That's how you keep the momentum going.
After starting slow in a tightly contested first half, Penn football's offense woke up in the second half to take down Lehigh, 30-10. The Quakers (2-0) racked up two touchdowns and a field goal in the second half to outscore Lehigh (1-3) 17-0 and secure the win.
Junior running back Karekin Brooks had a day reminiscent of his record-breaking performance last year against this same opponent. Last year, he finished with 268 rushing yards and four touchdowns, including passing for one on a trick play. While this year's numbers are comparatively tame — 186 all-purpose yards and three scores, including one that went for 75 yards — Brooks was again a dominant force carrying the offense against the Mountain Hawks.
After a scoreless first quarter, Lehigh struck on the first play of the second quarter with a 23-yard field goal. Penn failed to score on the ensuing drive, but after the defense forced a three-and-out, the Quakers' offense found its groove.
Penn marched 61 yards in just five plays for its first score of the game. Just one play after sophomore quarterback Ryan Glover found senior wide receiver Steve Farrell for a 43-yard gain, Brooks punched it in for the first of his three scores, giving Penn a lead it would not relinquish.
The Red and Blue had a similar drive on their next possession as Glover connected with a receiver for a big gain to set up Brooks for a short touchdown. This time, Glover hit senior tight end Logan Sharp over the middle for a 42-yard catch and run.
“I think I started to get in a groove and started to see things better,” Brooks said about his efforts in the second quarter.
After the Quakers and Mountain Hawks traded several punts at the start of the third quarter, Glover took things into his own hands, keeping the ball on an option play and running it in for a 17-yard score.
All told, Glover finished the day with 206 passing yards and 77 on the ground. Junior quarterback Nick Robinson did not take a snap.
“He continues to make smart decisions," coach Ray Priore said about Glover. "We reflect on a year ago, sometimes the best decision is to throw the ball away. We’re doing those things. Taking the ball down with his feet and extending the plays. I just think those lead to positive plays and not negative plays.”
Despite Brooks' and Glover's performances, it was the defense that played perhaps the largest role in the win. In the absence of senior captain safety Sam Philippi, who suffered an injury against Bucknell, the defense held Lehigh to only 10 points, all in the first half.
"We’re really taking it in stride from a defensive standpoint, as DBs, really stepping up, and everybody’s really embracing what they need to do and playing really hard,” junior safety Jacob Martin said.
The highlight of the game for that unit was a big stop in the fourth quarter in Penn's red zone. With just under five minutes left, Lehigh started with excellent field position down by 13 and drove all the way to Penn's 11 yard line. But that's where the Mountain Hawks stalled, and a fourth down sack by junior linebacker Hunter Hayes forced the turnover on downs.
Two plays later, Brooks put the game away with a 75-yard score.
Penn finished with seven sacks, and that constant pressure prohibited Lehigh quarterback Brad Mayes from settling in throughout the game. In particular, senior captain and linebacker Nick Miller was all over the field, leading the team in tackles with 10 and a sack to boot.
"I think our kids have adjusted well," Priore said. "We’re making plays, is the best part. And a lot of different people are making those plays."
Ultimately, the Quakers found a way to turn it on after a close first half and will hope their momentum carries into their next matchup versus Dartmouth, Penn’s first dip into Ivy play.
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