Though Penn may have been in control for most of the game against Harvard Saturday, the stat sheet would suggest otherwise.
The Crimson appeared to dominate offensively, as their 410 yards of total offense dwarfed the Quakers’ 278-yard effort.
However, on a day where no one seemed able to move the ball early on, it was Penn’s special teams that ended up catalyzing the scoring.
“Our special teams did a really nice job today; our field goal kicker came up huge, the coverage teams were good,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said.
In the second quarter, with Penn’s rushing attack deadlocked, punter Scott Lopano booted the ball deep into Harvard territory. Crimson returner Dan Minamide muffed the catch, and the Penn coverage team recovered the ball at Harvard’s 9-yard line. Four plays later, the Quakers were up 3-0 after a 19-yard Andrew Samson field goal.
That was just the beginning.
Two drives later, with Penn backed up near their endzone, Lopano skied another punt 45 yards to knock the Crimson out of Penn territory.
Though Harvard quarterback Collier Winters drove his team within field goal range, Penn’s special teams stepped up again, as the attempt was blocked by Penn linebacker Erik Rask.
“I actually just got put on that field goal block this week,” Rask said. “The other guy went down and just this week in practice, we were going over that stuff, and I was fortunate enough that the guys up front got a good push, and I was able to tighten it up and get a hand on it.”
Later in the third quarter, the Crimson appeared to pin the Quakers at their own 1-yard line with a masterful 59-yard punt. However, after a Crimson player touched the ball, returner Bradford Blackmon deftly swooped up the loose pigskin and came flying down the sideline to net Penn an additional 38 yards of real estate. The drive would culminate in a touchdown.
The special teams’ big day was capped off by a 45-yard field goal by Samson — just a yard shy of his season long — late in the third frame.
It emphatically punctuated what has been a fantastic four years for the Quaker kicker. With his two field goals on Saturday, Samson now holds the Penn career field goal record and continues to build on the career points record he broke last weekend at Princeton.
“He’s had a tremendous career,” Bagnoli said. “He’s been very, very consistent and has come up big in critical situations, and today was another example. He’s really hitting the ball well. When you can score points from 40-plus yards out, I think that certainly helps you.”
Since the Penn offense had more trouble moving the ball against the Crimson than with any other Ivy team this season — only No. 9 Villanova held Penn to fewer yards this season — the game became a battle for field position. It was the Penn’s special teams’ ability to capitalize that made the difference: while Harvard was one for two in the red zone, Penn was three for three.
“We really had good field position on our kickoff returns, and we pinned them down pretty deep,” said Bagnoli. “We made some positive yards and it certainly was very good. [We] came up big when we had to come up big.”Comments powered by Disqus
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