ITHACA, N.Y. – Senior Joe Sandberg ran for all four of Penn’s touchdowns, but a pair of big plays by Cornell and a botched extra point doomed the Quakers to a 28-27 loss on a grey Saturday afternoon at Schoellkopf Field.
The Quakers (5-5, 3-4 Ivy) finishes at .500 for the second season in a row, while the Big Red (5-5, 3-4 Ivy) retained the Trustees’ Cup for the second season in a row.
Sandberg scored his fourth touchdown of the day late in the fourth quarter to pull his side within a point of Cornell, but a botchedfake extrapoint prevented Penn from sending the game to overtime.
A trio of Quakers hit milestones in the game. Sandberg crossed 1,000 yards rushing for the season, while quarterback Robert Irvin went over 2,000 yards passing for the season, becoming just the second sophomore and ninth quarterback overall in Penn history to do so. Defensively, Joe Anastasio became the first Quaker in nearly a decade to put together a 100-tackle season.
The Quakers suffered a miserable first half offensively, netting 27 yards of total offense with only one completed pass.
Cornell took its time on a methodical opening drive, eating six and a half minutes off the clock before Nathan Ford hit Zac Canty with a 15-yard touchdown pass.
With the anemic offensive output continuing, Penn’s luck didn’t seem to increase any late in the quarter. With the Big Red pinned in their own end, Brian Fairbanks and Joe Anastasio stuffed Ford in the end zone for an apparent safety, but offsetting holding penalties forced a replay of the down.
But the Quakers’ luck took a turn for the better. On the next play, J.J. Stanton hit Shane Kilcoyne and jarred the ball loose. Jordan Manning pounced on the fumble and Penn regained possession on the Cornell eight. Joe Sandberg punched it in two plays later to tie the game.
The Penn defense turned in another big stop late in the second quarter. Cornell had a fourth-and-goal situation on the one, and Luke Siwula was met short of the goal line by a host of Quaker linemen, preventing the score and generating the turnover.
The offensive woes of the first half seemed to be behind the Quakers coming out of the locker room. On the half’s first sequence, Irvin completed a pass over the middle to Matt Carre, who shook a tackle and took off 45 yards to the Cornell seven.
Sandberg finished the drive with a four-yard pitchout two plays later to give Penn a 14-7 lead.
But as quickly as the glimmer of hope came, it faded. The Quakers simply couldn’t get a spark on offense as the second half wore on.
Cornell took advantage with a touchdown to open the fourth quarter. Kilcoyne took the ball and pushed his way into the end zone to tie the game at 14.
Penn went three-and-out on its next possession, and Cornell took the ball on its own 16. On first down, quarterback Stephen Liuzza completed a pass to Anthony Jackson, who raced down the sideline for a 74-yard gain -- only a diving shoestring tackle by Adam Licari kept him from scoring. Liuzza hit a hole up the middle and scored two plays later to put the Big Red up 21-14 with 10:03 left in regulation.
Instead of being stunned by the turn of events, the Penn offense finally came alive with a 69-yard drive keyed by three-straight Irvin completions for first downs. Sandberg capped the drive with a seven-yard touchdown carry -- his third of the afternoon-- to tie the game at 21.
It was the next play that was the stunner.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cornell’s Bryan Walters returned the kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to retake the lead.
The two sides traded possessions, with Penn regaining the ball with just over two minutes left. Two big completions to Braden Lepisto put Penn inside the red zone, and Sandberg rolled in for his fourth TD of the day with 1:51 left.
But instead of forcing its fourth overtime of the season, the same thing that had plagued the Quakers all season long happened. Scotty Williams took the snap on the extra point and flipped it back on a designed extra point, but nobody was home. The play fell dead and Penn was left staring at a 27-26 scoreline.
The Quakers got the ball back for one last shot with 1:08 left in regulation. Irvin completed consecutive passes to Dan Coleman and Matt Reinert to move to midfield, but then took a sack and, without a timeout, had to spike the ball with 23 seconds left. A last-gasp pass on fourth down was incomplete as time ran out.
Game Notes: Penn did not complete a pass until Robert Irvin hit Chris Mizell with six seconds left in the second quarter ... Irvin was 1-for-8 in the first half ... Penn stopped Cornell twice in the red zone in the first half ... Sandberg broke the 1,000-yard barrier twice, first on a three-yard carry midway through the second quarter, then, after a loss of four yards, he broke it again for good with a nine-yard tote on Penn’s final drive of the quarter ... Sandberg is only the 11th Quaker to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season ... Joe Anastasio is the first defender since John Bishop in 1997 to cross 100 tackles for the season ... The game was Penn’s ninth on artificial turf this season. Only the Yale game was played on grass.