PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania football team used several big defensive stops and a balanced offensive showing to shut out Columbia, 16-0, Saturday at Franklin Field.
The Quakers improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League play this season. It was the Quakers' first shutout since 2004, when they defeated Dartmouth, 35-0. Columbia fell to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the League.
Running back Joe Sandberg compiled his third 100-yard game of the season with 101 yards and a touchdown, while wide receiver Matt Carre also crossed the century mark with 102 yards on four catches. With his performance, Carrecrossed 1,000career receiving yards, and he now has 1,070 yards.Quarterback Robert Irvin threw for 185 yards and a touchdown.
It took Penn some time to get going, as the Quakers gained 153 yards in the first half.
“The Columbia defense moved all over the place, they caused everybody problems in terms of moving the football,” said Head Coach Al Bagnoli. “We were a little flustered in the first half, but the second half we were able to move the ball more efficiently on the ground and play with more confidence.”
The big story was Penn’s defensive stops. Cornerback Gregory Ambrogi broke up five passes-- including three in the end zone-- with two of them nearly resulting in interceptions. J.J. Stanton blocked his second field goal of the season on a game-turning play that led to a Penn touchdown drive.
“Down in the end zone, I was able to press the receivers more, which allowed me to make some plays,” Ambrogi said. “I had a couple of drops, but we’ve been doing very well in the red zone this season and we take a lot of pride in that.”
The first half was relatively uneventful, with neither side showing much offensive firepower after their initial possessions.
On Penn’s first possession, a 22-yard completion to Braden Lepisto set the Quakers up in the red zone at the 15, but the Lion defense held the Quakers, forcing Derek Zoch’s 31-yard field goal.
Midway through the second quarter, Columbia’s Jordan Davis fumbled a hand-off deep in his own territory, and Brian Fairbanks pounced on it at the 19-yard line. Four plays later, Irvin completed a 10-yard pass to Sandberg for a touchdown. However, the snap on the extra point was muffed, and Penn led 9-0.
Perhaps the half’s most exciting play came with just two ticks left, when Irvin threw up a Hail Mary from midfield that was nearly completed to Billy May, but fell incomplete as May and a pack of Lions defenders came down.
The second half also started slowly until a Columbia defensive play threatened to break the game open -- Andy Shalbrack intercepted Irvin inside Penn territory, andthe Lionsmoved into the red zone. However, the Penn defense respondedto force a field goal situation, and thenJon Rocholl’s 32-yard attempt glanced off of Stanton’s shoulder.
The Quaker offense came to life after the big play. Irvin aired out a 48-yard completion to Matt Carre. A few plays later, Sandberg jumped a few tackles, got a key block from Lepisto, and scampered 18 yards to paydirt to put his team up 16-0.
Penn kept the offensive momentum going in the fourth quarter, driving into Lion territory. However, a Sandberg touchdown was called back on a holding call, and Penn was only able to get as far as the 10-yard line. Zoch’s 28-yard field goal went wide right, and Penn came away empty-handed after a drive that consumed seven minutes and 30 seconds.
Columbia threatened on the ensuing possession, driving to the Penn 5-yard line. However, Ambrogi nearly intercepted Craig Hormann on consecutive plays, and the Quakers stopped a run on third down to force fourth-and-goal at the three. Hormann attempted to pass, but Pat Kimener and Jordan Manning were there on the coverage and Penn took over on their own three with five minutes to go.
The Quakers were able to run down most of the time remaining, and Columbia couldn’t capitalize on a final chance.
Penn will hit the road to face Yale next Saturday at 1 p.m.