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Photo: William Snow

A hot start, followed by a slow and turnover-filled second half. Nothing new for the Quakers this season — except this time, they held on for the win.

Penn football beat the Brown Bears, 17-7, to secure its first Ivy League victory of the season. The win saves the Quakers (3-4, 1-3 Ivy) from potentially having the program’s first season without an Ivy win in the new millennium.

The offensive effort was shouldered by senior star wide receiver Justin Watson, who caught an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. Watson finished the game with eight receptions, 132 yards and two touchdowns.

After yet another phenomenal effort, Watson can ink his name in the Penn record books: his 3,413 receiving yards and 29 receiving touchdowns are now the most in program history.

“We were going with the looks they gave,” said Watson, whose second touchdown also came in the first quarter after a Brown fumble deep in their own territory. “I know I’m always going to get a lot of looks, but we were getting a lot of single-coverage over there, so we were taking advantage of it while we had it.”

Throwing to Watson was sophomore second-stringer Nick Robinson, who played today in place of senior starter Will Fischer-Colbrie, who was reportedly injured in last week's game against Yale, causing him to miss enough practice this week to give Robinson the nod. Despite a sloppy second half that included one called-back interception and one fumble, the sophomore still put up respectable numbers, relying heavily on NFL-prospect Watson en route to a 15-for-23, 173-yard day. 

“We started off hot, but I definitely made some mistakes,” Robinson said. About teammate Watson, he added, “When you’ve got a dude like that, he makes your life easy.”

The other Penn player to tack points on the board was junior kicker Jack Soslow, who blasted a 51-yard field goal with three seconds left in the first half. Soslow, who was 5-for-7 on field goal attempts going into the match with a previous season-long of 44 yards, made history himself today, knocking in the program’s third-longest field goal ever.

The Quakers' defense held the Bears to 203 yards — Penn’s fewest yards allowed this season — with sophomore defensive back Conor O’Brien notching a team-high 11 tackles. Junior lineman Kevin Cadigan recorded the Quakers’ only two sacks, and the Red and Blue overall tacked Brown seven times for loss.

Junior linebacker Nick Miller was a force in the pass-defense game, nearly picking off one throw from Brown quarterback Nick Duncan, batting down another, and delivering one QB hit.

On offense, the rushing game — which was near-silent in the first quarter — picked up in the scoreless second half, thanks to sophomore Abe Willows. Willows — whose touches all came after halftime — rushed 10 times for 59 yards, including a 23-yard first down. Senior Tre Solomon had the most carries (15 for 44 yards, along with three catches for 29) but also threw a third-quarter interception as part of a halfback-throw trick play.

“We wanted to go with the spark, and we have players who can play,” said Ray Priore, who praised his “gritty, resilient” team after his first Ivy win in his third season as Penn’s head coach. “So we made that move, and then Tre ran that Wildcat that really helped us out at times."

With a massive rivalry match against Princeton at the end of the week, the Penn offense has big questions to answer. With three turnovers in the game and a measly 115 yards in the second-half, the Quakers will need an excellent showing against the Tigers to win on Homecoming.

Perhaps the offense's biggest question: will it be Robinson behind center, or Fischer-Colbrie?

“No idea,” Priore said. “We’re going to take inventory and [see] what gives us the best opportunity.”

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