PHILADELPHIA – When drawing up possible outcomes for the beginning of a season, most coaches would prefer to have a nice, easy wade into the waters of a rigorous schedule. Maybe a comfy 14-point win where everyone contributes and you can see what you have for the rest of the league. For head coach Bill Wagner and Penn’s sprint football team, the first three weeks were anything but comfortable, and were in fact historic, leading to the No. 8 spot on the “Penn Top 10” – a look back at the ten most memorable moments from Penn Athletics in 2012-13.
Starting with the opening game of 2012 in Ithaca and continuing through Week 3 and a late-game comeback over Mansfield, the Red and Blue engaged in three of the most thrilling games of Penn’s 80 years of sprint football.
On September 30, the Quakers travelled north for their first-ever game against Franklin Pierce. Looking to collect themselves after a wild, six overtime loss at Cornell in Week 1, the Red and Blue hoped that a game against a first-year program would cause considerably less tension that the previous week in Ithaca. They were wrong.
There were five lead changes in the game – including three in the fourth quarter – as Penn and Franklin Pierce battled in front of a crazed crowd in Ashburnham, Mass. With 12:30 to play in the game, Keith Braccia plunged in from the one-yard line to give Penn a 14-10 lead. Possessions would be traded until Franklin Pierce lined up at its own 19 with 2:02 to play. FPU quarterback Tyler Matthews was sublime on the series, going 6-of-7 for 80 yards to lead the Ravens down the field, connecting on a 15-yard touchdown with 0:30 left in the game to give his team a 20-17 lead. Penn’s Jack Miller would get a hand on the extra point try, blocking the kick and keeping Penn within a field goal, needing a miracle drive to get back in the game.
The field goal was not needed, but the miracle was completed as Penn’s all-time leading receiver did his thing once again. On 2nd-and-10 from Penn’s 27, Whit Shaw sped down the left sideline and hauled in a Braccia pass in stride, bursting by defenders and all the way to the endzone for a 73-yard touchdown with 0:09 remaining on the clock. Based on how the previous two minutes had played out, nine seconds seemed like an eternity, but came screeching to a halt for the Ravens as Anthony DiBella picked off Matthews on FPU’s attempted Hail Mary to secure the win for the Quakers.
The elation on Penn’s sideline was a stark contrast from the harsh feelings two weeks earlier in Ithaca. The long standing rivalry between Penn and Cornell took a historic turn as the two teams engaged in a six-overtime, five-hour game for the ages. A two-hour lightning and weather delay was just part of the story as the two teams combined for 11 touchdowns and almost 800 yards of offense. Five of those touchdowns came in overtime, but the final score went the way of the Big Red via a one-yard plunge in the sixth overtime.
Penn was unable to convert on 4th-and1 from the 16 to answer Cornell’s score and the Big Red emerged victorious in what is considered the longest known game in CSFL history.
Five days after Penn shocked Franklin Pierce with Shaw’s long touchdown reception, it was the foot of Kai Peng which was the source for late game heroics. Peng booted a 20-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining to give Penn a 16-13 win over Mansfield. Peng’s sure-footed field goal would not have been possible without a staunch stand from the Penn defense. After the Quakers fumbled a Mansfield punt to give the Mountaineers 1st-and-goal from the two, Penn swarmed the quarterback – first forcing a fumble which Mansfield recovered at the six. On the next play, Ed Cai came up with a big sack, pushing Mansfield back to the 21 – a loss of 15 yards. On fourth down, Whit Shaw knocked down a pass in the end zone, turning the ball over on downs to the Red and Blue. 12 plays later, Cai connected and the Quakers had their second win of the season.
The 2012-13 Penn Top 10 list was selected by members of the athletic department. But here is your chance to weigh in. Was this game ranked too high or too low? Who should be No. 1? Tell us what you think on Twitter with #PennTop10 or give us your thoughts on Facebook.
2012-13 Penn Top 10
No. 1 - July 17
No. 2 - July 15
No. 3 - July 10
No. 4 - July 8
No. 5 - July 3
No. 6 - July 1
No. 7 - June 26
No. 8 - Sprint Football Thriller(s)
No. 9 - Historic Basketball Comebacks
No. 10 - Men's Lacrosse Rolls Past #14 Duke, 14-9