Bouncing back after two tough losses is easier said than done. But on Saturday, that is exactly what Penn sprint football did.
“We were without our starting quarterback [Eddie Jenkins] when we played Chestnut Hill, so we struggled to get our offense together,” coach Bill Wagner said. “[Against Army] we still had several kids healing up, and we had a touchdown called back when the momentum was all ours.”
The injury situation was not any better for Penn (3-2) in the buildup to this game, as they had to battle through an illness that affected several of the team's players. However, the Red and Blue showed few signs of fatigue at the start of the game, with the team's defense setting the tone. On the day, Caldwell (0-5) was forced to punt six times and only managed 75 rushing yards.
Penn’s first touchdown came on its first drive of the game, courtesy of senior running back Jake Klaus. Following that possession, both teams struggled to create chances, with the biggest play coming on a 23-yard rush by Penn quarterback Eddie Jenkins.
“That was huge," Klaus said of the early score. “We know how good our offense is, and from there we kicked off.”
Penn found its stride in the second quarter, outscoring Caldwell 24-0 in the process. However, the Quakers first had to get out of their own way. A Klaus rushing touchdown was taken off the board following a penalty, forcing Penn to settle for a 33-yard field goal from junior kicker Theodoros Papazekos, who is also a sports editor at The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Caldwell fought back but had to punt from near its own end zone after being called for two consecutive penalties. The punt was returned 41 yards for a touchdown by Penn receiver Brendan McCaffrey, which pushed the score to 17-0. Later in the quarter, Klaus notched his second rushing touchdown of the game. His cousin, freshman tight end Ben Klaus, also got in on the action, catching an 11-yard throw from Jenkins.
The second half was considerably less one-sided as Caldwell settled into the game, converting on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Jake Klaus would take matters into his own hands once again, darting through the middle on his way to his third touchdown. He would finish the game with 79 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards.
Caldwell eventually found the end zone again with under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but at that point Penn was already well ahead. Caldwell's late touchdown proved to be the last score of the game, as the Red and Blue prevailed 38-14.
“I followed my guys, I trust them,” Jake Klaus said. “I always try to run as hard as I can, try to fall forward. It’s just about the [execution.]”
Wagner was full of praise for his captain.
“[Jake Klaus] is a workhorse, he’ll do whatever we ask him to do. He certainly leads by example."
The Quakers' championship aspirations are still alive following Navy's win over Chestnut Hill. If they beat Navy (4-1) at Franklin Field next Friday, Penn will represent the South Division in the Collegiate Sprint Football Championship game. In last year’s game, Penn emerged victorious in a 28-23 win.
“[Next Friday] could be the last game I play; if not, we get to play again in the championship,” Jake Klaus said.
The team certainly hopes for the latter and will look to avoid costly penalties against a stronger opponent in Navy.
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