NEW YORK, N.Y. - It was the defense that led the University of Pennsylvania football team in a 27-13 win over Columbia in front of a homecoming crowd at Robert K. Kraft Field Saturday. Penn forced seven turnovers, held the Lions to negative 20 yards rushing, had three sacks and did not allow a point in the second half.
Penn won their third straight game to move to 3-2 overall and remain unbeaten at 2-0 in Ivy play. Columbia dropped to 2-3 this year and 1-1 in the Ivy League.
In a first half riddled with mistakes and turnovers, the Penn defense came out on top. Columbia's third turnover of the half led to the Red and Blue's third touchdown. Senior Jake Lewko forced a fumble and senior Jonathan Moore fell on it at the Columbia 14. On the fourth play of the drive, junior fullback Luke DeLuca plowed head first into the end zone from two yards out. DeLuca's score with 1:11 to go in the half was his third in three games and gave Penn its 21-13 halftime lead.
In all, the first half consisted of seven turnovers - three from the Quakers and four from Columbia.
Penn's defense kick-started the scoring for the Quakers. After Penn punted for the second time in as many possessions to open the game, Columbia took over at their own 34. The Lions' first-down snap then promptley skidded by quarterback M.A. Olawale and junior Brian Levine pounced on the loose ball at the Columbia 19-yard line. Two plays later, against tight coverage, junior Matt Tuten hauled in his first career touchdown reception for a 7-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.
The Columbia defense then responded. After a Lions punt, Garton was intercepted on third down and the Lions started at the Penn 30-yard line. A deep third-down pass set up first and goal at the Penn four-yard line.
But the Penn defense came up big again. Senior Kevin Gray deflected Olawale's pass attempt high into the air and sophomore Kameron Jones pulled down his first career interception. The turnover helped hold the 7-0 lead until the Quakers turned it over for the third time on the first possession of the second quarter.
On third down, Tuten fumbled inside the Penn 30-yard line and Columbia scored on the next play. The 28-yard touchdown pass tied the game at 7-7 with 12 minutes remaining in the half.
Penn punted following the score as freshman Scott Lopano got an impressive roll on a punt that measured 73 yards. The first punt to exceed 60 yards for the Quakers since Anthony Melillo booted one 63 yards at Dartmouth on Oct. 1, 2005.
The distance didn't faze the Lions. Olawale soon connected with standout wide receiver Austin Knowlin with a 68-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field. Knowlin made the catch at the Penn 40 and outran everyone. But sophomore Joe Holder blocked the point after attempt and Columbia's lead was 13-7 at the 8:29 mark of the half.
The next Quakers drive may have been the most important of the young season. Facing a deficit for the first time in nearly 10 quarters and a rowdy homecoming crowd, Penn found paydirt, going 52 yards on 11 plays to regain the lead - one they would not relinquish. Garton went 3-for-4 on the drive for 42 yards, converting a third-and-13 at the Columbia 38, a fourth-and-one from the Columbia 15 and connecting with Hamscher from 11 yards out on third down for a 14-13 lead with three minutes remaining.
After a scoreless third quarter, Penn took a two possession lead on a 25-yard field goal from Andrew Samson early in the fourth quarter. The six-play, 24-yard drive was set up by some stellar special teams work. The Lions were forced to punt from their own end zone after they were pinned deep inside their own territory. Lopano's 48-yard punt rolled to a complete stop inside the Lions one-yard line. When the Penn defense forced a three-and-out, Chris Wynn's 13-yard punt return gave the Quakers the ball at the Columbia 32.
Penn scored 17 points off of turnovers in the game, including another Samson field goal with 1:36 to go in the game. Up 11 with 5:30 remaining on the clock, the Quakers were forced to punt. However, the Lions squandered any chance of a comeback when the punt bounced off Knowlin who was back to return. Senior Brendan McNally carrolled the fumble and Samson's field goal all but ensured the win.
The Red and Blue's seventh straight win in the month of October was also their fifth straight Ivy League road win. In all, they held Columbia to 172 total yards of offense, allowing just 11 first downs. Lewko, junior Josh Powers and sophomore Erik Rask all finished with a team-high six tackles. Rask also added a sack and an interception - the first of each in his collegiate career. Gray and junior Zach Heller each had a sack, while sophomore Jason Schmucker had an interception and sophomore Jared Sholly had a fumble recovery - the first of their careers. Senior All-American defensive back Chris Wynn also returned this week for Penn, totaling two pass breakups, one of which prevented a touchdown.
In Garton's first game in three weeks, he went 11-for-19 for 104 yards and the two touchdown passes. Tuten had a team-high four catches, while senior Tyler Fisher lead the Quakers with 26 receiving yards. Freshman Lyle Marsh had a game-high 40 yards rushing, followed by Hamscher's 39 ground yards.
Next week, the Quakers host Yale on Family Weekend. The teams kickoff on Oct. 24 at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on the Comcast Network in Philadelphia.
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