ITHACA, N.Y. — It took them a while to get going, but they brought home the hardware once again.
Penn football put up just three points in the first half, but eventually found enough momentum to roll over Cornell, 20-7, and take the Trustees' Cup for the fifth year in a row.
The Quakers (6-2, 3-2 Ivy) looked like they would have their work cut out for them in defending the trophy — held by the winner of the annual game between Cornell and Penn, college football’s sixth most-played matchup — but they eventually found their feet and cruised to victory.
“We started slow, but it’s not about how you start, most of the time. It’s how you finish," sophomore quarterback Ryan Glover said. "That’s what we did today.”
With the win, the Quakers can claim they're arguably the "best of the rest" in the Ivy League, moving into third place alone at 3-2 in league play but well behind leaders Dartmouth and Princeton, each at 4-0 as of Friday night.
The first quarter saw no score, thanks in large part to Penn’s stout defense. Following a three-and-out from the Quakers to open the game, Cornell (3-5, 2-3) stormed down the field to set up a first and goal from Penn’s one yard line. A Herculean effort from the Quakers denied the Big Red three times, however, and on 4th-and-2, a designed run from quarterback Dalton Banks was foiled by senior linebacker Jay Cammon, Jr., who grabbed Banks by his shoelaces to drag him down agonizingly short and keep the game scoreless.
Penn broke the deadlock early in the second quarter. Glover threw a 45-yard bomb down the field to senior wide receiver Steve Farrell, who hauled it in to give the Quakers three shots at a touchdown. A stand from the Big Red forced the Red and Blue to call up senior kicker Jack Soslow for a 20-yarder.
Soslow split the uprights to put Penn up, 3-0.
Not to be outdone, Cornell responded immediately with a long, hard-fought drive of its own. Though the Quakers’ red zone defense put up another strong stand, they were undone on third and goal by a 13-yard cross-field catch-and-run from Lars Pedersen that put them behind, 7-3.
Defense reigned supreme on the following series of drives, and Penn was forced to enter the half behind.
“I think we changed after the halftime talk," Glover said. "Our whole mindset changed in the second half. We just knew that we had to get the job done.”
The tides of the game turned early in the second half, after the Quakers forced a three-and-out from the Big Red and got the ball in good field position. A run and slide from Glover drew a vicious hit from Cornell’s Jelani Taylor that was ultimately deemed a targeting penalty that got Taylor ejected.
A subsequent series of plays with peculiar formations in the backfield and direct snaps to junior running back Karekin Brooks resulted in a six-yard dash to the pylon from Brooks that gave Penn its go-ahead touchdown midway through the third quarter.
"It was fun — I like doing Wildcat [formation], because I wish that I played quarterback," Brooks said.
After taking the lead, the Quakers' next two drives then sealed the deal.
Cornell drove hard down the field in the following minutes to earn a 40-yard field goal attempt, but a miss wide-left brought momentum further into the Quakers’ camp.
From their own 30 yard line, the Red and Blue proceeded to march down the field on the next drive that led into the fourth quarter. One minute into the final period and on the Big Red’s 19, Glover found senior Christian Pearson in acres of open red grass, where he hauled down a game-sealing touchdown catch.
"Our kids are very resilient," coach Ray Priore said. "We came out for the second half, and I'm really proud of how they responded. It was a great second half."
Another stop from a confident defense allowed Penn the chance to drain the clock. Led by junior quarterback Nick Robinson after a planned switch, the Quakers marched down the field over an almost eight-minute drive that left the Big Red little time for a comeback. A 27-yard field goal by Soslow gave the game its final score, 20-7.
Penn will return to action next Saturday in a Homecoming clash against Harvard.