Penn football can breathe a little easier now.
After a slow start, the Quakers dominated visiting Columbia 31-7 with their most complete offensive effort of the season.
With injuries to leading rushers Kyle Wilcox, Tre Solomon and Lyle Marsh, the questions surrounding Penn’s running game were answered by sophomore Brian Schoenauer and senior Eric Fiore, who led the Red and Blue’s over 200-yard combined rushing effort alongside quarterback Alek Torgerson.
“After this game, we can feel a little bit better about ourselves and have more confidence,” coach Al Bagnoli said.
The Red and Blue (1-4,1-1 Ivy) quickly fell behind, as the Lions (0-5, 0-2) drove the ball down the field with ease on their first drive. Lions’ junior quarterback Trevor McDonagh found Zach Dansby with a six-yard touchdown pass after carving up the Penn secondary on a series of short-to-midrange tosses.
On its third drive, the Red and Blue offense got the ground game going behind Schoenauer.
Several Schoenauer runs and a pass interference call on Columbia brought Penn into the redzone before a powerful 12-yard touchdown run off the right edge by Fiore capped off the game-tying drive with four minutes left in the first quarter.
"Eric has played tailback for three days — on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," Bagnoli said. "He has come in and had extra meetings and I thought he acquitted himself very well. To his credit, he was ready to go."
After a series of punts, Penn’s offense switched up the tempo with eight minutes left in the first half, running a wildcat formation with sophomore Adam Strouss behind center.
The move helped to kick-start the offense, as the Red and Blue were able to use an effective mix of run and pass to quickly march down a short field. A pretty Torgerson pass completed to Conner Scott down the right sideline after an impressive scramble proved to be a key play that kept the drive moving.
After some runs got Penn to the 10-yard line, Torgerson rolled out right to hit tight end Ryan Kelly for a seven-yard touchdown to give Penn its first lead of the afternoon with 5:35 left in the half. It was Kelly’s second score of the season, and Torgerson’s fourth TD pass on the year.
After quickly stopping Columbia, Penn gave the ball right back to the Lions deep in its own territory after Torgerson coughed the ball up on a read play.
The Red and Blue were able to dodge a bullet however, as Columbia’s drive failed with a missed field goal by freshman kicker Noah Zgrablich.
Penn’s offense generated 108 yard on the ground against 58 in the air in the first half – an unusual breakdown for the normally pass-happy offense. Meanwhile, the Quakers defense shut down Columbia’s rushing attack in the early going, holding Lions’ back Cameron Molina to 18 yards on 11 carries in the first half.
“We played assignment football and stuck our gaps,” senior defensive back Evan Jackson said. “The guys up front did a great job swarming to the football. It was a good performance for the run defense.”
After appearing to go three-and-out on its first drive of the second half, the Red and Blue offense was bailed out by a running-into-the kicker penalty that kept the chains moving. After first down runs by Schoenauer and Torgerson, Penn’s short passing game picked up and brought the unit down to the two yard line.
After two failed attempts, a second effort on a quarterback sneak by Torgerson gave the Quakers a 21-7 lead after a seven minute march.
Following a Columbia punt, Penn used a beautifully executed 48 yard screen play to Fiore to set up a three yard plunge by Strouss, extending the Red and Blue’s lead to 28-7 with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter.
“We have some injuries, so its just next guy up,” said Fiore, who had 89 all purpose yards. “We have a lot of capable guys, I’m just fortunate I’m able to be that next man up.”
Penn’s offense wasn’t done, however.
With just over 11 minutes remaining and the Penn offense at midfield, Torgerson connected with Scott on a 34-yard play-action pass down the left sideline that set up a Jimmy Gammill field goal to make the score 31-7, which would hold as the final.
The Quakers head to Yale next week in a crucial battle with the Elis to keep their Ivy hopes alive.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.