PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania football team remained unbeaten in Ivy League play and spoiled longtime head coach Al Bagnoli’s return to Franklin Field on Saturday, defeating Columbia 35-10.
The game marked Bagnoli’s first at Franklin Field since he retired from Penn following the 2014 season, then took over Columbia’s head coaching job prior to the 2015 season. The Quakers and Lions met in New York City last year.
Tre Solomon was the story on this day. The running back shredded the Columbia defense for 127 rushing yards on just 19 carries, caught five passes for 30 yards, and capped the day by throwing for a 23-yard touchdown.
Penn got on the board less than six minutes into the contest. The Quakers pinned the Lions deep in their own territory, and on a third-down play a Anders Hill pass was tipped and then picked off by Nick Miller at the Columbia 10-yard line. Four plays later, Tre Solomon went up the gut to put the Red and Blue on the board.
Penn had a chance to put more points on the board midway through the second quarter, but a sustained drive (13 plays) sputtered at the Columbia 20-yard line and then Jimmy Gammill’s 37-yard field goal missed wide left.
The Quakers started the second half like gangbusters, however, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80 yards for another score. The scoring play itself was an exhibition of Justin Watson’s athleticism; he took a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage, where it looked like he was out of room and outnumbered by Columbia defenders. Next thing you know, he was racing down the left sideline with open field in front of him, easily outracing the Lions to the end zone on a play that covered 46 yards.
Columbia responded. The Lions sputtered on the drive immediately after Penn’s score, but pinned the Quakers inside their 1-yard line on the punt. Penn went three-and-out, and a booming punt backfired when the Lions returned it to the Penn 31-yard line. Three plays later, Hunter Petlansky ran it up the gut to put Columbia on the board and get the Lions back within a score of the Quakers at 14-7.
Penn needed three plays to push its lead back to 14. After a one-yard run by Torgersen from the Quakers’ 20, Solomon rushed around the left side and broke tackles for a 29-yard gain to midfield. From there, Torgersen rolled to his right and found Christian Pearson, who slipped his defender and tip-toed down the sideline for the 50-yard score.
Columbia made the score 21-10 with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Lions shortened the field by blocking Hunter Kelley’s punt in Penn territory and picking it up at the Quakers’ 32. Helped by a pass interference call against Penn, Columbia got into the red zone but ended up having to settle for an Oren Milstein field goal.
Penn once again answered with an 80-yard drive. It took more than three plays this time – six, actually – but it was highlighted by a fantastic Solomon rush that included him hurdling a Columbia defender deep in Lions territory. Just one play later, Torgersen spied Pearson across the middle and hit him in stride for an eight-yard score to make the score 28-10.
The Quakers used some trickery in the final few minutes to tack on a final touchdown. Solomon played quarterback on the scoring play, throwing to Cameron Countryman who got behind the Columbia defense and had enough time to come back to the pass, turn and get into the end zone. The 23-yard score ended a six-play, 56-yard drive that consumed just over four minutes.
Penn returns to action on Friday night, traveling to Yale to take on the Bulldogs at the Yale Bowl. Kickoff between the Quakers and the Bulldogs is set for 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.