Who said it needs to be pretty?
Penn football, despite not scoring in the second half, ground out a gritty 21-14 victory over Brown on Saturday to stay perfect in Ivy League play.
The Quakers (5-2, 4-0 Ivy) relied heavily on the star power of junior wide receiver Justin Watson to jump out to a 21-0 lead in the first half. Despite offensive struggles in the second period, however, the Red and Blue were able to hold strong on defense to come away with the Homecoming victory.
“Good teams find a way to win,” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “We’re going to build on this and take some positives away to Princeton.”
Watson had the best game of his standout career thus far, catching 11 passes for 210 yards — the most by any Penn player since 1981 — and scored on a long 67-yard touchdown from senior quarterback Alek Torgersen.
That score – on a perfectly executed deep ball – put the Quakers up 7-0 with 6:53 remaining in the first quarter.
“It was actually [a play] that we just put in this week,” Watson said of his seventh touchdown of the season. “It worked to perfection.”
The Red and Blue scored twice more in the first period, each on lengthy, deliberative drives. Christian Pearson — whose strong sophomore campaign has been largely overshadowed by Watson — reeled in a 17-yard strike from Torgersen to cap a 15-play, 87-yard drive with 9:53 left in the second quarter.
Nine minutes later, in the waning seconds of the half, junior running back Tre Solomon plunged in from a yard out to cap another marathon 16-play, 82-yard possession. Solomon’s seven touchdowns this season are the best of any running back in the Ivy League.
The Red and Blue defense held Brown scoreless in the first half, the third consecutive game in which they have taken a shutout into the break. The Bears produced only 98 yards of total offense over the game’s first 30 minutes — meanwhile, Watson alone racked up 158 receiving yards over that time.
“It’s just how we come out. We’ve chosen to defer on the coin toss so that we start on defense every time,” sophomore defensive back Sam Philippi noted. “We want to set the tone of the game — we don’t want their offense to have any momentum.”
In the second half, Penn withstood rushing touchdowns from Johnny Pena and Thomas Linta that brought Brown within one score. The Bears looked to be in position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, but Philippi picked off a Linta pass in the end zone to seal the win with 1:28 remaining in the game.
“We settled down. We got everybody to play with confidence and poise down the stretch,” Priore said.
Both Penn and Brown missed makeable field goals. Bears freshman kicker Dawson Goepferich missed a 34-yarder in the first quarter – which set up the Quakers’ first score – while Penn sophomore Jack Soslow missed a 28-yard kick in the fourth.
Soslow, usually the kickoff specialist, kicked in place of Jimmy Gammill, Penn’s typical field goal kicker. Gammill is just 1-for-4 on field goal attempts on the season.
“Jimmy has been a little erratic on his field goals,” Priore said. “We went with Jack — Jack’s done a good job during the course of the week. But [field goal kicking] is something we have to fix in a hurry. We have to get those points on the board.”
The Quakers, tied with Harvard atop the Ivy standings, will face tough matchups over the next two weeks as they head to Princeton Saturday before hosting the Crimson in a likely de facto Ivy title game on Nov. 11.
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