PHILADELPHIA - In the world of football coachspeak, one of the first things you often hear is that the best defense is a good offense -- the idea being that as long as you have the ball, the other team cannot score on you.
Penn reversed that tenet Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field. On a day when the offense could best be described as pedestrian -- gaining just 204 total yards -- it was the Quaker defense that made things easy for their colleagues on the other side of the ball in a 15-10 win over Columbia. Consider...
*Penn’s first points came on a 37-yard field goal by Andrew Samson, after an interception by senior Britton Ertman, who returned the pick to the Lions’ 20-yard line.
*Penn’s second score, a 31-yard Samson field goal, came after the defense forced a fumble that was recovered by senior Jay Colabella at the Columbia 18-yard line.
*Penn’s only touchdown came when another Lions fumble was recovered by Ertman and returned to the Columbia 2-yard line.
*Penn’s final points came on a safety, when Columbia was pinned deep in its territory and a bad snap on a punt went out of the end zone.
When it was all totaled up, Penn's three "scoring drives" on the day had covered 17 yards on 15 plays. Still, it was enough to edge the Quakers (3-2, 2-0 Ivy) past Columbia (0-5, 0-2), although things were not secured until late when the Lions lost the ball in Penn territory on -- you guessed it -- another interception, Penn's fifth forced turnover of the day.
“I thought they were a lot better team than their win-loss record indicated,” said Penn head coach Al Bagnoli, who saw his team beat Columbia for the 11th straight year and win its third straight overall. “I thought they played four good football teams and played four hard games. I knew it was going to be a challenge. I did my best to try to prepare our kids the best way we could. We knew it was going to be a tough game, and that’s what it turned out to be.”
Penn’s first points came early, as Ertman interception Columbia quarterback Shane Kelly on just the second play of the game. The Quakers led before the contest was five minutes old.
“One thing we noticed when we were scouting is that he loved to stare down receivers,” said Ertman. “We have a really solid group of defensive backs out there, and one thing we focus on is that everybody does his job. I think that was a huge factor for us in getting our hands on the ball.”
The Lions responded, as Kelly engineered an eight-play drive that went 42 yards and finished with a 38-yard Jon Rocholl field goal.
However, on consecutive drives, Penn’s defense got to the Lions quarterback and forced costly turnovers on both. The first was recovered by Colabella and led to Samson’s field goal just four plays later, and the second came when Ertman scooped up a misfired option toss at the 29-yard line and nearly put it in the end zone before being dragged down by Zack Kourouma. Penn needed three plays to get those last two yards, before Bradford Blackmon finally pushed it in up the middle and made it 13-3.
Once again, Columbia got its act together and drove the field, this time for a touchdown. The drive was run-heavy and featured Ray Rangel and a 30-yard scramble by Kelly. The score came when Kelly found Austin Knowlin from six yards out.
As it turned out, that would be all the scoring the Lions’ would have in the game, thanks to Penn’s stout defense.
“I honestly thought they had a better offense than I’ve seen from them in the past three years,” said Ertman. “Their receiving corps was really strong and we knew that coming in. We knew Knowlin was a huge threat and it was one of our priorities to shut him down. I thought we did a good job making the quarterback make some checkdowns that he may not have wanted to throw.”
Penn changed things up in the third quarter, giving Kyle Olson three series at quarterback before returning to starter Robert Irvin in the fourth. However, the only points in the second half for either team came on the misplayed punt.
“I think we have two kids that have the ability to lead us,” said Bagnoli after the game. “We just weren’t playing well in any facets. You can’t say it was just the quarterback or just the line.”
Irvin ended the game going 9-of-17 passing for 89 yards, and for the second straight week freshman Matt Hamscher was the Quakers’ top ground-gainer (67 yards on 17 carries).
For Columbia, which gained just 258 yards on offense, Rangel ended the day with 79 yards on 19 rushes, while Kelly was 13-of-29 passing for 108 yards.
Penn will return to action next Saturday, heading to Yale to meet the Bulldogs at the Yale Bowl. That game will kick off at12:30 p.m.and be televised live to a nationwide audience on YES Network.
Game Notes: Senior safety Jordan Manning made his 25th consecutive start for the Quakers ... Andrew Samson has now made eight consecutive field goals, after his 37-yard conversion in the first quarter and 31-yarder in the second ... Penn has scored in 105 consecutive games, the third-longest streak in Ivy League history ... The Quakers have also forced at least one turnover in 17 straight games on defense.