Much of last season was a battle between two quarterbacks, and the same storyline defined Saturday's game.
In a nail-biting, 21-20 Homecoming victory for Penn over Cornell, junior Ryan Glover came in and performed for the Quakers after starting quarterback Nick Robinson was taken out midway through the third quarter.
In a game that was deadlocked from the very beginning, Glover seemed to be the spark that Penn (4-4, 2-3 Ivy) needed to edge out the Big Red (2-6, 1-4) and claim its second Ivy League win of the 2019 season.
“Nick has been battling injuries midway here [in this game],” Priore said about the quarterback switch. “He was limping on the field, trying his best to get out there. But we’re so lucky to have an unselfish young man like [Glover]. He and Robinson have had sort of a role reversal, but they’ve handled it so well.”
Early on, the Quakers looked to star running back Karekin Brooks, who missed the team’s previous game against Brown. Brooks looked active from the get-go, struggled to get going in the first half, as did the Quakers' offense as a whole. This was evident by the fact that punter Jake Haggard was called on in five out of the Quakers’ seven first-half drives.
On the other hand, the Quakers defensive unit more than stood its ground. Having given up a 44-yard field goal attempt on the Big Red’s first drive, which went narrowly wide, Penn senior linebacker Zach Evans intercepted Cornell quarterback Richey Kenney at Penn’s 47-yard line in the first quarter.
With both teams unable to sustain any offensive pressure, two mistakes by the Big Red — a fumbled snap, followed by a sack on its one-yard line — gave the Red and Blue the ball deep in Cornell territory. Up stepped sophomore receiver Rory Starkey, Jr., who first latched onto a 19-yard pass on fourth-and-1 from senior quarterback Nick Robinson, and then converted on a 12-yard throw into the end zone. On a quiet day for sophomore receiver Ryan Cragun, Starkey kept the Quakers’ passing offense moving with five catches for 49 yards.
Right after that play, Cornell responded through Kenney, whose passing advanced the Big Red into a promising position at the Penn 5. Two consecutive offsides by Penn defensive linebacker senior Taheeb Sonekan put Cornell on the one-yard line, but they failed to convert in three tries, the last of which ended with a redeeming crucial tackle by Sonekan.
Ten minutes into the second half, the Big Red took the lead after converting an 80-yard drive that included two 16-yard throws from Kenney and a lung-busting 21-yard dash by junior running back SK Howard. Cornell running back Delonte Harrell completed the drive to go up 14-7.
However, Cornell’s lead would last just 1:44. Quakers coach Ray Priore replaced senior quarterback Nick Robinson with junior Ryan Glover, and he made an instant impact by connecting with Brooks on his first pass for a 20-yard gain. Not long after, Glover found wide-open senior receiver Kolton Huber, who kept his feet in bounds for the end zone catch to level the score for Penn.
That 75-yard drive not only brought Penn back on level terms, but also got the crowd roaring for the fourth quarter. After a Cornell punt 50 seconds into the quarter, Glover made a screen pass to sophomore quarterback Owen Goldsberry, also fresh into the game, who then threw an 80-yard pass to open senior wide receiver Eric Markes, who dashed into the end zone without looking back to restore Penn’s lead. Play was halted for a lengthy official review, but in the end the touchdown stood.
Priore heaped praise on Goldsberry, who was originally recruited as a quarterback, for making the right read.
“[Goldsberry] went to Michigan as a walk-on and played wide receiver,” Priore said. We had gotten banged up at the wide receiver position, so we decided to move him to wide receiver. On that play he just caught the ball, snapped it and threw it, like a second baseman in baseball. He’s a terrific athlete and is so football-smart.”
Neither side sustained possession of the ball for much of the fourth quarter, until Cornell took over from its own 6 at the 8:25 mark. After 16 plays that spanned more than seven minutes, Kenney linked up with McClurge once again for the duo's second touchdown of the game.
Down by one, the Big Red went for a two-point conversion, but Kenney’s pass was broken up by a resolute Quaker defense. With the clock at fifty seconds, Cornell failed to recover the ensuing onside kick — even after a penalty gave the Big Red a second chance.
“[It’s our] mentality and heart,” senior defensive lineman Prince Emili said of the defensive effort on the day. “Coming off a win, we just wanted to keep on winning, and [to do that] you’ve got to practice like a winner and play like a winner."
The Quakers will hope to keep the winning mentality when they travel to Cambridge, Mass. next weekend to face Harvard.