the occasion.
After stuffing running back John Brockington on first down and forcing Doyle back to the 9-yard line on second, the defense continued to come up big. Freshman cornerback Ed Cai made what was perhaps the biggest play of the game when he sacked Doyle for a huge 15-yard loss.
“When I saw [Doyle] running out, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s a run play,’” Cai said. “I’m used to playing outside linebacker, so I instinctively just tried to tackle the quarterback, and I was right.”
After Doyle’s pass on fourth-and-goal from the 21 fell incomplete, the Quakers were galvanized, seizing the opportunity to orchestrate the game-winning drive.
Beamish, Braccia and freshman running back Joe Raso methodically pounded away at the Mansfield front, with a final Beamish run to the 1-yard line setting up the game-winning kick that capped off a devastating five-minute, 44-second drive.
To coach Bill Wagner, it looks as if late-game heroics have become business as usual.
“This team, it’s young, and they’re very resilient,” Wagner said. “They find a way to win the game. We showed that again tonight.”
With the victory, the Quakers move to 2-1, setting up a date with undefeated Army at Franklin Field on Saturday.
Hopefully, the defibrillators will have arrived by then.