In its last two games, the Penn sprint football team has played in a manner more befitting ESPN Classic than the Penn Sports Network. Now what are they going to do for an encore?
After following up a heartbreaking 42-34 six-overtime loss to Cornell with an exhilarating 24-20 win over Franklin Pierce on a 73-yard touchdown with nine seconds to play, the Quakers (1-1) have the world of Penn Athletics abuzz.
The year certainly couldn’t have started any tougher for the Red and Blue.
Going up against the Big Red in Ithaca, N.Y., on a rainy Friday night on Sept. 14, the Quakers took an early 7-0 lead on a three-yard touchdown run by quarterback Keith Braccia.
Then all hell broke loose.
The driving rain turned into a lightning storm, delaying the game by over two hours. When play finally resumed, the action on the field soon resembled the chaos in the sky.
The Red and Blue failed to hold a 21-14 fourth-quarter lead and soon entered a dizzying stretch of overtime periods, matching their hosts touchdown for touchdown and missed field goal for missed field goal.
Finally, after a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brendan Miller put Cornell ahead, and Braccia’s pass on 4th-and-1 fell to the turf, Penn found itself on the wrong end of the scoreboard at the conclusion of a long night’s journey.
After a week off, though, a trip to Ashburnham, Mass., to face Franklin Pierce on Sept. 30 ended with the Quakers experiencing a dizzying high.
Following a 15-yd. touchdown pass to D.J. MacDonald from Tyler Mathews that put the Ravens up 20-17 with 30 seconds left, the Quakers were staring an 0-2 start straight in the face.
Until Braccia got to work, that is.
A 73-yard touchdown pass from Braccia to senior wideout Whit Shaw gave the Red and Blue an improbable 24-20 lead with nine seconds left.
Now that the dust has settled, what have the Quakers learned about themselves after finishing their ride on an emotional roller coaster?
Workhorse running back Mike Beamish, for his part, has noticed an attitude of resilience around his squad that developed after their response to the Cornell loss.
“We’re winners,” Beamish said. “We know what we have to do in order to win a game that comes down to the wire.”
Toughness and resiliency, though, are not the only words that have been tossed around the team.
For a squad loaded with freshmen and sophomores, many have talked about growth.
“It’s a big learning factor, obviously,” coach Bill Wagner said. “They should not be considered freshmen anymore, they should be Penn sprint football players at this point. They’ve experienced the highs, the lows, the ups, the downs, the peaks, the valleys … I think they’re gonna walk away a lot more mature.”
The Quakers won’t have to wait very long to put their newfound maturity to the test, as Mansfield comes down to Franklin Field on Friday night.
With another game on the schedule coming up, it’s back to business as usual, with no time for Beamish or the rest of the Quakers to dwell on the past.
“I think our basic preparation’s the same,” Beamish said. “We’re still gonna come out and run the ball, execute on short passes, move the ball up the field.”
If the Quakers keep executing, who knows what’ll happen next?
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