NEW YORK — The Quakers made the wrong type of history on Saturday.
Penn fell to Columbia by the dominant score of 44-6. Columbia's 38-point margin of victory over Penn (2-3, 0-2 Ivy) was the largest in the teams' 141-year series history, and it marked Penn's worst Ivy League loss since 1981. Despite scoring 38 points against Sacred Heart last week, the Red and Blue weren't able to find any offensive success in New York through 60 minutes of football, as they failed to score on offense.
Columbia (2-3, 1-1) forced four Penn turnovers in its largest homecoming victory in school history. The FCS rushing leader, senior Karekin Brooks, mustered just 60 rushing yards, and senior quarterback Nick Robinson completed just 37% of his passes.
"[It's] obvious by the final score of the game, we were outplayed from start to finish. They got the long pass play early on, and we had two missed field goals that really hurt us," coach Ray Priore said. "It just seems like every opportunity we had to make a play we didn't convert. Regardless, I take extreme ownership of this loss as a football coach."
One reason for Columbia's dominance was their rushing attack; the Lions out-gained Penn 265-93, and ran for more rushing yards by halftime than they had in the past three weeks.
"I know the numbers aren't great [the last few weeks], but if you look at the film, I think we have had the pieces to break off these big runs. Today, we hit targets correctly and were able to really put everything together," said Columbia coach Al Bagnoli, who coached the Quakers from 1992 to 2014.
Columbia started the game out hot on an opening play flea-flicker that went for a 47-yard gain. Lions quarterback Ty Lenhart punched in a one-yard run to give the Lions a 7-0 lead with 12:44 left in the first quarter. Lenhart played nearly the entire game for the White and Blue even though he had split snaps in the previous weeks.
"They play a type of game very similar to that of Dartmouth, and we prepared for both of them heading into this contest," Priore said.
The Quakers got the ball back and took the ball to midfield, but Columbia's Ben McKeighan broke up senior quarterback Nick Robinson's pass to senior wideout Kolton Huber on fourth down, and the Lions took over on downs. Despite starting in Penn territory, Columbia was forced to settle for a 43-yard field goal.
On the next drive, the Red and Blue started to pick up momentum on offense, as Brooks chipped in 20 yards rushing, but the Quakers stalled on offense and were forced to punt after a false start on fourth-and-1. A dropped pass by sophomore wide receiver Rory Starkey on fourth down on Penn's next drive was the second turnover on downs of the afternoon.
Energized by their second-straight fourth down stop, Columbia drove the ball down the field — picking up big gains on passing plays — and Lions running back Dante Miller scored from 17 yards out to extend Columbia's lead to 17.
Needing points before the half, Robinson looked to sophomore receiver Ryan Cragun and the Quakers were able to advance into Columbia territory, but kicker David Perkins couldn't convert a 42-yard field goal to end the drive. Perkins missed two field goals in the half.
Throughout the second half, Columbia continued to dominate on the ground as time ticked off the game clock. A big factor for the Lions was Lenhart, who got the starting nod over junior Josh Bean. Lenhart was able to find lots of room to run against the Red and Blue, as he posted 99 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his first collegiate start.
"They really were able to control the clock and the ball by running the ball inside, which I think [Lenhart] was really good at doing," Priore said. "They really wore us down and we didn't make any big plays, which is how you beat a team like Columbia."
It looked like Columbia was going to shut out the Quakers, but senior defensive back Conor O'Brien scooped up a Columbia fumble and returned it 50 yards for the touchdown. Those were Penn's only points.
"I think we will evaluate everything holistically heading into next week, and that involves going back and watching the tape," Priore said. "It wasn't one player that did something wrong; it was all of the players, all of the coaches."
The Quakers will travel to Yale next week with the hope of securing their first conference win of the season.
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