At first it looked like it would be a blowout. And then it looked like it might be close.
In the end it was neither, but a 34-17 win for Penn football nonetheless in its season-opener against Bucknell.
The Quakers (1-0) dominated the game’s early minutes, intercepting the Bisons’ (0-3) very first pass of the game before scoring just four plays later on a five-yard run from junior running back Karekin Brooks. The Red and Blue didn’t slow down from there, recovering a fumble and blocking a punt on Bucknell’s two ensuing possessions to give the offense field position deep in the Bisons’ territory.
Senior kicker Jack Soslow converted on a field goal attempt from 49 yards — the first of two successful 45-plus yard kicks on the night — before Brooks scored his second touchdown of the day on the next possession to put Penn up 17-0 less than five minutes into the game.
“We were very fortunate to jump on them early,” coach Ray Priore said after the game. “When you have a weapon like Jack, you’ll line a kick up and feel pretty secure that he’s going to hit it from inside of 50. That’s a confident weapon that we have as a team."
But after Penn built its lead up to 27-3 early in the second quarter on a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ryan Glover — who was making his first career start — the Quakers' attack stalled and the Bison began to claw their way back into the game.
Just two minutes into the third quarter, Bucknell had cut Penn’s lead to just 27-17 before both teams traded turnovers and empty possessions for the remainder of the quarter.
The game also took a solemn turn at the end of the third quarter when senior captain and safety Sam Philippi went down with a lower body injury. Play was paused for several minutes as both teams knelt on their sidelines before Philippi was carried off the field on a stretcher.
The injury did little to slow down the Red and Blue’s defense, though. On a day that Penn forced three turnovers and eight sacks, it also shut the Bison out for the final 28 minutes of the game.
“We definitely know that we gotta ball out every play for [Philippi],” senior captain and linebacker Nick Miller said. “As soon as it happened, we all just started saying ‘It’s for Sam, it’s for Sam’. So he knows we have his back and we just gotta keep balling for him.”
With 10:21 left in the fourth quarter, Penn scored on another touchdown pass from Glover to give the game its final score. Glover played every offensive snap for Penn, despite coach Ray Priore saying in the days leading up to the game that junior quarterback Nick Robinson would also get snaps.
After the game, Priore said that Glover was the team’s starter and he didn’t want to disrupt the offense’s flow, but he also emphasized the importance of having two capable quarterbacks.
“The most important thing is that those guys are great teammates, great players,” Priore said. “We’re gonna need them both there to make a run at this thing and be a good football team.”
Glover’s performance on the day was up and down. Despite several drops from his receivers, he tossed for 138 yards and ran for another 48, but he also finished with three turnovers — a problem that plagued the rest of the team as well.
“I thought I did a pretty poor job of [taking care of the ball],” Glover said. “But overall, I think I ran the offense pretty well. I think we executed and did some good things.”
Priore also stressed the the importance of ball security, expressing disappointment in the team's five turnovers.
“That’s not good,” he said. “You start doing that, that’s how we lost a year ago."
Overall, though, Priore expects the team to continue to improve.
“They often say that the greatest progression of a team is between the first game to the second game,” Priore said. “We’ll be back to work tomorrow to get better in that capacity.”
The Quakers’ second game will come next Saturday at Franklin Field against yet another Patriot League foe in Lehigh.
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