Penn football senior defensive back Kendren Smith is our DP Sports Player of the Week after his remarkable performance against Columbia Saturday afternoon, where the Quakers rang victory with a score of 34-14.
Smith had a total of three takeaways against the Lions: two forced fumbles and one interception. The takeaways in total amounted to a 14-point contribution for the Red and Blue.
“We play a really good defense,” Smith said postgame, “but I felt like one thing we were missing was turnovers … and that’s something we really focused on this week.”
Smith's first turnover was a forced and recovered fumble on the Lions' initial play of one of their second-quarter drives.
The takeaway — which occurred at the Columbia 13 — perfectly set up Penn sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin, who soon after threw a six-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiverJulien Stokes.
Still in the first half, Smith was outran for a big 58-yard completion by Columbia wide receiver Bryson Canty, which left the Penn defense in dangerous territory. The defensive back made up for it on the very next play when he picked off Columbia quarterback Joe Green's intended pass for Canty, marking Smith’s second takeaway of the game.
Smith’s third turnover was another forced fumble in the third quarter. As a Columbia wideout surged up the field for a 45-yard completion, Smith charged at him, snatching the ball away and returning it to the Quaker offense, which led a nine-play drive to set up another Stokes touchdown.
The Charlotte, N.C. native hasn't been a part of the rotation at Penn for much of his time with the team, due to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 and a season-ending injury he suffered in the third game of his junior season. Smith also appeared in four games his freshman year, but the senior is only now finally getting a chance to play and showcase what he can achieve on the field.
Smith was recognized nationally after being named FedEx Ground FCS National Defensive Player of the Week, a feat not achieved by a Penn player since 2014. He was also designated Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week Monday afternoon.