Coming off of an electrifying 42-14 rout of Mansfield, the Penn sprint football team took the field in Ithaca, N.Y., looking poised to light up the scoreboard against a winless Cornell squad. However, a stingy Cornell pass defense forced the high-flying Penn attack to bear down.
Well, at least for most of the first half.
Penn broke out of its early-game passing struggles in the second half and also posted 311 total rushing yards en route to a commanding 28-14 victory, its second straight. Meanwhile, Cornell remains winless.
The majority of the first half was a battle between Penn (2-1) and Cornell (0-3) of defensive willpower and power football between the two sides.
Penn’s defense, led by the reigning CSFL Defensive Player of the Week, sophomore defensive back Stu Helgeson, was stout from start to finish, pressuring Cornell senior quarterback Brendan Miller and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Penn controlled the first half by leaning on the play of junior running back Mike Beamish, but freshman quarterback Mike McCurdy and company couldn’t complement a solid rushing attack with a consistent passing game for most of the first two quarters.
But with time ticking down in the second quarter and Penn only up 7-0 despite thoroughly controlling the half, the game broke open.
McCurdy connected with sophomore wide receiver Jack Epstein on a 39-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown as time expired in the half, giving the Quakers a 14-0 halftime lead and crucial momentum.
And that momentum carried over into the second half as well. On Penn’s first drive of the half, sophomore running back Joe Raso capped off an impressive offensive effort with his second short touchdown run of the evening.
“Beamish had a big game, although he did not score,” Penn coach Bill Wagner said. “The offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage.”
Meanwhile, the Penn defense continued its dominant play, completely shutting down the Cornell attack well into the fourth quarter. Several members of the Penn defense made key contributions, but sophomore Ed Cai was the standout defender on the night, recording three sacks.
“Eddie had a great game off of the edge,” Wagner said.
With six minutes left in the game, the Quakers put the icing on the cake with a 10-yard touchdown pass from McCurdy to senior wide receiver Freddy Ordonez, which put them up 28-0.
Cornell notched a long kickoff return and a subsequent onside kick recovery, scoring two quick touchdowns in just over two minutes, cutting Penn’s final lead to 28-14.
But in the end, the Quakers controlled the game far more than the final score would indicate. Although sloppy special teams and turnovers slowed them down, the Quakers more than doubled up Cornell in total yards, 516 to 250.
“We dominated the game,” Wagner said. “It’ll be a good ride home.”
The Quakers will seek their third straight win and look to make up for their previous loss to a service academy, Army, when they play at Navy next Friday at 7:00 p.m.
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