Despite multiple injuries across the entire roster, an Ivy League dogfight turned into an impressive team win for Penn sprint football.
The Quakers took down Cornell, 16-7, in a showdown between the only two Ancient Eight teams in the Collegiate Sprint Football League.
It didn't take long for the Quakers (2-0, 1-0 South) to have their first scary moment of the game, as junior quarterback Eddie Jenkins suffered a injury to his left knee while running for a first down on the Quakers' first drive. Jenkins was able to limp off the field by himself and remained on the sideline for the rest of the game, periodically icing the leg. Junior backup quarterback Reed Connor, who had not thrown a pass for the Quakers before the game, stepped in to replace Jenkins.
“Hopefully Eddie is going to have only a bruised knee,” coach Bill Wagner said. “He has got to be cleared by the doctor and be ready to go if he’s going to play against Chestnut Hill next week.”
With Penn's star on the sidelines, the first half was largely a defensive battle, but the big play proved to be the difference for both teams. Cornell (1-1) struck first in the second quarter, scoring its only touchdown on a 38-yard run by senior quarterback Connor Ostrander. But the Quakers bounced back on the ensuing drive, as senior running back Jake Klaus barreled his way towards paydirt on a 44-yard run that set up his 3-yard score on the very next play. At the half, the score stood 7-7.
After the injury to Jenkins, Penn’s offense started to ride on the back of their star halfback. On 34 total carries, Klaus was able to churn out 165 yards, a new career best.
“We just had to run the plays that we were able to execute, which was to run Jake Klaus up inside,” Wagner said.
The Red and Blue also started the game without junior linebacker Josh McBriar and sophomore defensive back Michael Doulong (both have broken wrists) in the lineup, but the defense came to play. In the third quarter, they continued to dominate the Big Red offense and the deadlock was finally broken after junior kicker Theodoros Papazekos, who is also a Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian, hit a field goal from 37 yards out.
“The defense won this game,” Connor said. “Special teams too was huge.”
Later in the half, the Quakers’ special teams did indeed come up big with a blocked punt by sophomore Aaron Johnson, giving Penn the ball inside Cornell's 10 yard line. The Quakers scored a few plays later when Klaus was able to reach out with the ball and break the plane following a strong second effort.
“You keep your head down and you keep moving,” Klaus said. “I just run as hard as I can.”
On Cornell’s ensuing possession, senior defensive back Tom Console made a key interception to effectively ice the game for the Quakers.
Through all of the injury trouble that the Red and Blue suffered before and during this game, it was necessary for every player on the team to contribute and play well, which they did.
“This [game] defined ‘team win’, it was gritty and we were able to pull it out,” Connor said.
Between Connor stepping in for the injured Jenkins, Klaus carrying the extra load for the offense, and the defense holding Cornell scoreless in three separate quarters, this game can only be defined as a great team win.
The Quakers will certainly hope to be much healthier throughout the roster going into a divisional matchup against Chestnut Hill at home next Friday.