Three quarters into Friday night's Penn sprint football season opener against Cornell, the scoreboard failed to create an overwhelming sense of comfort for the Quakers. The Red and Blue's 7-0 advantage was definitely not an intimidating lead, yet it was the zero on the visitors' side of the scoreboard that told the real story -- a story of defensive domination that led the Quakers to an eventual 20-0 victory. Forcing the Big Red to a virtually unheard-of negative 21 yards on the ground, 22 individual Quakers recorded tackles, including seven sacks. At the heart of this defensive display of sheer superiority was senior linebacker John Clarke. The co-captain tallied nine tackles -- including one sack -- and hauled in one interception in the fourth quarter, which set up sophomore running back Mark Gannon's 5-yard touchdown run. Freshman kicker Chris Caputo added the extra point to give the Quakers a 14-0 advantage. "We dominated completely," Penn junior defensive back Diego Morales said. "Our secondary is amazing. I don't think anyone is going to complete a pass over 20 yards on us." Morales' fourth quarter interception set up senior fullback Joe Smith's 13-yard touchdown run to put the final six points on Franklin Field's scoreboard. It was Morales' and Clarke's fourth quarter interceptions that spurred a late offensive scoring surge. "It's going to take the offense more time to click," said Brad Busich, one of Penn's four returning defensive backs. "It's a lot easier to play defense," Clarke said. "The offense is going to take a few weeks to get in sync." The Red and Blue had plenty of opportunities to score, but their passing game just didn't click. Senior quarterback John Kernan had some good looks to seniors Robert Reeves, Scott Moore and sprint rookie sophomore Tim Murphy, formerly a member of Al Bagnoli's squad. But the Quakers' timing was off. "We just got to put together some consistency on the offense," Penn coach Bill Wagner said. That consistency was hindered by the Quakers' three interceptions, as well as 12 penalties that set the Red and Blue back 148 yards. But sophomore sensation Gannon made up for the offense's forgone yardage. The running back rushed for two touchdowns and had 32 carries for a 106-yard performance overall. In addition to his fourth quarter touchdown, Gannon opened the scoring with a three-yard touchdown run with 17 seconds remaining on the clock in the first quarter. Gannon was not alone in sparking the Quakers' 20-0 victory. Besides his rushing performance, Smith played very well. Although it was his first time playing for the Red and Blue, the senior had an exceptional performance with 10 carries for 75 yards and the final touchdown of the evening. "Our offense isn't as good as their offense," Cornell coach Terry Cullen said of the Penn attack that registered 21 first downs to the Big Red's 10. "[Penn's] offensive line is all kids who played last year. They're a good team." The Big Red's defense was the heart of their team. Two linebackers returned from last year -- senior captain Jon Krautmann and senior Pat Arangio. In addition, Cornell's strong safety junior Angelo Palmieri and captain defensive back standout Imad Baggar pulled more than their fair share of the weight on Friday. But after three quarters of intense hitting, the Quakers eventually wore Cornell's defense down. "Our defense was on the field for a real long time, and between fatigue and just being out there for a while we had a lot of first downs," Cornell sophomore linebacker Mike Rutenberg said.Comments powered by Disqus
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