In the first glimpses of brightness after a week of gloomy rain, Penn football fans hoped for the Quakers to shine in their first game of conference play against the Dartmouth. Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, the Big Green would soak up all the sun and glory after a closely fought, but eventually decisive 23-20 victory.
Dartmouth (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) started off in a standout way, opening the scoring on a blocked punt by linebacker Nico Schwikal and carving out the beginning of a hole that would be tough for Penn to get out of over the course of the game. After several Dartmouth attempts to solidify this lead, Penn’s freshman punter Christian de Villiers decided to join the block party and hugely disrupt the game by obstructing a Big Green field goal attempt.
In a momentous change of pace, the block fueled an elevated level of pizzazz in the Quakers, leading them to beautifully execute a trick play with sophomore wide receiver Jared Richardson passing for a 26-yard gain. Ultimately settling for a field goal on the drive, Penn brought the score to 7-3.
Dartmouth promptly increased their lead to 10-3 shortly after the next quarter began. After a fairly slow offensive start from the Quakers, a 52-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Aidan Sayin found freshman running back Malachi Hosley — bringing the Franklin Field crowd to its feet and leveling the score at 10 apiece.
Following a series of offensive drives and defensive toughness, the Quakers found themselves trailing by three in a tight 20-17 fight with time ticking down in the fourth quarter. In a battle of attrition, it became clear that something spectacular was necessary for victory to be within reach for the Red and Blue. That miracle came in the form of junior kicker Albert Jang, who notched a 51-yard kick — not typically heard of in the Ivy League.
“I just wanted to finish the job," Jang said in regards to his thoughts after tying the game at 20-20. For any collegiate kicker, let alone the Ivy League, 51 yards is no minor feat. But for Jang, it’s all in a day's work, and just another step necessary to secure the win.
This moment ended up being the deciding play which sent the game into overtime.
Thie extra period, however, was when a once-spectacular sense of play began to shift into a slippery slope of errors and mistimed judgements. After three consecutive flawed drives on the offensive end, senior kicker Graham Gotlieb was unable to knock in the 42-yard attempt. The Big Green took their chance to end the game, and secured a 37-yard field goal as the icing on their victory cake.
After a close-fought victory over the Big Green last year, the duality of football comes to light. Behind every win, there has to be a loss — but it is how teams adapt from those losses that define their greatness.
"You win some and you lose some, that’s the game of football for you," coach Ray Priore said. "The script can flip, occasionally in your favor and other times not. Today, the script almost completely reversed itself from a year ago.”
All in all, Penn delivered several amazing moments during this game, whether it was the great kick by Jang or the 357 total passing yards with a 52-yard bomb to Hosley. It may be easy for some to comment on all of the mistakes that were made, but the Quakers truly displayed a level of grit and tenacity that will serve them well into the rest of their conference play. The energy was there, and the atmosphere was palpable. It's just a matter of putting the right pieces in the right places for this budding squad.