The Quakers may not have turned many heads today, but they did enough.
In a game that featured little offensive fanfare, the Red and Blue came away with the victory with a 12-0 win over Lafayette at Franklin Field, improving their record to 2-0 on the season.
Penn looked ready to get rolling as it opened with a no-huddle offense to start its first drive. It ended in a punt after the Quakers could not convert on third down just past midfield. Lafayette also went with a fast-paced scheme on their first drive, but the Quaker defense held up and forced a three and out.
“We don’t miss a step, we don’t miss a beat,” linebacker Jake Heimlicher said. “We have a group of nine guys that are all playing their game. … It’s really nice having all those guys roll in so we always have fresh bodies. Heimlicher finished with 10 tackles which led all Quakers.
The next possession for the Red and Blue was unsuccessful, producing a disappointing three-and-out themselves. The Leopards’ second drive started with two big plays that got them from the 19-yard line to midfield. From there, Penn’s defensive unit did a great job stifling an initially promising drive. Penn would rely on its defense heavily throughout the game, pitching a shutout in the win, its first since a win over Lehigh early last season.
The offense looked shaky again on their third drive and were forced to punt after just converting one first down. Then out of nowhere, on a third down toward the end of the first quarter, sophomore Penn quarterback Aidan Sayin threw a perfect ball to receiver Julien Stokes for 57 yards. That drive ended in an across-the-body Sayin touchdown pass to tight end Justin Cayenne on fourth and goal from the one-yard line. At the beginning of the second quarter, the score was 6-0 Penn. (The extra point was blocked and nearly returned all the way)
“We were trying to get the tempo right,” Sayin said. “Couple dropped balls, couple missed passes by me, if we get those plays right, we're going to punch it in earlier.”
The Leopards responded with a solid drive of their own and decided to go for it on fourth and seven, but once again, the Quaker defense was able to get a stop and force a turnover on downs. The defense notched another turnover midway through the second quarter when junior cornerback Logan Nash picked off Lafayette’s QB Ryan Schuster. Sayin threw a pick of his own at the end of the half, but the Leopards were unable to capitalize. The half ended with a score of 6-0 in favor of the Quakers.
The start of the second half was slow for both teams. The Leopards failed to do much on their opening drive and seemed to sputter offensively. The Quakers relied heavily on their run game on their first drive of the second half, however struggled to get past midfield.
Midway through the third quarter, Penn took advantage of good field position and drove all the way down to the one-yard line after a series of quick screen passes. They then scored on a quarterback sneak from Sayin himself. The Quakers failed their two-point conversion attempt.
At the end of the third quarter, Schuster left the game on a stretcher due to a hard hit during a sack. He did not return. The score was 12-0.
The fourth quarter was more of a slugfest. Both teams couldn’t get much going offensively. The score stayed stagnant, and in the end, Penn won 12-0 with Sayin throwing for 196 yards and senior running back Trey Flowers rushing for 70 yards on 17 attempts.
“I’m happy to come away with a victory. Winning is difficult no matter where you play. Defensively, I thought we did a very very good job,” coach Ray Priore said.
Penn will hit the road next week as it travels to Hanover, N.H. to face off against Dartmouth (1-0) in the Quakers' Ivy League season opener in what will be a critical matchup against the defending co-conference champions.