After eight years, the Trustee’s Cup is changing hands.
With three starters out on Homecoming, Penn turned to younger players to fill their spots and ultimately fell to Cornell, 15-12, giving the Big Red its first Ivy League conference win of the season.
Missing from the Quaker (3-5,1-4 Ivy) lineup were senior defensive back Mohammed Diakite and senior wide receivers Ryan Cragun and Rory Starkey Jr. While the Quakers once again deferred their winning coin toss to Cornell (2-6, 1-5), Penn's defense still started off strong.
In Cornell’s first drive, sophomore defensive back Logan Nash forced a fumble, and the ball was recovered by junior defensive back Chris Rankins. This gave the Quakers a leg up in their own first drive; however, it quickly came to an end.
“We didn’t have Ryan Cragun and Rory Starkey playing out there, so a young quarterback, they were trying to take away the run from us and give us just the pass," head coach Ray Priore said.
Freshman quarterback Aidan Sayin fumbled after leaving the pocket, losing 13 yards. Though Penn recovered the ball, it seemed that the rhythm was off, and after two incomplete passes, the Red and Blue were forced to punt.
In Cornell’s first drive of the second quarter, quarterback Jameson Wang rushed 21 yards into the endzone for a touchdown. This cemented the Big Red’s lead early with a score of 7-0 in what was looking like a low-scoring game.
The next drive in the second quarter for the Red and Blue was going well until Sayin threw a long pass that was intercepted at Cornell’s second yard line.
Penn was able to stop the Big Red from getting a first down and regained possession of the ball; the return from the punt by running back Isaiah Malcome put them back in great field position at Cornell’s 38. However, a holding penalty forced the Quakers back another 10 yards.
Unfortunately, the Quakers were only able to advance 11 yards and were forced to attempt a field goal from the 40-yard line. Kicker Daniel Karrash scored Penn’s first points of the game, making the score 7-3.
Penn's defense, determined to give the offense more time on the field, was able to stop the Big Red from reaching a first down again. The Quakers then started off the last drive of the quarter with 2:15 on the clock.
Sayin was able to efficiently bring the ball down the field efficiently with big throws, like a 22-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Julien Stokes and a 15-yard pass to senior tight end Shane Sweitzer.
With only four seconds left in the first half, Penn was seven yards away from the end zone on fourth and third. The Red and Blue opted to kick a 24-yard field goal, bringing the score difference to only one point, with Cornell leading.
Coming back from halftime, the ball continued to switch off between both teams. The Quaker defense kept Cornell on the field for a minimum time, but Penn’s offense struggled to advance down the field.
“They were connecting," Priore said. "They just didn’t finish those drives."
In Cornell’s second punt of the third quarter, sophomore running back Jordan Niles blocked their punt and sophomore linebacker Mozi Bici recovered the ball in the end zone, for Penn’s first touchdown of the game and Bici’s first college career touchdown.
“We needed something to really give it the spark, and all week long we worked on it, on that block and that schematic and the kids really did a great job executing it," Priore said.
Cornell responded quickly and, in their next drive, scored a touchdown and completed a two-point conversion to reclaim their lead, 15-12.
In the fourth quarter, Penn senior defensive back Jason McCleod Jr. intercepted a pass by Wang. However, this opportunity only led to four plays from the Quaker offense and an advance of 25 yards. Penn punted at fourth down with only two yards to go for a first down, returning the ball back to Cornell with 4:29 left in the game.
Penn was able to successfully stop the Big Red, leaving Penn with just under three minutes to win the game. The drive started off strong with a 21-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Joshua Casilli, though Penn was unable to make another first-down conversion.
“We just gotta be patient, be patient within it and take what they give you and work and then be able to connect with the big explosive plays," Priore said. "We didn’t really have many explosive plays, we had some plays, but not the ones that really pop and move the ball down the field.”
At fourth down and seven, Sayin attempted to rush the ball himself and fumbled the ball one yard into his rush. While he recovered the ball, the Big Red’s victory over the Quakers was sealed. The score did not change, and Cornell snapped Penn’s streak of six wins over the Big Red.
"I give all the credit to our defense for going out there on that last drive, and no matter what the scoreboard, I think that our defense goes out there and plays with their hair on fire," senior running back Garret Morris said. "They’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna come hit you in the mouth and I think that mentality, that GRIT mentality, our defense really showed today.”
On Nov. 13, the Quakers will have a chance to battle Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. at 12:00 p.m.