ITHACA, N.Y. – Champs!
For the second consecutive season, the University of Pennsylvania football team has claimed an Ivy League championship as a complete team effort propelled the Quakers to a 42-20 win over Cornell.
Penn’s 18th Ivy title – tied with Dartmouth for most among Ivy programs – gives head coach Ray Priore a pair of League titles in his first two seasons and makes him just the second head coach in Ancient Eight history to win a title in each of his first two laps through the Ivy League (Dartmouth’s Jack Crouthamel won three from 1971-73).
The Red and Blue went back-to-back for the first time since 2009-10 and eighth time overall.
After the Ivy League’s top two punters showed their skills to open the game, Penn got on the board first with a nine-play, 62-drive which was capped by a one-yard Tre Solomon touchdown rush. Solomon was the key player on the drive, rushing four times for 14 yards and adding a 16-yard catch down the sideline.
The Big Red scored their first touchdown in quick fashion, needing just three plays to go 80 yards. The scoring play was a 35-yard pass from Dalton Banks to Collin Shaw, but the big play on the drive was a 35-yard pass from running back Chris Walker to Nick Bland to start the drive.
Alek Torgersen was pivotal in Penn’s next scoring drive, completing 4-of-6 passes for 48 yards and adding 16 on the ground as Penn marched 79 yards in 14 plays to take a 14-6 lead. The scoring play was a 22-yard pass from Torgersen to Christian Pearson over the middle.
Early in the second quarter, Penn’s defense came through. Cornell drove inside the red zone, but Mason Williams dialed up his sixth interception of the season. He picked off Banks in the end zone, denying the Big Red points.
Off the interception, the Red and Blue went 80 yards to add to their lead. Torgersen scampered in from five yards out with 5:43 remaining in the first half to cap the drive, but it was Solomon who did the bulk of the work with five carries for 50 yards.
Cornell again went back to its bag of tricks to aid its next scoring drive. Wide receiver Ben Rogers took a double reverse and tossed a 48-yard pass to running back Chris Walker down the sideline to make Penn’s lead 21-13 with 3:38 left in the half.
The first half concluded in wild fashion. Penn found itself facing 4th-and-2 from the Cornell 7-yard line with under 10 seconds to play. Justin Watson took a jet sweep and was very close to scoring, but was ruled down at the 1-yard line. The clock wasn’t stopped despite the first down, and had run to 0:00 – Cornell started jogging off the field to celebrate an apparent stand. The refs corrected the situation, though, and put 0:06 back on the clock. Tre Solomon would then take a Torgersen option pitch and plow in for his second TD of the day to send Penn to halftime holding a 28-13 lead.
After the defense dialed up a second interception – this one the first career pick by freshman Conor O’Brien – the Quakers struck on offense with trickery of their own. Torgersen lateraled back to tri-captain left tackle Nick Demes and the big fella bull-dozed in from seven yards out to give the Red and Blue a 35-13 lead with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter.
The Big Red would find a third touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter. After another trick play – Rogers again passing, this time to backup QB Jake Jattis for 23 yards – Banks connected with Marshall Duetz from 17 yards out to make Penn’s lead 35-20 with 13:59 to play.
Cornell thought it had more momentum after Torgersen was intercepted to start the ensuing drive, but Matt Henderson halted those feelings with his first career interception to give Penn back the ball with 13:34 to play. The Quakers would milk the clock on the ensuing drive, going 74 yards in 16 plays, capped by a one-yard run from Torgersen on fourth down to go up 42-20 with under five minutes to go.
The Big Red would march down the field on their final drive of the game, but the Quaker defense would stifle the home team late, stopping Cornell on fourth down to get the ball back and line up in victory formation.