LEWISBURG, Pa. Quarterback Robert Irvin threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, and wide receiver Braden Lepisto caught seven passes for 140 yards as Pennescaped a lateBucknell comebackto win,34-24, Saturday at Christy Mathewson Stadium.
The Quakers (3-1, 1-0 Ivy League) beat the Bison (3-3, 0-1 Patriot League) for the fourth-straight time andran their winning streak over Patriot League teams to 10 games.
Irvin had the best game of his young career. The sophomore signal-caller completed 23 of 33 passes, including a career-long 72-yard strike to Lepisto. Senior running back Joe Sandberg had a fine game as well, carrying 12 times for 112 yards and a touchdown.
The Quaker defense also did the job, holding Bucknell’s triple option offense to 92 yards rushing and 217 yards of total offense.
“The defense went out motivated,” said Joe Anastasio, who racked up eight tackles and a sack. “We wanted this game to be a statement for us.”
Penn’s opening offensive possession looked promising, but Irvin threw an interception to Stephen Collage which gaveBucknell the ball at midfield. The Bison capitalized on the chance, driving into Quaker territory and setting up a five-yard pitch-out to A.J. Kizekai to take a 7-0 lead.
It didn’t take Penn long to answer.
On thefirstplay after Bucknell's ensuing kickoff, Irvin bombed a 72-yard touchdown reception to Braden Lepisto to tie the game.
“We were trying to do more with play action,” said Head Coach Al Bagnoli. “Braden ran a good pattern, had good protection and Rob threw a good ball.”
“We saw speed was going to be an asset,” Lepisto said. “We felt confident we could beat them over the top.”
On Penn’s next offensive possession, Irvin connected with Matt Carre for a 28-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter, Irvin had thrown for 169 yardson justseven completions, includingthe two touchdowns.
For the Quakers’ first points of the second quarter, it was time for Sandberg to show his skills.The senior running backbroke free from the middle of the line, broke a tackle, stayed on his feet and hauled 41 yards to the end zone on a crafty run to give Penn a 21-7 lead.
Penn threatened again at the end of the half. On fourth and five at midfieldwith just36 seconds left, Irvin threw a pass that was tipped, but Sandberg somehow got his hands on it to complete a first down at the Bison 25-yard line. Going for the end zone on the next play, Irvin threw an interception, again to Collage, to end the half.
Irvin completed 13 of 20 passes in the first half for 211 yards, with 110 of those yards going to Lepisto.
Penn’s most promising drive of the third quarter stalled inside the Bison red zone, but Derek Zoch hit a 35-yard field goal to make it 24-10.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bucknell fumbled the ball and Chris Wynn picked it up as he was falling out of bounds, giving the Quakers the ball on the Bison 40. Sandberg put Penn in striking distance with a 30-yard run on the first play of the drive, but as had happened moments earlier, the drive stalled and the Quakers had to settle for a 24-yard Zoch field goal.
The beginning of the fourth quarter was different, though, and Irvin marched Penn downfield to set up an 11-yard touchdown throw to Josh Koontz, giving the Quakers a comfortable 34-10 lead.
The lead wasn’t as comfortable after a pair of Quaker mistakes. After Bucknell drove into the red zone and the Penn defense turned in a stop, the Quakers got the ball back on downs, but Sam Shepherd fumbled the ball and the Bison picked it up inside the 5-yard line. Kevin Mullen dove in and scored on the first try, and the extra point made it 34-17 with 6:45 to go.
Penn was forced to punt it away on the next possession, but punter Anthony Melillo couldn’t handle the snap and took a tackle deep in the backfield. Bucknell took possession insidePenn's 20, and an 11-yard pass from Marcello Trigg to Peter Kaufman scored another six for the Bison. The extra point made it a 34-24 game with 2:36 left in the game. Penn, though, recovered the onside kick and killed the clock.
Penn returns home Oct. 14 to face upstart Ivy rival Columbia in a battle of 3-1 teams at Franklin Field at 1 p.m.