HANOVER, N.H. — Well, that was an emphatic start.
Using a physical, ground-heavy attack centered around junior running back Tre Solomon, Penn football scored early and often in a 37-24 shellacking of fellow 2015 Ivy co-champion Dartmouth Friday night.
With the victory, the Red and Blue (1-2, 1-0 Ivy) avenged their lone conference loss of a year ago and asserted themselves as the Ivy League’s team to beat.
“Our kids came out very motivated, very upbeat,” coach Ray Priore said. “We played smart and controlled the ball.”
“We were really pumped up, really amped,” added senior quarterback Alek Torgersen. “We wanted some payback.”
Solomon rushed for 107 yards and two scores on a career-high 29 carries. Torgersen, in yet another display of his dual-threat talents, matched him with two ground scores and added another touchdown through the air.
The defense, meanwhile, had a solid performance, racking up two interceptions and allowing just one touchdown before garbage time. Sophomore defensive back Mason Williams had one of the picks, his third in three games. He will have the remainder of the schedule to attempt to break the program single-season record of four interceptions.
“[Defensive Coordinator Bob] Benson always preaches ‘turnovers, turnovers, turnovers,’” Williams said. “The interceptions and the safety helps not only us, but the offense as well — it keeps the sideline lively.”
Dartmouth (2-1, 0-1), meanwhile, looked lost on both offense and defense for most of the evening. Having lost star quarterback Dalyn Williams to graduation, the offense was turnover-prone and even surrendered a safety on a sack of quarterback Jack Heneghan.
The Big Green defense, meanwhile, came up short on several pivotal third- and fourth-down plays, allowing the Red and Blue to extend drives and score touchdowns on their first four possessions. Though the Quakers added just one more TD after intermission, a steady diet of handoffs to Solomon allowed them to wind down the clock and dominate time of possession, holding the ball for 38 of the game’s 60 minutes.
After splitting carries out of the backfield over the first two years of his career, Solomon has emerged as the team’s go-to threat, getting all of the squad’s first-team carries over senior Brian Schoenauer. Still, the junior is quick to emphasize the elder tailback’s continued off-the-field influence.
“We have a great group of running backs — Brian is amazing,” the Brooklyn native said. “He knows the game a lot more than me, so just knowing that he’s there takes a lot off my shoulders.”
The game’s first touchdown came less than three minutes in, when Torgersen found sophomore wideout Christian Pearson for a 28-yard score. The Quakers then scored via two short Solomon runs and a Torgersen designed run to jump to a 28-10 halftime lead.
After Torgersen found the endzone again in the third quarter, defensive lineman Taylor Hendrickson took down Heneghan in behind the goal line for Penn’s 36th and 37th points of the night.
Touchdown throws to Drew Hunnicutt and Charles Mack in the fourth quarter helped Dartmouth bring the score within respectability but failed to jumpstart a credible comeback attempt.
The comfortable lead allowed Penn to play second-stringers in the game's final minutes: Freshman quarterback Michael Collins, a prized recruit and Torgersen’s heir apparent, played two series in the fourth quarter while Schoenauer relieved Solomon.
The Quakers managed the offensive explosion despite a second consecutive uncharacteristically quiet showing from star wideout Justin Watson. After accounting for just 33 yards a week ago against Fordham, the junior put up respectable numbers — a team-high nine catches for 67 yards — but failed to post the eye-popping statline that nearly won him the Ivy Offensive Player of the Year a season ago.
The Red and Blue will have a nonconference tuneup against Central Connecticut State next Saturday before they delve back into league play for the remainder of the season. They will likely be favored in the remainder of their Ivy games, with the possible exception of the Nov. 11 face-off against Harvard, a game that will almost certainly have title implications.
Still, that contest is weeks away; Penn must first take care of business in the preceding games.
But if Friday’s result was any indication, the team has plenty of reason to set their expectations for this season sky-high.
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