It wasn’t pretty, but the Quakers got the job done.
In a game that was dominated by the defenses, it was sophomore quarterback Ryan Glover’s four-yard touchdown run that made the difference in Penn football's 13-10 victory over Columbia.
Penn’s defense was stout all game, giving up just 282 total yards. The 10 points that the group did give up came with the Lions (3-2, 0-2) starting within the Penn 30-yard line on two separate occasions.
The Red and Blue (4-1, 1-1) got on the board quickly, as senior kicker Jack Soslow converted a chip shot field goal halfway through the first quarter. However, this drive foreshadowed a major problem that would hamper the Quakers throughout the game: scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
“[Winning] is especially hard when you have opportunities that you let slip away,” coach Ray Priore said. “I think it was at least two, maybe three, first downs inside their 10-yard line with penalties and things that really took us out of range and compromised our opportunities. I think we ended up getting two field goals, instead of two touchdowns. Very easily I felt that in the first half, we should have been up 21-0.”
While they didn’t convert on many of these opportunities, the Quakers’ 13 points proved to be all that was needed, as the defense stood tall on several different occasions.
After taking a 6-0 lead into the half, the Red and Blue lost the little bit of momentum that they had by muffing a punt early in the second half and letting the Lions take possession at the Penn 21-yard line. Two plays later, Columbia sophomore quarterback Josh Bean found a wide-open Kaleb Pitts in the endzone to take a one point lead. A few minutes later, Columbia senior kicker Chris Alleyne drilled a 46-yarder to extend the lead to four.
Penn’s offense struggled to find a rhythm for a while, as Priore even subbed in junior quarterback Nick Robinson for a drive for the first time this season.
“We felt like we were stalling a little bit,” Priore said. “We didn’t have that mojo on offense, and we just thought that we’d put Nick on in, and we can really get something off and going. So we did that, and we’re not afraid to do that … Any player, we’re gonna give that next man that opportunity.”
Robinson and the offense were unable to get much going, partly because they were pinned within their own 5-yard line. Glover came back in, and the Red and Blue finally put together a complete drive in the fourth quarter, scoring on Glover’s goal-line touchdown run.
Then, it was the defense’s turn to make a play. With about three minutes remaining, Columbia drove down the field into Penn territory and faced a third and one. After being stuffed on that play, the Lions went for it on fourth and had the same result, being stopped just inches from the first-down marker.
“We put beast in; that’s just the big man defense,” said senior linebacker Jay Cammon, Jr., who finished the game with nine tackles. “You know, it’s just man-on-man, and that [points to] our mentality to finish. It’s fourth and one and we just have pride. We stayed poised, and our thing is that we’re gonna knock them back, and everyone came out there, it was man-on-man, and we just knocked them straight back.”
Even after this stop, Columbia would find itself with a great chance to tie or win the game late. After converting on fourth and 18 with a 43-yard bomb, the Lions had the ball at the Penn 24-yard line with less than 30 seconds remaining. Moments later, though, freshman cornerback Mohammed Diakite jumped a route to intercept Bean's pass towards the sideline and seal the victory for the Quakers.
“One of our defensive mottos is just finding poise, so we were just trying to stay poised after that fourth-and-18,” Diakite said. “We’d been talking about finishing all offseason and all during the regular season, so we just knew we had to finish.”
And finish they did. The Quakers may not have played a perfect game, but they nonetheless found a way to get a much-needed first Ivy League win of the season.