BETHLEHEM, Pa. - There is a bright future for the University of Pennsylvania football team as several underclassmen shined in the season opener on Saturday. But Lehigh was too much to overcome on the road as the Mountain Hawks pulled away and topped the Quakers, 42-21, in Ray Priore's head coaching debut for the Red and Blue.
Offensively, a pair of sophomores -- Justin Watson and Tre Solomon -- totaled more than half of the team's 476 total yards, freshman Christian Pearson hauled in a long touchdown pass, and junior quarterback Alek Torgersen racked up another 300-yard passing performance.
Meanwhile, defensively, sophomore transfer Colton Moskal and first-time sophomore starter Ephraim Lee combined for 19 tackles, while freshman Mason Williams logged the only sack of the day, and another freshman Nick Miller corralled an interception for the unit's only turnover.
Penn's youth was the highlight, but inexperience was also evident in the first game of the season.
How it Happened
Lehigh (2-1) marched down field on the game's opening drive and quickly made it 7-0. The Quakers punted and the Mountain Hawks once again trekked deep into Penn territory. However, momentum changed when Donald Panciello and Austin Taps combined to stuff a fourth-down run inside the five-yard line.
The Penn offense fed off that spark with three straight first downs to get to midfield. On 3rd-and-6 from the Lehigh 36-yard line, Solomontook an option pitch for 13 yards. Four plays later, on the first snap of the second quarter, Torgersenran it in from four yards out for Penn's first score of the year. It tied the game at 7-7.
Lehigh scored on its next two drives and took a 21-7 lead at the break.
After the Mountain Hawks tacked on a touchdown in the opening minutes of the third quarter, Penn responded in a big way. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Watsontook a screen pass 74 yards for the score to get the Quakers within 28-14 at the 7:59 mark of the third quarter.
But Lehigh responded with big plays on special teams and defense. The Mountain Hawks returned the kickoff to the Penn 40, and scored six plays later. Though Millerhauled in an interception in his first career action, Lehigh's defense came up with their own interception just two plays later and returned it inside the 15. A short while later, the Mountain Hawks made it 42-14 with 12:43 to play.
The final score of the game came on another big play from a Penn rookie. Torgersen, who became the 12th player in school history to surpass 3,000 career passing yards, connected with Pearson in perfect stride for a 45-yard touchdown strike. That brought the Quakers within 42-21 with 11:11 to go, but neither team scored again. Penn threatend twice more deep in Lehigh territory, but was turned away on fourth down each time.
Inside the Numbers
Watson recorded his first career 100-yard game with a career-best 10 catches for 143 yards, while Solomon finished just shy of 100 yards on the ground despite 8.1 yards per carry. He had 89 yards on 11 rushes, and added 31 yards on four receptions. Watson was Torgersen's top target as the second-year starter topped 300 yards for the third time in the last four games. In all, he was 30-of-42 through the air for 336 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Moskal led the team with 11 tackles, followed by eight from Lee. Williams logged the only sack and four tackles, and Miller added two tackles to his interception.
Penn was outgained 495-476 as Lehigh held the ball for 36:11 compared to Penn's 23:49. The Mountain Hawks were 9-of-16 on third down and 2-of-3 on fourth down to keep the Quakers offense on the sideline for two-thirds of the contest.
It won't be long before the Quakers get another chance. Just five days. Penn and Villanova will kick off at 7 p.m. on Thursday night in a game that was moved due to the Pope's impending visit to the city of Philadelphia. The 2015 edition of the Schuylkill Showdown will take place at Villanova Stadium.
Fan Tweet of the Game
What am I doing at work today? Constantly checking the penn Quakers snapchat story of course. @PENNfb— Jennifer Ann (@Jen_AndTonic) September 19, 2015
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