As temperatures drop across the city of Philadelphia, Penn football is just heating up.
On Saturday, the Quakers (6-2, 3-2 Ivy) celebrated Homecoming with a 23-8 victory over Cornell (3-5, 2-3), earning the Red and Blue another critical conference victory in their quest for an Ancient Eight title. Penn was powered by a record-breaking performance from freshman running back Malachi Hosley, whose 261 rushing yards marked the third most in a single game in program history.
"He's an exceptionally talented young man," coach Ray Priore said of Hosley. “There’s an adage I heard one time: If you have to teach a dog how to bite, you got the wrong dog. If you have to teach a running back how to run, you got the wrong running back.”
The Quakers entered Saturday’s match with a proverbial chip on their shoulder following last week’s crushing loss to Brown. Despite two conference losses so far, Penn’s level of talent has always been evident. The Quakers have playmakers all over the field — it is just a matter of putting it all together.
On Penn’s first-quarter touchdown drive, the team did just that. A leaping, 35-yard grab from sophomore wide receiver Bisi Owens set the Quakers up the red zone, before a Philadelphia Eagles-style quarterback sneak from sophomore quarterback Liam O’Brien finished the job on fourth-and-goal. From the tush-push to the trenches, the Quaker offense was in tune.
“I just look at this as a season where we’re getting better as we go along,” Priore said. “We stubbed our toe last Friday night, that’s ok, we just need to win one more. That’s been our motto all year, and we’re taking that down the homestretch.”
Defensively, Penn once again demonstrated its ability to contain mobile quarterbacks. Cornell signal-caller Jameson Wang — who ranks in the top 10 of the Ivy League in rushing yards — was stifled from whistle to whistle, managing just 46 yards and 3.3 yards per carry.
With nothing doing on the ground, Cornell turned to the air after falling in an early hole. Down 10 in the second quarter, the Big Red went for it on fourth-and-five from the Penn 35, but Wang’s pass to receiver Doryn Smith came up just short of the line to gain.
Then, the Hosley show began. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Hosley — who calls himself “Touchdown Machine” — ripped off a 68-yard scamper to the endzone, giving Penn a 16-0 halftime lead. The Quakers leaned on the run game throughout the afternoon, with junior quarterback Aidan Sayin attempting just 13 passes, by far his fewest of the season.
“All week, coach has been challenging us to run the ball because we ran the ball against them well last year,” Hosely said. “We really executed the plan that coach had set for us.”
Despite the Quakers’ dominant first half, the Big Red were not content to go away quietly. They opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive, trimming the deficit to eight and putting the pressure on Penn to deliver a knockout punch. And deliver Penn did.
Working from their own four-yard line, Penn dialed a run up the middle for Hosley, who found no daylight on the initial push. But before the Big Red could blink, Hosley bounced the run to the outside and turned on the burners, leaving Cornell in the dust both on the field and on the scoreboard. The 96-yard touchdown broke the record for the longest offensive play in Penn football history, a mark last set by Sykes Tucker in 1914.
“Accolades feel good and all," Hosley said. "But I like just helping the team do better. The job's not finished, we got two more games left."
With the win, Penn keeps their Ivy title hopes alive ahead of a trip to Harvard next weekend. The game will kick off at 1 p.m. The Quakers will likely need to win out if they want a shot at the conference crown, but if Saturday is any indication, they have what it takes.