PHILADELPHIA -In the first half of Saturday's football game between Penn and Cornell at Franklin Field, the Big Red -- which entered the contest with more than 500 rushing attempts and fewer than 200 passing attempts to date -- had run the ball 24 times and passed it 13 times, with the yield being no points.
In the second half, Cornell (6-4, 4-3 Ivy League) went back to the plan that got them five wins in the first nine weeks of the season, as quarterback Ryan Kuhn either handed the ball off to Luke Siwula or kept it himself. The result was 16 points, and that proved to be enough to carrythe Big Redover Penn, 16-7.
For Penn (5-5, 3-4 Ivy League), a season that began with so much promise ended for the fourth-straight week in a loss -- a first in the Al Bagnoli coaching era. The Quakers struggled offensively on the day, gaining just 149 yards on 58 plays. As a result, the defense spent a lot of time on the field, and seemed to wear down as the game went on.
“It was another frustrating day for us," said Bagnoli, who was once again denied his 100th victory as the Quakers mentor. "It seems that we got caught in this rut and we’re pressing so hard to make plays that we are missing golden opportunities. Obviously, I thought we played very hard today. We have played four good teams in a row, and Cornell is no different.
“I thought we hung in there for the most part, we just couldn’t get much going on offense and kept our defense out there for too many plays”
The Quakers got the scoring started in the first quarter. After each team had a few possessions with little success, they put togethera seven-play drive that covered 57 yards and ended when Pat McDermott found Matt Carre open for a touchdown from 17 yards out. McDermott was 4-of-5 passing on the drive, and the one pass that went incomplete was flagged for pass interference.
After that, Penn was unable to sustain any momentum offensively. Fortunately, the defense held Cornell during the remainder of the half -- as the teams went to break, they had combined for just more than 200 yards of offense despite conditions ideal for football on a brisk November day.
Penn started the second half with the ball, butMcDermott was intercepted by Joel Sussman. Cornell immediately set the tone for the half by reverting toits rushing game -- the Big Red entered the day leading the Ivies in rushing yards per game. A 12-play drive ensued, all buttwo ofwhich were rushes. The end result was a 42-yard field goal by A.J. Weitsman that made the score 7-3.
Penn went three-and-out on its next drive, and Cornell again shifted the balance by rushing six times and passing just twice. The second pass from Kuhn found Anthony Jackson in the end zone, as he skied over a Penn defender and snared the ball in the corner to give the Big Red a 10-7 lead.
Penn went three-and-out once again, andCornell took advantage to tack on what would be the final points of the game. this time the drive took eight plays, all of them on the ground (the Big Red aired it out once, and Penn was flagged for pass interference). Thelast rush came from Kuhn, whosnuck up the middle from the 5-yard line and went untouched into the end zone. The kick attempt failed, but Cornell now led 16-7.
Afterboth teams suffered a three-and-out series, Penn finally tried to get some momentumgoing.The Quakers strung together a pair of first downs and moved into Cornell territory. However, on fourth-and-two from the BigRed 32, McDermott was unable to connect with Dan McDonald,ending thedrive with 6:26 to play.
Cornell ate up nearly four minutes of clock on its next possession, then pinned Penn deep in its own territory and the Quakers could not get out of the shadow oftheir goalposts. Thatpretty much ended things.
Senior Ric San Doval had a career-high 18 tackles inhis finalgame for the Quakers, while Kory Gedin had 13 stops. On offense, McDermott threw for 116 yards and one touchdown in his final game. McDermott finished his career sixth all-time at Penn with 3,820 passing yards. Running back Sam Mathews, whowas also climbing up the charts in his final season, finished his career fourth in all-time rushing with 2,519 yards.
The Class of 2006 posted an overall record of 32-8 in their four-year careers, whichis fourth best in the modern era of Penn football. The Class of 2005 has the all-time best winning percentage (in the modern era for Penn and the Ivy League) after posting a 35-4 record (.897).
“Certainly our seniors have had a wonderful four year stretch.," said Bagnoli."They have been dealt some things that hopefully they’ll never have to deal with again, and so we just have to look at other things and see where we go from here. I don’t think they wanted to end on this note. They have too much pride in the program and too many accomplishments.”
“We accomplished a lot. I’ve never been prouder of our team," said San Doval. "The emotional rollercoaster we’ve been on all year long to see 110 guys come together the way they did, that’s unbelievable. I personally have no regrets.”
“We have experienced the highs and obviously the lows," said fellow senior Doug Middleton. "When it’s all said and done, I cansay I’ve had a really darn good career here and I wouldn’t have changed anything.”
Written by Mike Mahoney, director of athletic communications