WEST POINT, N.Y. - With two of the premier offenses in the CSFL on display, Penn and Army certainly provided an entertaining, fast-paced game Friday night at West Point. The two teams combined for a total of 1,154 yards of offense and 102 points, but unfortunately for the Quakers, it was Army (5-1, 5-0 CSFL) that came away with the 58-44 victory in the offensive slugfest to remain unbeaten in league play.
For Penn (4-2, 3-2 CSFL), Todd Busler threw for 390 yards against Army after throwing for 398 a week ago. He also had a team-high 70 yards rushing. Kamil Okroj added 113 yards receiving and three touchdowns, while Andrew Donald had 108 yards and two touchdowns in the air.
Looking to make a statement in their first road game of the season, the Quakers won the opening toss and would march down the field, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. Freddy Ordonez would help kick start the offense with a 23-yard kickoff return to start the game, bringing the ball out to the Penn 38. On the first play from scrimmage, Busler found Whit Shaw for a 28-yard completion into Army territory. Three plays later, Busler found Donald for a 30-yard completion down to the one. Busler would finish the drive with a keeper just two plays later, giving Penn the 7-0 lead just under three minutes into the game.
Matching the offense's intensity, Penn's defense would also come out strong at the start and forced a pair of three-and-outs on the first two Army possessions. However, the Army defense would also settle down and force Penn to punt on its second and third drives of the evening. The Black Knights would take over on their third possession and go 72 yards in 12 plays for the score. The Quakers would force three third downs on the drive and held on the third attempt, but Army converted the fourth-and-goal from the one yard line to tie the game at seven.
Following a Penn three-and-out, Army then went 78 yards on six plays, capped off by a 52-yard touchdown reception. The extra point was no good, but Army still took the lead, 13-7, which it would carry into the second quarter.
Busler and his receivers would help Penn come back to take the lead on the next drive. The senior capped off the quick drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Okroj. This marked the third consecutive game that Okroj has found the end zone. Michael Bass again added the PAT and Penn took the 14-13 lead. The lead would be short lived though as Army took back the lead with a 27-yard field goal on its next drive.
After the Quakers following drive stalled in the red zone, Army took over after a missed field goal and marched 80 yards on just four plays, capped off by a 35-yard touchdown pass. The Quakers would quickly answer back with an eight play, 71 yard drive of their own, cutting the lead to 23-21. On the drive, Busler was a perfect five-for-five, including the five-yard touchdown pass to Donald to bring Penn within two.
Army would extend its lead right before the halftime, scoring touchdowns on the next two drives. This would give the Black Knights the 37-21 lead after a fast and furious first half of action. However, the second 30 minutes would prove to be just as fast-paced as the first 30.
Just like the first half, Penn started the second half strong, forcing a turnover on downs after Army had just crossed into Quaker territory. Penn would take over at the opponent's 49 following an 11-yard loss on the fourth down play and would cover those 49 yards in just nine plays, capped by Okroj's second touchdown reception of the night. This score came from 17 yards out and cut the Army lead to 10 after the PAT was blocked. However, Army would again respond, going 60 yards on the next drive following a big kick return and stretch the lead out to 44-27 on a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Penn continued to push the pace offensively and answered right back with its own 60 yard drive after a nice run back by Shaw on the kickoff. On the second play of the drive, Busler found Mathew Wetherell for 25 yards and found Donald for 16 yards to get the ball into the red zone. A few plays later, Donald would cap the drive with a 10-yard touchdown reception to again bring the Quakers to within 10, 44-34. However, just like it had done following the first score of the second half, Army came right back with a touchdown and stretched its lead back to 17, making the score 51-34 with 41 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The Quakers took over at their 31 and an 18-yard run by Mike Beamish took the ball out to the Penn 49. An 18-yard play through the air to Wetherell put Penn at the Army 33 as the teams went into the fourth quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Busler would find Okroj for the third time on the 33-yard pitch-and-catch for the touchdown. This again brought Penn to within 10, but the Quakers needed to come away with some defensive stops with just 14:53 left to play.
On the ensuing drive, Penn's defense would deliver and turn the ball back over to the offense after just five plays. The Quakers again started with good field position as Shaw's punt return put the Quakers out near midfield at their own 48. Penn put together a long 15 play drive and took the ball all the way down to the Army one yard line, but could not punch it in from there on the third-and-one. They settled for the Bass 18-yard field goal and with 7:06 remaining, trailed just 51-44.
Army would then put together a quick seven play, 64 yard drive, taking just under three minutes off the clock. The Black Knights would cross the goal line on a 23-yard completion and added the PAT. This gave Army the 14 point lead, 58-44, with just 4:13 left to work with. Shaw again had a nice kickoff return out to the Penn 49 on the 28-yard return and the Quakers would get down to the Army 18. Eventually the Black Knights' defense would get the stop and with Penn needing two touchdowns, the Quakers could not convert the fourth-and-10 play to keep its hopes alive. The Black Knights would then run the final 2:22 off of the game clock and come away with the shootout victory. For Army, Javier Sustaita finished the night with 411 yards passing and seven touchdowns.
For Penn, Busler finished the night with 462 yards of total offense, including his passing and running yardage. In addition to Donald and Okroj, Shaw finished the night five catches for 85 yards. He also returned five kickoffs for 126 yards and two punts for 29 yards, finishing the game with 240 all-purpose yards. Beamish added 65 yards on the ground on 14 carries and caught five passes for an additional 27 yards. Wetherell finished with three catches for 53 yards and Ordonez came away with one reception and 58 yards in his first two kickoff returns of the season.
Anthony DiBella led the Quakers in tackles with 14, including seven solo on a very busy night for him. Matt Cuccinello finished the game with 12 tackles, six solo. Chris Twombly made 11 tackles, while Alexander Starr had 10 to give Penn four defenders with 10-plus tackles. Hassan Siddiqui and Cuccinello combined for Penn's only sack of the game.
Penn will look to wrap up third place in the CSFL next week when the team travels to Princeton for the season finale between the two Ivy League schools. Next week's game will get underway at 7 p.m. and will count as the league game between the two schools. Earlier in the year, Penn defeated Princeton 34-0 in the first week of the season.