PHILADELPHIA - Playing in front of the home crowd for the final time in 2011, sprint football picked up a big 35-28 victory over Ivy League rival Cornell. Penn (4-1, 3-1 CSFL) jumped out to 14-0 lead early on and took a 17-7 lead into halftime. Cornell (2-3, 2-3 CSFL) cut the lead to 24-21 with two quick touchdowns at the start of the second half, but Penn would regroup and hold on for the 35-28 victory.
The Quakers gained 484 yards of total offense Friday night and came up with the plays on the defensive side when they needed those most to preserve the win. Playing in his final game at Franklin Field, Todd Busler threw for 398 yards; second most in the history of the program behind only his 429 yard performance in 2009. Mathew Wetherell led all receivers with 134 yards through the air, while Whit Shaw also had six catches for 101 yards receiving. He also added 138 yards on kick returns and 14 yards on punt returns to finish the night with 253 all-purpose yards.
Penn got out to the quick start with the defense forcing a three-and-out after Cornell received the opening kickoff. On just the third offensive play of the night for the Quakers, Busler and Wetherell hooked up for the 91-yard touchdown reception on third-and-seven. Michael Bass' PAT then made it a 7-0 score just 1:27 into the game.
Neither side was able to put a scoring drive together on their next three drives. Cornell threatened right before the end of the first quarter, but the Big Red's attempt at the early field goal came up short and Penn took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter. After the Quakers were held scoreless for the third straight drive and forced to punt, Penn forced another three-and-out and took over at the Cornell 32 following a 16 yard punt return by Shaw with 15 yards tacked on the end for a face mask.
On the drive, Penn had to convert a fourth-and-one to keep the drive going early on, but a holding penalty would push the Quakers into a third-and-21 following the penalty. Busler would get those 21 yards, plus another 32 finding Kamil Okroj in the end zone for a touchdown, his second in as many weeks, giving Penn a 14-0 lead with just over half of the second quarter left to play.
Both teams would then be held to a three-and-out each, but Cornell would get a big punt return following its defensive stop, starting the following drive at the Penn 30. The Quakers would put the Big Red in a third-and-17 situation, but Cornell connected on 37-yard touchdown pass on that third down play to cut the lead to 14-7 with 4:29 remaining in the half.
The Quakers would add a field goal on their final drive of the half, taking over at the Cornell 25 following a fumbled punt exchange. On that drive, Penn took the ball to the 15 before Bass converted the 32-yard field goal attempt, giving Penn the 17-7 halftime edge.
The Quakers started the second half strong with Shaw taking the kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, his first kickoff return for six this season. This big return made the game a three possession affair, but the Big Red would quickly respond. Cornell scored touchdowns on each of its next two drives to cut the score to 24-21 with 8:53 to play in the third quarter, continuing the furious start to the second half. On the first drive, the Big Red went 53 yards in eight plays and followed that up with an interception and a four play, 25 yard touchdown drive.
After the quick start to the second half, both defenses would begin to settle into the final half of play. The Quakers would take it deep inside Cornell territory and down to the nine-yard line following the pair of touchdowns, but the Big Red defense came up with the turnover on downs to stay within three.
Taking over at their own 25 with 2:30 left to play in the third quarter, the Quakers embarked on a 10 play, 68 yard drive that took 4:32 off the game clock. Penn would pound the ball down to the Cornell seven, but on fourth down the Quakers opted to go with a field goal and Bass converted the 24-yard attempt, stretching the Penn lead to 27-21 with 12:58 to play in the game.
The Penn defense would get the ball right back for the offense after allowing just 14 yards on four plays in Cornell's next offensive drive. The Quakers would take over at their own 14 after a fair catch on the booming punt.
Facing third-and-15 deep in Penn territory, Busler found Shaw for a 29-yard completion taking the ball out to the 41. Facing another third down of the drive, Busler than hit three different receivers for three more first downs reversing the field position. On the third-and-six play, Busler found Shaw for an eight-yard first down reception. He then hit Andrew Donald and Okroj for receptions of 11 yards and 26 yards respectively. The 26-yard reception to Okroj took the ball down to the Cornell 10. Following a two-yard run by Beamish, Busler ran right on the keeper and found his way into the end zone on the eight-yard run. This touchdown put Penn up 35-21 with just 6:04 remaining in the game.
Following the kickoff Cornell returned to its 41 yard line, Alexander Starr came up with his fourth interception of the season on the first play of the drive to stop any possible momentum swings in favor of the Big Red. However, the Cornell would get the ball right back on the next play, recovering the fumble on the quarterback-center exchange. From there, Cornell would march 68 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 33-yard touchdown pass, cutting the score to 35-28 with 3:26 to play.
With two timeouts remaining, Cornell looked to be lining up for the onside kick, but instead elected to play defense and kicked it deep. Penn took over at its own 33 and would just have to run out the clock for the win. Beamish would run the ball three straight times for five yards each carry to pick up one first down. Chris Twombly took the ball to midfield with a two-yard run and Busler would seal the deal with an eight-yard keeper, getting the first down. With Cornell out of timeouts, Penn went into the victory formation for a pair of kneel downs and came away with the 35-28 win.
In addition the Wetherell and Shaw, Donald finished with five catches for 67 yards, while Okroj had four receptions for 83 yards and the touchdown in his final action at Franklin Field. Freddy Ordonez and Beamish each caught one pass on the night. Rushing the ball, Beamish finished with 24 carries for 84 yards.
Defensively, Matt Cuccinello once again led the team with 11 tackles, six solo. Jack Miller added nine stops, including two tackles for loss. Anthony DiBella had six tackles on the night, while Twombly and Starr each made five tackles. Starr also had two sacks to go along with his tackles and the interception. Playing in their final games at Franklin Field, Antony Krumbhaar and Brandon Batzel each had four stops, as did Nick Rush.
After playing its final home game, Penn will get on the road for the first time all season when the team travels West Point and takes on Army in key league matchup. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. next Friday.