NEW YORK - As dominant as Penn was in last weekend’s win over Georgetown, nothing could have prepared fans for what they saw Saturday afternoon at Columbia’s Wien Stadium.
The first 30 minutes were complete and utter domination on both sides of the ball by the Quakers, and the result was a thorough 59-28 dismantling of the Lions on Columbia’s homecoming.
Penn has now won two in a row in impressive fashion heading into next weekend’s Homecoming game with Yale, which improved to 5-0 with a 23-7 win over Lehigh. Kickoff for that game will be at noon, and it will be televised live on the YES Network.
Columbia fell to 1-4 overall, 0-2 in the Ivy League.
Penn has now defeated Columbia 10 times in a row, dating back to the 1998 season. In addition, the 59 points scored by the Quakers were the most ever put up against the Lions, andmatched the most putup by a Penn team againstany Ivy League opponent since the start of formal Ivy play in 1956. (they also scored 59 against Cornell on Nov. 22, 2003)
When the teams went to the locker room for halftime, the scoreboard told the story: Penn 45, Columbia 7.
Offensively in the half, the Quakers ran for 142 yards on 22 carries, nearly seven yards per rush. Senior Joe Sandberg alone had 15 carries for 111 yards, and ran for three touchdowns. When quarterback Bryan Walker decided to throw the ball, he found success, completing 14 of 19 passes for another 131 yards and two more TDs. Perhaps most impressively, the Quakers did not have to punt once.
On the defensive side, Penn got to Columbia quarterback Craig Hormann several times, and as a team Columbia ran the ball 12 times and gained negative-17 yards (Hormann offset that with 197 passing yards). In addition, the Quakers picked Hormann off twice, and converted them into 14 points.
Perhaps the biggest momentum shift occurred on a scoring attempt by Columbia, however. Attempting a field goal to tie the game at 10-10, instead the Lions saw the attempt blocked and the ball picked up by the Quakers’ Jordan Manning, who ran it 62 yards for a back-breaking touchdown.
Penn entered Saturday’s game looking for a statement performance, and certainly got it in the first half. After holding Columbia to a three-and-out to start the game, Penn immediately got on the board with a seven-play, 55-yard drive that ended with Sandberg taking it in from seven yards. The senior running back set the tone for the day, carrying five times in the drive for a total of 43 yards.
Penn looked like it had Columbia pinned on the Lions’ next drive, as a sack and a penalty set up third-and-21 on the Columbia 9-yard line. With the pocket crashing around him, Hormann stepped up and unleashed a Hail Mary pass that was answered by Austin Knowlin, who got behind the Penn defense and caught it in stride. Only a standout effort by Greg Ambrogi kept him from finding the end zone, but the 90-yard completion paid off on the next play when Jordan Davis took it in to make the score 7-7.
Penn once again drove to points. This time a nine-play drive ended with Andrew Samson splitting the uprights for a 33-yard field goal that put the Quakers back on top, 10-7.
Columbia again charged back, driving from its own 23-yard line to the Penn 28 before reaching fourth down. However, things swung in Penn’s favor when Jon Rocholl’s kick was lined straight into the center’s back. The bouncing ball was picked up by Manning, who ran alongside the right sideline to paydirt that made the score 17-7 as the first quarter ended. It was the first time Penn had returned a blocked field goal for a TD since Stephen Faulk did it against Cornell on Nov. 23, 2001.
That was mere prelude to a dominant second quarter, as everything came together for Penn. The defense held the Lions on the opening drive of the stanza, and when the Quakers got the ball back they drove 79 yards in 10 plays to score when Walker found Josh Koontz for a 12-yard TD pass.
Columbia’s next drive only went two plays, as a feather pass from Hormann ended up in the arms of Penn cornerback Mark Washington at the Lions 36-yard line. Just four plays later, Sandberg ran up the middle, then cut right against the defense to score and make it 31-7.
Just three plays later, Columbia again gave the ball to the Quakers when Hormann was picked off by Kimener at the Lions 39-yard line, and returned to the 19. After a Columbia penalty on first down, Penn scored when Sandberg hesitated, then jitterbugged his way to the end zone from 11 yards out for his third score of the day.
Penn coach Al Bagnoli and his team heard it from the Columbia homecoming crowd at the end of the half. After Penn held the Lions on downs, the Quakers got the ball back with just 1:03 to play and on their own 47-yard line. Rather than conservatively run the clock out, though, the Quakers efficiently ran their two-minute offense, punctuating the drive when Walker found Braden Lepisto for a 3-yard score on the final play of the half. That made the score 45-7.
Whatever ill feelings there may have been by that move, it was hard to argue with it during the third quarter, when Columbia found its momentum and scored on its first two possessions to make the score 45-21.
Penn got one of those scores back early in the fourth quarter with a six-play, 78-yard drive that ended on the first play of the final stanza. Sandberg drove through right tackle for a 13-yard score that pushed him close to 200 yards and gave him the second four-touchdown game of his career. That made the score 52-21.
Columbia again responded. Running strictly from the shotgun, the Lions went 65 yards in eight plays to score their third TD of the second half. The scoring play was a 19-yard pass from Hormann to Knowlin.
Tyler Fisher quelled any momentum the Lions might have gotten from that score, however, taking the ensuing kickoff at the 4-yard line and racing untouched down the right sideline for a 96-yard touchdown. It was the first kickoff return for a TD by the sophomore, and the first by a Penn player since Chris Wynn did it against Brown last year.
Sandberg finished the game with 197 yards rushing on 22 carries, including a long of 45 yards that was his high for the season. Sandberg now has 1,920 career rushing yards, which places him 10th on Penn’s all-time list ahead of Sundiata Rush. Michael DiMaggio had 48 yards rushing on 15 carries.
When Bryan Walker chose to throw the ball, he was efficient the senior completed 16 of 21 passes for 141 yards, and had touchdown tosses to Koontz and Lepisto.
For Columbia, Hormann finished with 30 completions for 417 yards; his main target, Knowlin, had 10 catches for 188 yards.