PHILADELPHIA - Where was this all season?
Penn head football coach Al Bagnoli had to be asking himself that on the sideline throughout much of Saturday's 45-9 romp over Cornell. The season finale was a game in which the Quakers showed all the elements that put them so high in preseason prognostications.
The defense? Stellar, as usual. The Quakers (4-6, 3-4 Ivy) allowed Cornell (5-5, 2-5) just four yards of offense in the first quarter, 77 in the first half, and 164 through three quarters before the Big Red broke through for nine points in the final stanza.
The offense? Hitting on all cylinders. The Quakers drove 72 yards on 10 plays to score a touchdown on its first drive, then used 11 plays to go 39 yards for three more points on its next drive. It was more of the same in the second and third quarters, when Penn scored 14 points each to build up a 38-0 lead.
The win allowed Penn to finish in a tie for fourth place, behind champion Harvard -- a convincing winner over second-place Yale Saturday in what was essentially an Ivy championship game -- and third-place Brown.
Bryan Walker was solid at QB; he orchestrated the opening drive with his feet, setting the tone for the day. He ended up with a game-high 95 yards rushing (17 more yards than the entire Cornell team had on the day), and also was efficient with his passing game, completing seven of just 11 attempts for 118 yards.
Braden Lepisto ended his career with four catches, giving him 102 for his career and making him the seventh Penn player to reach the 100-catch milestone. The highlight was a 55-yard toss that Walker softly put over two Cornell defenders that Lepisto caught and took to the end zone in the final minute of the first half.
With Joe Sandberg not even dressing, freshmen Michael DiMaggio and Bradford Blackmon more than helped Walker pick up the slack with the ground game. DiMaggio had 23 carries for a season-high 94 yards, while Blackmon had 12 rushes for 60 yards.
Any worries that Penn might mail it in were quickly squashed Saturday, when the Quakers took the opening kickoff and immediately drove to paydirt. The drive was a mix of rushes and passes until the end, when Walker called his own number on four of the last five plays in getting to the touchdown.
The defense forced a three-and-out on Cornell's opening possession, and once again the Quakers scored on the ensuing drive. This time DiMaggio did a majority of the work on the ground, and the end result was an Andrew Samson field goal from 32 yards that split the uprights for a 10-0 Penn lead.
Penn opened the second quarter with another touchdown, bridging a few plays from the end of the first quarter into the second stanza. This time, Walker again got the score when Penn neared the goal line, taking it in from three yards to make it 17-0.
The decisive blow came near the end of the half. The Quakers got the ball at their own 45-yard line with just 53 seconds left before the break. Rather than run out the clock, Walker chose to scramble to his right, and as Cornell closed in he found Lepisto behind a pair of defenders and feathered a pass that Lepisto caught in stride. It was a footrace after that, and Lepisto won it -- barely -- getting it into the end zone as he was hit to make it 24-0.
The good times kept coming at the start of the second half -- Cornell went three-and-out, and on the Big Red's punt attempt Glen Cressman broke through and blocked it. The ball rolled to Chris Ashley at the Cornell 10-yard line, and he picked it up and ran it in for a 31-0 lead.
Penn kicked off, and just two plays into its next drive Cornell again gave the ball away. This time, Nathan Ford looked to go deep, but his pass floated and Gregory Ambrogi easily settled under it for the pick, the senior's first this season. Penn also got interceptions from Tyson Maugle at the end of the half, and J.D. Black late in the contest.
Penn again asserted itself on offense, taking 13 plays to go 80 yards for the touchdown and covering nearly six minutes. The key came on a fourth-and-4 from the Quaker 26-yard line, when punter Anthony Melillo appeared to fool everyone -- including some of his own teammates -- with a rush that netted him 35 yards.DiMaggio finished the drive with a 2-yard run for the 38-0 lead.
Penn put its final points on the board early in the fourth, again bridging a drive from thethird quarter. Walker was again the man to end it, scoring on a 4-yard scamper.
At that point, it became a matter of whether or not the Quakers would earn their second shutout in three weeks. Withboth teams subbing liberally, Cornell finallyaverted the shutout with5:51 to play, after Michael Boyd intercepted a Brendan McNally pass at the Penn 30-yard line. Just four plays later, Randy Barbour took it in from seven yards out.
Confusion on the ensuing kickoff pinned Penn on its own 4-yard line, and on second down Ashley was caught on a pitch play deep in his end zone for a safety and two more Cornell points.