In its first shutout since 2009, Penn football (2-2, 0-1 Ivy) defeated Lehigh (0-6, 0-1) 20-0.
Although the final score tells the story of a comfortable Quaker victory in the team's last tune-up before six straight Ivy League games, the Mountain Hawks posed a real threat to victory until the end of the fourth quarter.
And while running backs Isaiah Malcome and Trey Flowers led the way for the Quaker offense, combining for over 300 rushing yards, it was the defense that shined throughout. The Mountain Hawks averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per play and had 24 rushes for negative three yards.
“I’m proud of the team. I’m proud of the way we played today. Even though we had a 0-0 game at half time, I’m just proud of the momentum we have going into next week. And I feel like that’s most important,” Malcome said.
A struggling Lehigh offense could only muster two yards in the first quarter, dropping five passes and and punting four times. The Mountain Hawks, starting with possession, had an opening drive of less than a minute, and Penn soon took control on its own 30-yard line.
Quarterback John Quinnelly and the Quaker offense didn’t fare much better, turning the ball over on their first play. Malcome caught a pass in the flat, and at the end of what appeared to be solid, first-down yardage, was cracked by a Lehigh defender. The Mountain Hawks recovered on Penn's 40-yard line, but punted again after another quick three and out.
The rest of the quarter provided better offensive results for the Quakers, as they rushed for over 85 yards and had over 100 yards of total offense. But scoring opportunities eluded them, and each drive stalled before they could make significant gains in Mountain Hawk territory.
The second quarter started with Lehigh’s first sustained offensive drive, climaxing with a 50-yard catch-and-run from freshman wide receiver Dajuan Fields. Lehigh continued driving until a costly fumble on 1st and goal, which was batted around by both teams prior to a Penn recovery.
Lehigh again showed signs of life in their next possession, invigorated by a third-down unnecessary roughness call against the Quakers that otherwise would have forced a punt. They drove to the 30-yard line, and decided to keep their offense on the field for a 4th and 3. The Mountain Hawks were 0-7 on fourth downs coming to Franklin Field, and continued their woes as Dante Perri dropped back and fired an incomplete pass in the Penn end zone.
Penn finally built a drive off the turnover, ignited by Malcome. Multiple first downs led the Quakers deep into Mountain Hawk territory, where they settled for a field goal attempt with less than a minute left in the first half.
The 32-yard attempt bounced off the right upright, and the first half ended scoreless.
“We have to do a better job once we get the ball into their side of the field. To convert those short fields into points. Whether those points are a touchdown, three points— it doesn’t matter,” coach Ray Priore said.
The first score of the game came in the middle of the third quarter, when Penn finally broke through and nailed a 39-yard field goal. The Red and Blue found success with its run game, backed by chunk gains on first downs from both Quinnelly and Malcome. A costly penalty followed by a third-down sack kept Penn out of the end zone.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when another scoring opportunity presented itself; the Quakers started from their 42-yard line and constructed a nearly six-minute drive ending with a 40-yard field goal. A terrific one-handed grab on fourth down from Rory Starkey continued the drive, and although unable to convert a key 3rd and goal, the Quakers settled for a field goal and went up 6-0.
After the two field goals, the Quakers were able to take control of the game. They scored two quick touchdowns, the first a six-yard rush by Flowers and the second a 40-yard rush by Malcome.
The first opportunity came from a 54-yard rush by Malcome, when he split and eluded an exhausted Lehigh defense. After quick rushes from Flowers, Quinnelly, and Malcome again, Penn finally found the end zone on 2nd and goal. The second came from a desperation 4th and 6 from Lehigh that was intercepted by senior defensive back Mohammed Diakite and set the Quakers up in an optimal field position. After two short gains from Malcome, he exploded to the left for 40 yards and a touchdown.
“So much of this game is about confidence — confidence in yourselves, your teammates. And every time you do get a win, that builds your confidence,” Priore said.
The Quakers are set to face the Columbia Lions next week, in their first of six straight conference matchups to end their season.