EASTON, Pa. — It took the Quakers a little while to get going, but then they couldn't be stopped.
After a tight one-point loss to Delaware last week, Penn football bounced back in a big way. Led by senior quarterback Nick Robinson, the Red and Blue put on a clinic against Lafayette, using a late surge to break away and claim a 28-24 victory that wasn't as close as the score suggests.
"Last week we came out and we fought hard, but just came up a little short," sophomore wide receiver Ryan Cragun said. "We were really emphasizing finishing all week, and I think we did a good job of that tonight."
Penn (1-1) bombarded the Leopards (0-5) during their homecoming game with 570 yards of total offense, including a pair each of rushing and receiving touchdowns.
Cragun continued his hot start to the season from last week, racking up 128 yards of offense and two touchdowns from Robinson, his first scores in a Penn uniform. Senior running back Karekin Brooks was just as explosive, rushing for 202 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
"The dude's a great player," Robinson said of Cragun. "He's a great athlete, catches everything, he's tough, and he does his job."
Things didn't always look so optimistic, though, especially in the beginning. Penn only put up six yards of offense in the entire first quarter compared to 92 from Lafayette. The Leopards marched down the field for a field goal on their opening drive, but a 3-0 lead was all they could manage through the first 15 minutes of play.
Sophomore cornerback Mohammed Diakite, a defensive power for the Quakers, left the game early with an apparent wrist injury and did not return, only adding to the Red and Blue's early woes.
"We started out slow today, but we were able to start picking it up and playing with a little bit of tempo," Robinson said.
After Lafayette blocked a field goal early in the second, Penn finally answered midway through the quarter with Cragun's first score from Robinson, but Lafayette stormed right back to reclaim the lead at 10-7.
With time winding down in the half, the Red and Blue controlled the speed of play well and put together a textbook five-minute drive with Robinson at the helm, heading into the locker room up by a 14-10 score.
If the teams received energized talks at halftime, the tempo of play during the third quarter gave no indication. A series of slow drives on both sides saw no scoring in the third, although Penn came the closest after sophomore wide receiver Rory Starkey, Jr. reeled in a 53-yard grab from Robinson for his first career catch. However, play would break open in the final quarter.
Penn kicked off the fourth with a rushing touchdown from Brooks, but Lafayette again responded with just over two minutes on the clock and converted a Philly Special-inspired two-point conversion to cut the Quakers' lead to three.
Although the ensuing Leopards onside kick failed, Brooks wasn't content to simply stall the game out. A pair of massive runs, including a 31-yard burst for his second score of the game, gave Penn a double-digit lead once again.
"It was great to see him break through," coach Ray Priore said. "He was kind of frustrated in the first half, we weren't able to really get many yards with the run, but we made good adjustments and moved from there."
Another Lafayette touchdown as time expired made the score closer — to the delight of the few home fans who stayed until the end of the game — but could not close the gap as Penn secured its first win of the season.
But the Quakers have little time to sit back and rest on their laurels. This Friday the team will welcome Dartmouth to Franklin Field for the start of Ivy League play, and the Red and Blue will be out to avenge last year's brutal 37-14 defeat.
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