NEW YORK, N.Y. - A downright dominating defensive effort propelled the University of Pennsylvania football team to a 21-7 win over Columbia on Saturday at Robert K. Kraft Field in New York City.
Penn improved to 3-2 on the year and 2-0 in the Ivy League. The team's sixth straight Ivy League victory also marked the program's 17th straight win over Columbia which tied the eighth-longest winning streak over an annual opponent in FCS history. The Lions, who last beat Penn in 1996, fell to 0-5 overall and 0-2 in league play.
Penn's defensive numbers were staggering:
* The Quakers held Columbia to a total of four first downs and just one in the second half (which came via penalty).
* Columbia had just 118 total yards (22 in the second half). Take away the 46-yard pass and the Lions had just 72 yards on 50 plays.
* Lions running back Marcorus Garrett, who had averaged more than 100 yards per game, was held to 46 as the Lions finished with 33 rushing yards and 1.1 yards per carry.
* The Quakers did not allow a single third down conversion as the Lions were 0-for-13 in that predicament.
* Columbia took just one snap on Penn's side of the 50-yard line. The Lions never passed their own 37-yard line in the second half.
* Penn had four sacks for the third straight game and added a fourth quarter interception that led to a touchdown.
Even with all that, it was Columbia who got on the board first. The game started with four straight punts, but the Lions took over near midfield and a 46-yard flea-flicker set up a six-yard touchdown run at the 4:02 mark of the opening quarter.
Penn's offense struggled to find a rhthym until late in the second quarter when they scored twice in just over three minutes. Senior quarterback Ryan Becker took over under center and went 3-for-3 on third down - the last of which was a 22-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell King on 3rd-and-17. Becker floated a pass perfectly over the outstretched defender and into the hands of King to tie the score, 7-7, with 4:25 left in the half.
Minutes later, the Quakers defense forced the Lions to punt for the sixth time in the first half and senior Billy Ragone was back in at quarterback with 1:50 to go. It took just 40 seconds to cover 64 yards and get back into the end zone. Ragone passed for 53 yards and ran for eight more on the drive, and capped it with a 12-yard touchdown strike to senior wideout Ty Taylor. That marked a school record for Ragone with his 55th career touchdown at Penn (35 pass, 20 rush) and the Quakers took the 14-7 lead into intermission.
The Red and Blue had a chance to extend their lead on the first possession of the second half. But a methodical 13-play, 64-yard drive was stalled at the Columbia 20-yard line and junior Connor Loftus pulled his 37-yard field goal attempt wide left.
The teams traded punts for the remainder of the third. Then on Columbia's first play of the fourth quarter, senior safety Evan Jackson jumped in front of the intended receiver and picked off the pass over the middle of the field.
That set up the offense at the Lions' 32-yard line. On 3rd-and-6, Ragone ran a draw up the middle and got the first down. But he left with a ankle injury and did not return. Becker then completed his first pass of the drive to junior Kyle Wilcox for 18 yards to set up junior Spencer Kulcsar's four-yard touchdown run on the following play. That gave the Quakers a 21-7 advantage with 11:19 to play.
Columbia never got past its own 31-yard line after that.
Penn's offense was on the field for nearly 36 minutes and finished with 438 total yards, including a season-high 219 on the ground. Kulcsar led the way with 74 yards, followed by 73 from Wilcox. Ragone added 58 on the ground in addition to 146 pass yards. Taylor had four catches for 43 yards and Wilcox added 55 receiving yards on three catches. Senior Ryan Mitchell finished with four receptions for 41 yards and moved into Penn's all-time top 10 in career receiving yards.
Defensively, four Quakers finished with five tackles, led by senior David Park, who finished with a sack and 2.0 tackles for loss. Senior Sam Chwarzynski added a sack for the fifth time in six games, while sophomore Austin Taps and junior Feerooz Yacoobi also added sacks. Jackson and senior Dan Wilk had two pass breakups apiece.
Next week is a rematch with Yale (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) - the only Ivy team to beat the Quakers during last season's championship run. Penn will host the Bulldogs at Franklin Field at 1 p.m. The game can be seen on the Penn Sports Network.