The game was over, and although he stood watching on the sidelines for the last 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, Max Jones was still registering the results of first collegiate game. So what did he have to say?
The Belmont, Mass., native and freshman running back did indeed have an “awesome” game, leading the way for Penn sprint football with 130 rushing yards — 125 of which came in the first half — and three touchdowns as the Quakers routed Franklin Pierce on Saturday, 51-7. The Red and Blue dominated from the get-go, jumping out to a 41-0 halftime lead while firing on all cylinders.
Calling Saturday’s effort the best first half Penn (1-0) has had in a while, coach Bill Wagner came away from the game impressed with his team’s performance.
“You’re going to have to come out right in the beginning of the game and really let them know we’re here to play four quarters,” Wagner said. “And they did that in the first half — offensively, defensively, every part of the game there, they stepped up to do what they had to do.”
Junior quarterback Mike McCurdy turned in a stellar performance, throwing for 211 yards and three touchdowns as well as adding the game’s first scoring play with a 23-yard rush. He consistently looked for senior wide receiver Henry Mason, who finished with five catches, 109 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that don’t reflect the two defensive pass interference penalties he drew on two separate scoring drives.
But the star of the day was Jones, who churned out gain after gain and kept an explosive Penn offense going. In the first quarter, with the Quakers leading 7-0, he rushed left and was met by several Franklin Pierce defenders. Jones managed to stay upright, break through the gang tackle and continue about 10 more yards for his first touchdown of the day.
Three minutes into the second quarter, both Jones and fellow freshman Jake Klaus lined up on the field, with the latter split out left. Klaus went in motion and McCurdy faked a handoff to him, on which Franklin Pierce (0-1) bit. Jones then received the football from McCurdy and ran untouched straight up the middle for 65 yards to the house.
Later in the second quarter, the Quakers faced first and 10 on the Franklin Pierce 22 after McCurdy connected with sophomore wide receiver Andrew Sutton for a 44-yard deep ball along the left sideline. While being brought down by a defender, the quarterback checked down to Jones, who ran it in for his third touchdown of the day.
Jones put on a clinic with his 10 first-half rushing attempts, a number he saw in part because Klaus left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Wagner said Klaus was held out of the remainder of the game as a precaution and will be ready to go for Penn’s next game.
“It’s always nice to get an opportunity,” Jones said. “It’s never nice because someone in front of you got injured, but I just took advantage of it, there wasn’t much else I could do. But to come out with the win, it was pretty nice.”
The Quakers were dominant on defense, maintaining a shutout until Ravens’ running back D.J. McDonald scored on a short run with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter. McDonald was mostly ineffective on the ground, finishing with 15 yards on seven attempts while serving as a valuable check-down option for Franklin Pierce quarterback Derek Reddy, catching four passes for 61 yards.
Penn defenders sacked Reddy nine times and pressured him on several other occasions, often forcing him to scramble out of the pocket. The Quakers picked off three of Reddy’s passes, most notably Stu Helgeson’s interception with 2:10 left in the first quarter, which the senior returned 39 yards to the end zone to make the score 21-0 in favor of the Red and Blue.
“Those key interceptions were wonderful,” Wagner said. “I think the secondary played tremendous [and] our defensive staff did a super job of getting them ready. They played real well [and] they set the tone.”
Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity for the Ravens was after Jones’ receiving touchdown with just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter. Junior kicker Mario Del Cueto’s extra point attempt was blocked and defensive lineman Kevin Raymond returned the ball well into Penn territory and had a strong chance of scoring, but tripped around the Penn 29.
The Quakers will be back in action on Saturday against Post.
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