EASTON, Pa. - After trailing 17-0 in the second quarter, the University of Pennsylvania came back to tie the game and force overtime with Lafayette Saturday during a steady rain at Fisher Stadium. However, the Leopards prevailed, 20-17, with a game-winning field goal in the first overtime.
The Quakers, led by junior Zach Heller's career-best 13 tackles and his first career sack, fell to 0-2 on the year. Lafayette improved to 2-1.
Penn had the ball first in the overtime session, but were unable to move the ball on three successive plays and were forced to settle for a long field goal attempt. Junior Andrew Samson had enough distance in the rain, but it was wide left.
Lafayette gained 16 yards on the first three plays of the overtime possession before being held to a field goal. Davis Rodriguez then split the uprights on a 28-yard field goal, leading to a sideline-clearing celebration by the Leopards.
Junior Keiffer Garton and senior Kyle Olson shared quarterback duties in the first half, but it was Olson and freshman running back Lyle Marsh who led the second half comeback. The duo led the Quakers to touchdowns on the first two drives of the half to fully erase a 17-3 halftime deficit.
On Penn's opening drive in the second half, Marsh ran the ball five straight times, taking Penn from its own 36 to the Lafayette six-yard line. On second-and-goal, Olson connected with senior Tyler Fisher in the middle of the end zone for his first career touchdown pass.
After forcing another Lafayette punt, Olson marched the Quakers 60 yards into the end zone in six plays. The senior quarterback was 3-for-3 on the drive for 51 yards. The final pass found junior Bradford Blackmon streaking down the far sideline. Blackmon leaped in the air and outreached the defender to haul in the 21-yard touchdown and tie the game at 17-17 with 5:22 left in the third.
Both teams penetrated deep into opposing territory on their ensuing drives, however, each defense came up with big fourth down stops. Both teams then continued to trade punts - which included a quick punt by Olson that pinned Lafayette at the two-yard line.
Lafayette had a chance to win the game after recovering a fumble at the Penn 22. However, Rodriguez missed the 37-yard field goal with 2:32 left in the game.
The first half was eerily similar to last season's matchup between these two teams. Lafayette jumped out to a big lead in a light rain. Lafayette got on the scoreboard first with an 11 play, 70-yard drive that took up 6:12 of the first quarter. Senior quarterback Rob Curley, who left the game in the third quarter with concussion-like symptoms, set the tone early with two phenomenal plays on the drive. After the third sack in five quarters from senior Joe Goniprow forced third-and-16 from the Penn 39, Curley scrambled 18 yards for the first down. Three plays later, Curley threw a perfectly placed touch pass to a well-covered Mark Layton for a 19-yard touchdown.
After the Quakers went three-and-out, the Leopards picked up where they left off. They drove to the Penn 13 where they faced a fourth-and-inches. Senior running back Tyrell Coon jumped over the pile at the line of scrimmage for the first down, setting up another touchdown pass from Curley. He connected with Mitchell Bennett for the a 14-0 lead with 10:43 to go in the second quarter.
Penn drove into Lafayette territory for the first time on the ensuing drive after Fisher returned the kickoff to the 40-yard line. On fourth-and-2 from the Leopards' 36-yard line, the Quakers went for the first down and got it. Garton rolled right and found senior Kyle Derham for seven yards. However, the offense was stifled from there and had to settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt that fell short.
The missed field goal led to Lafayette's third straight scoring drive. The Leopards' went 62 yards in 10 plays to take a 17-0 lead on a 29-yard field goal by Rodriguez with 1:05 to go in the half.
Orchestrated by Olson, Penn drove 46 yards in the final 1:05 of the first half to get Samson within field goal range. With the rain coming down, Samson knocked through the 40-yard attempt as the half expired. Olson went 4-for-5 on the drive with the biggest completion being his last - a short pass that sophomore Joe Holder stretched into a 25-yard gain to set up Penn's first points.
Olson finished the day with 151 yards passing, completing 14 of his 28 attempts. Marsh averaged 5.7 yards per carry to tally 85 yards on his 15 attempts. On defense, junior defensive back Josh Powers and senior linebacker Jake Lewko each finished with 10 tackles. Safety Kevin Gray had nine tackles and three pass breakups - both career highs.
Next week, the Quakers will make their 2009 national television debut when VERSUS broadcasts the matchup with Dartmouth. The game, which will be Penn's third straight televised game to start the season, is the Ivy opener for both teams. Kickoff in Hanover is set for noon.
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