PHILADELPHIA – It was a tale of two halves for Penn’s sprint football team on Friday night, the Quakers shaking off a frustrating first half to throttle Mansfield, 42-14, at Franklin Field.
Penn trailed, 14-7, after the first half but scored 35 unanswered points over the final two quarters to stymie the Mountaineers. With the win, Penn improves to 1-1 in 2013, while the Mountaineers drop to a similar record.
The catalyst came from the arm of freshman Mike McCurdy. After an inauspicious first snap at Franklin Field – his Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half was intercepted – the rookie quarterback went 12-for-13 the rest of the way for 237 yards and four touchdowns. His favorite target was Michael Bass. He hauled in three passes – each for a touchdown. Bass hauled in scores of 47 yards, 43 yards and 37 yards to account for 127 McCurdy’s yards. In addition, Bass was good on all six extra points he attempted for a total of 24 points during the game.
After accumulating just 85 yards of offense in the first half – a number exceeded by Mansfield as part of a 16-play, 91-yard scoring drive in the first quarter – Penn came out firing in the second half.
Penn forced Mansfield to punt on its first drive of the second half, nearly forcing the Mountaineers into at least a safety after a high snap. Punter Sean Green found room to get the kick away, however, and Penn had to start at midfield. On the first play from scrimmage, McCurdy launched a pass that Bass reeled in from 47 yards out to tie the game, 14-14.
On Mansfield’s ensuing drive, Stu Helgeson intercepted a Ben Pepper pass at the 32-yard line on third down, giving Penn back the ball in quick fashion. The Red and Blue were called for holding on their first attempt of the following drive, and on 1st-and-21 from the 43, Bass again snagged a McCurdy toss to give the Quakers their first lead of the game with 11:04 to play in the third quarter.
Mansfield again was foiled by Helgeson in its next possession as he forced a fumble at the Penn 25 and recovered it himself to deny any semblance of a Mountaineer comeback. The Red and Blue would go to the ground, putting together third longest drive of the game to add insurance. Mike Beamish ran for 34 of his 72 yards during the drive, capping it with a two-yard rushing touchdown with 3:10 to play in the quarter.
At the start of the final quarter, Mansfield put pressure on Penn, blowing up a potential Penn end-around to Keith Braccia, but the Quakers recovered the fumble at the Mansfield 37. On the next play, Bass beat out a defender at the corner for his third touchdown catch of the day.
The Quakers closed the scoring with a 19-yard Jack Epstein catch – his second touchdown of the game – with 7:39 to play. That drive again started after a Mansfield turnover, Matt Pellegrino recovering a Ben Pepper fumble at Penn’s 45-yard line. For the game, Penn forced three Mansfield turnovers and scored 21 points off them.
Stu Helgeson was a force on defense for the Red and Blue, with 18 total tackles in the game. He was in on 10 solo stops, and added 3.5 tackles for loss. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass and added another deflection. As a team, Penn accounted for 10 tackles for loss, including a sack from Sean McGreevy.
The Quakers head to Ithaca next Friday for a date with Cornell at 7p.m.