Sprint Football Puts Away Princeton, 36-21
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PHILADELPHIA - On Senior Night, one of Penn's most reliable players over the last four seasons left perhaps his finest performance for his final outing on Franklin Field. Whit Shaw scored three touchdowns, picked off two passes, broke up another two and accumulated 177 all-purpose yards as Penn defeated Princeton, 36-21, to close the 2012 season.
Shaw's offensive exploits have long been written about by Penn pundits - and more on that in a moment - but in this game, it was a defensive play which made the difference. With 11:17 to play in the fourth quarter and Penn leading by eight points, Princeton started a drive from its own 22. The third play of the drive was a 30-yard pass from Joseph Bush to Chris Cadman to bring the Tiger across midfield and into Penn territory. Two plays later, one 2nd-and-4 from the Penn 45, Shaw jumped into a Bush pass and deflected the ball up. Toes just inside the sideline, Shaw settled under his deflection and reeled it in to deny Princeton a chance to tie the game with 8:28 to play. Two drives later, Penn would score the insurance touchdown - on a three-yard reception by Shaw for his 30th and final touchdown as a Quaker.
Penn jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, taking advantage of a Princeton fumble on its first play from scrimmage. Mack Pierson strip-sacked Bush at the 35 and Carl Wittig recovered the fumble at Princeton's 32. Five plays later, Mike Beamish finally crossed the goal line, scoring his first touchdown of the season from seven yards out to stake Penn to a 7-0 lead.
A second fumble from Princeton - part of a five-turnover night for the Penn defense - came off a muffed punt by Kees Thompson at the Princeton 15. Three plays later, Shaw ran an end around for his second career rushing touchdown - his first since 2010.
Princeton countered quickly, connecting on a 72-yard pass play from Bush to Nicola Lulli on 3rd-and-14 to close Princeton within seven. Penn answered with an eight-play, 55-yard drive punctuated by a six-yard scramble for a touchdown by Keith Braccia, giving Penn a 20-7 lead before the end of the first quarter.
After Penn gave Princeton good field position on its third drive of the second quarter via a kick catch interference call on a punt to move the ball to midfield, Shaw made his first pick of the game inside the red zone, halting a Tiger drive at the 10 before returning the pick 19 yards to set up Penn at its own 29. 14 plays and 71 yards later, Shaw was back in the end zone via a three-yard catch with 0:23 left in the half. The Quakers went for two, but Braccia's pass was knocked down sending Penn to halftime with a 26-7 lead.
The third Quarter was dominated by an opportunistic Tigers group. On the first play of the second half, Braccia got greedy down the sideline and was intercepted near midfield. The ensuing Princeton drive went for not when Peter Perdue fumbled at the Penn 8-yard line. Derek Shnider recovered the fumble at the Penn 7, momentarily denying Princeton a score to get back in the game.
Penn's drive after the fumble was full of confusion. Beamish went for one yard on first down, and a holding penalty on second down was accepted by Princeton, forcing Penn to replay the down. On 2nd-and-11 from its own 6, Braccia evaded one would-be tackler in his own end zone and managed to throw the ball in the direction of a Penn receiver before a second Princeton defender brought him to the ground. Princeton's sideline clamored for a safety - or at least intentional grounding which would have resulted in a safety regardless for Penn. Neither was awarded, and third down resulted. Penn, however, punted the ball on third down, a punt of just 12 net yards to its own 18. Princeton took over on downs, and after narrowly avoiding another turnover when the Tigers pounced on a fumble on third down, Princeton went for it on fourth down and scored on a 12-yard pass from Bush to Conrad.
Penn's lead became just five towards the end of the third quarter after another quick drive for the Tigers from a short field. After a Braccia fumble at his own 14, Princeton needed just six plays to reach the endzone via a sneak from Bush with 3:31 to play in the quarter.
The Red and Blue extended its lead to 29-21 via a well-done Kai Peng field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Quakers looked to run some clock on the drive, and accomplished that. Needing 4:38 over the course of 11 plays before halting at the Princeton 22. Peng lined up for the 39-yard field goal, a career-high in his final game.
Insurance came from Penn after Princeton went for it on 4th-and-7 from its own 15 and failed to convert. Four plays later, Shaw caught his final touchdown pass from five yards out to seal the win.
Shaw ends his career as Penn's all-time leader in receiving yards with 2,245 and the leader in touchdown receptions with 30. He owns three of the four top-receiving seasons in Penn history and seven of the top 17 single-game receiving totals of all Quakers.
Shaw's quarterback, Braccia, finished the game with 127 yards passing on 15 completions. His 979 yards passing in 2012 rank sixth all-time by a Penn signal-caller. Mike Beamish gained 113 tough yards on the ground over 32 carries, finishing with 725 total yards in 2012 and an average of 4.3 yards-per-carry.
Defensively, Anthony DiBella had seven solo tackles as part of his eight-tackle final game. Freshman Mack Pierson showed he is ready to take over at middle linebacker with seven tackles - 3.5 of which were for a loss and 2.5 of which were sacks. Penn had four fumble recoveries, Matthew Paige with two and Nick Rush and Shnider adding one.
The Quakers finish 2012 3-4 overall with a 2-4 mark inside the CSFL.