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Two relative unknowns stepped up for Penn football in a big way.

They are not the faces of Penn football. But at the end of Saturday’s game, Fordham fans knew who they were.

In Saturday’s 48-45 loss to the Rams, senior quarterback Andrew Lisa threw for three touchdowns and junior running back Brian Schoenauer ran for three of his own, as the two were responsible for all six of Penn’s touchdowns.

The week prior, Lisa saw his first collegiate action, stepping in for an injured Alek Torgersen and completing 15 of 21 second-half passes, including two touchdowns. After that game, he said he enjoyed the opportunity to play but wanted the win.

Noting that he prepares for every week as if he were the starter, Lisa was not fazed when he needed to start the second half versus the Big Green. But knowing he was the starter against Fordham, he did focus a little more during the week and collected first-team reps at practice. Then, on Saturday, he made his first collegiate start.

“It’s a great opportunity. It’s always been a dream of mine to do that,” Lisa said.

On Saturday, Lisa and the Quakers came back from a 25-point deficit to give the Rams a fight until the end. Coach Ray Priore said that once the team calmed down it began to decrease the deficit.

“I’m not sure we did [many] different things in the second half other than our players settling down, coming to get composure, play one play at a time and make some plays,” he said.

One of the X factors for Penn was the performance of Lisa. With two interceptions before Penn scored its first touchdown, Lisa just needed to gain some positive momentum, Priore said.

“All of the sudden, things started clicking, confidence builds,” the first-year head coach said. “When you start getting confidence and then he made some throws, both to Ryan O’Malley on one touchdown, Ryan Kelly in the back of the end zone on a two-point play, and he was in motion, he was flowing.”

Despite the fact they were trailing, the Quakers stuck by their gameplan. While some teams abandon the run in favor of the pass when behind, Penn attempted 20 rushes in the second half.

“The attack from an offense or defense is to take what they give you, and a 15-yard run is as great as a 15-yard pass,” Priore said. “When they’re playing coverage and people out of the box and give the opportunity to run, I think our offensive staff is smart enough to attack that.”

The surprise was that the majority of these runs came from Schoenauer, a relative unknown coming into the season behind sophomore Tre Solomon on the Penn depth chart.

Schoenauer, who is the Red and Blue’s leading rusher through four games, made the most of his snaps. In the second half against Fordham, he ran 13 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns, finishing the day with 161 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Princeton Junction, N.J., native found the team’s ability to pile on the points even after a slow start encouraging.

“It feels good, because we know that if as a team, we execute on what we’re being coached to do, we could have some success,” he said.

“Being able to do that as a team felt great, and I just wished we had been able to get going a bit earlier in the game.”

A key component, perhaps unsung, of the comeback was the play of the offensive line. Fordham was unable to sack Lisa, and Schoenauer received wide running lanes. When asked about not being sacked even once, Lisa did not hesitate to hand over the credit.

“That’s not on me at all. That’s my O-line just being able to block their butts off,” Lisa said. “They did a great job up front. I trusted every single one of them, they trusted me, so with that relationship we have. It allowed us to succeed with no sacks.”

Senior lineman Jack York said the strong performance came in an important spot with needing to protect the backup quarterback, with whom they had less in-game experience.

“Not having a sack is huge for us, huge for the quarterback, especially a backup quarterback like Andrew,” York said.

With Torgersen back in practice as the Quakers ready to play Columbia in New York this weekend, Lisa will return to his reserve role, and it remains to be seen how many carries Schoenauer will need to concede to Solomon.

But heading into a matchup with a big name like Al Bagnoli, the duo have already shown that the players you know the least can make the biggest impact.

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