On a defense loaded with veterans, it was a freshman who made the game clinching play in Penn football’s 13-10 win over Columbia on Saturday.
With the Lions well within field goal range at Penn’s 24-yard line, freshman cornerback Mohammed Diakite picked off Columbia quarterback Josh Bean with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter, sealing Penn’s first Ivy League win of the season. The heroics, in addition to his team-leading six solo tackles, earned the eastern Pennsylvania native Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors for the first time in his career.
The interception was also the first of his career and could not have come at a more clutch moment. On the play, Columbia receiver Mozes Mooney lost his footing, allowing Diakite to step into the passing lane and return the interception 42 yards. The Lions had converted a fourth and 15 from their own four yard line earlier in the drive, and as they marched smoothly down the field, it looked likely they'd either win the game in regulation or force overtime.
Had Columbia (3-2, 0-2 Ivy) pulled off the win in regulation or won later in overtime, Penn (4-1, 1-1 Ivy) would have dropped to 0-2 in conference play. This result would have been a significant blow to its Ivy League championship aspirations.
Still, the pick was not the only noteworthy part of Diakite’s performance. He set personal highs in total tackles (eight) and tied for the team lead in solo tackles (six) with senior outside linebacker Jay Cammon Jr.
Overall, the strong defensive performance could help Penn build up momentum as it prepares to take on the brunt of its conference slate.
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