Penn sprint football couldn’t have asked for a more triumphant return to Franklin Field.
In a 63-0 home win against Cornell (0-3), the Red and Blue (2-1) never took their foot off the gas. It all started on Penn’s second drive of the game.
From a sharp cut in running back Laquan McKever’s 10-yard runto an 18-yard strike from quarterback Andrew Paolini right into the hands freshman wide receiver Jake Wang, Penn handily marched their way down the field. Capped off with a goal line touchdown by McKever, the Quakers were on the board.
And while the that score was the only one that was needed to win, Penn still pushed hard for the rest of the night.
Before Cornell even had time to think, the Quakers already had the ball again and punched it home with another touchdown, this time courtesy of Paolini.
Those two drives perfectly set the tone for the rest of the game — and they were just a sample of what was to come.
Penn’s defense continued to rock Cornell’s offense, winning the battle in the trenches and locking down every receiver, with impressive efforts from lineman Travis Legum, linebacker Lewis Evans, and defensive back Sam Mintz.
On the other side of the ball, the offense continued to churn. Paolini decisively took the run on a run-pass-option, bolted past Cornell’s defensive linemen, and hurdled a defender downfield for a 10-yard gain.
“That was really just all thanks to the line,” Paolini said. “They do an incredible job and they win their matchups, and they do it very often.”
The hurdle, however, was all on his own volition.
“It was my first hurdle in game,” Paolini said. “I panicked halfway through the hurdle as I face planted afterwards, but again, that goes back to the line, giving the opportunity to run the ball and just doing a great job.”
It’s just as the leader of the Red and Blue puts it: This game was a team effort — everyone on the team helped out where they could.
With more help from the offensive line and a bounce to the outside by McKever, Penn gained even more momentum. A clean pocket — a result of the offensive linemen winning their matchups — led to a 38-yard bomb to wideout Brendan McCaffrey in the end zone. After the play, a flag flying onto the field left the crowd puzzled. After all, the Paolini-McCaffrey connection looked as clean as could be.
The referees, clearly, weren’t in as celebratory of a mood as the Quakers were, calling a penalty for excessive celebration.
“We were doing the griddy,” McKever said in reference to the penalty.
“We're definitely going to hear an earful about it,” Paolini said. “But I'm glad we're having fun and we're doing our job.”
Throughout the game, Penn continued to steamroll the opposition.
“It's always nice to win by so much because we had a lot of fans come out, had a lot of family here, and we just did our job,” McKever said.
McKever, happy to have won with his family in attendance, gave the game his all. Unbeknownst to the fans, McKever had been dealing with a foot injury for the past two weeks.
“I felt the injury throughout the whole game,” McKever said.
But that certainly didn’t prevent him from scoring two touchdowns and 164 rushing yards.
“The adrenaline kicked in and he did a great job,” Paolini added.
For the younger players on the team, the game held indescribable significance.
“It was really special going and getting a win with so many friends and family, especially with some coming from the West Coast,” freshman Jake Wang said. “I am a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan, too, so I was a little emotional before the game knowing that they played here back in the day.”
Coming off a bye week, Penn knew they had to win.
“We expected this result, we just had to execute,” McKever said.
The Quakers will take on Chestnut Hill (1-3) this Friday in Conshohocken, Pa. in a bid to further their winning streak.
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