PROVIDENCE, RI — It was no tricks, all treats for Penn football on Halloween against Brown.
After going down early in the first quarter for the fifth game in a row, the Quakers exploded into life, embarrassing a Bears team that entered the game with as much momentum as any other team in the Ivy League. Despite trailing 7-0 midway through the first quarter, Penn reeled off 41 consecutive points in a 31-minute span en route to a 48-28 romp that wasn’t even as close as the scoreboard made it seem.
The Red and Blue (4-3, 3-1 Ivy) looked unsure of themselves early on, with the Bears (4-3, 2-2) threatening to capitalize on their shaky start. After the Quakers punted on their first possession, Brown went 80 yards on nine plays, a drive capped off by a Johnny Pena touchdown run.
The lead didn’t last for ong, though, as Penn responded immediately with a one-play, quick-strike drive — a 79-yard bomb from junior quarterback Alek Torgersen to sophomore wide receiver Justin Watson to tie the game up.
Just when it looked like the Quakers would fall behind again, a timely interception by freshman Sam Philippi allowed the momentum to switch in favor of the visitors. After a few nice gains by junior running back Brian Schoenauer helped move Penn deep into Bears territory, another pass — this time to sophomore running back Tre Solomon — saw Penn grab a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Quakers came out firing on all cylinders in the second quarter, scoring on consecutive drives to widen the gap between the two teams. The squad wouldn’t look back. After Torgersen made it 21-7 on a 13-yard scamper, a fumble recovery by senior linebacker Tyler Drake set Penn up at Brown’s 17. Three plays later, Torgersen found Eric Fiore for the former’s fourth touchdown of the first half.
An interception late in the second quarter by sophomore Brandon Mills allowed the Red and Blue to punish the Bears even further, as they ended the half with a last-second touchdown run by Solomon, making the score 35-7.
“I’m very, very proud of how they came out in the first half and how they performed,” coach Ray Priore said. “Right now, we’re rebounding well. We’re very resilient.”
“We stayed pretty level-headed,” Watson noted. “We seem to respond well to adversity.”
After staunch defensive performances against Columbia and Yale the previous two weeks, Penn forced five turnovers on Saturday, four of which resulted in touchdowns. In fact, the defense played its best game of the season by many accounts — it gave up just a paltry 18 yards on the ground to the Brown attack, and the five takeaways are the most in a single game for the Red and Blue since 2008.
“If you can capitalize on those turnovers, it’s all momentum,” Priore said, “It gives your team a high.”
That high spread throughout the team as the offense churned out seven touchdowns, including three from Solomon — his third straight multi-touchdown game — and four total from Torgersen, who reached an incredible milestone during the game. In only his second full season at the helm, the junior gunslinger became just the fourth quarterback in school history to accrue more than 4,000 yards passing.
The junior quarterback cited his squad’s good habits for its recent productivity.
“We’re practicing very well every week,” he said. “This offense is starting to click really well right now.”
Despite blowing away the opposition in Providence, Priore remains convinced the Quakers have yet to achieve their full potential.
“We’re not working on all eight cylinders right now — about six and a half, or seven,” Priore said. “We still have got to get a little bit better here at the end [of the season].”
Penn still has three games left to rise up to Priore’s standards. With only one team — undefeated Harvard — sitting above the Red and Blue in the Ivy standings, the team still has an opportunity to disrupt the conference’s title race if it continues winning, beginning with next Saturday’s Homecoming matchup against archrival Princeton.
And if the Quakers’ recent performances are anything to go by, they’ll give the Tigers an even bigger fright than they dished out this Halloween.
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