Princeton, N.J. One, two or even three offensive drives can be the difference in a game and possibly a season. Penn needed those three drives and a key defensive stop with under a minute remaining to defeat Princeton, 16-15, at Princeton Stadium to set up a battle of the unbeaten on Nov. 13 at Franklin Field.
The Quakers (7-1, 5-0 Ivy), down 15-13 with eight and a half minutes left in regulation pulled off yet another spectacular scoring drive. Penn raced 59 yards in 12 plays to set up freshman Derek Zoch for a 22-yard field goal, the first attempt of his career. A false start call on the Red and Blue moved the rookie back an additional five yards but his leg and aim held true, booting his first-career field goal to give Penn the decisive edge, 16-15. The one-point win is the smallest margin of victory during Penn's streak of 20-straight Ancient Eight wins. The Quakers' victories overYale (34-31, OT) and Brown (24-21) in 2003 were previously the smallest point spread in the streak.
Penn was not out of the woods yet, there was still nearly three minutes remaining. Princeton (4-4, 2-3 Ivy) drove to the Quakers’ 19-yard line. Luke Hadden, who led Penn with 11 tackles (three solo), pulled down Brandon Benson for a five-yard loss. An incomplete pass from Matt Verbit put the weight of a 41-yard field goal attempt on Derek Javarone, who had hit three field goals during the game from distances of 27, 32 and 33 yards, respectively. Javarone would not make a fourth as the kick sailed wide right.
Penn was held to five yards of offense and no first downs until its second-to-last drive of the first half. With 5:21 remaining before the half, the Quakers awoke and drove 89 yards on 11 plays for their first score of the game. Von Bryant came into the game and ran 12 yards around the right side for hissecond touchdown of the season. The sophomore had a momentous debut with the Red Blue, carrying the ball five times for 111 yards anda touchdown in Penn’s 61-18 win at San Diego (Sept. 18). On the season, Bryan has 14 carries for 135 yards (9.6 ypc).
Pat McDermott finished the first half with 58 yards on 4-of-11 passing. McDermott showed his mastery of the two-minute drill as three of his completions came on Penn’s scoring drive, which lasted three minutes, 10 seconds and ended at the 2:11 mark of the second quarter. The longest completion was to Dan Castles for 32 yards to end the Quakers’ first-down drought. McDermott was 14-of-27 for 198 anda touchdown, whileCastles quietly finished with five catches for 81 yards.
The first half was marred by turnovers for both teams. Each lost one fumble and Verbit through his seventh interception of the season. Chad Slapnicka picked the pass, the second of the season and of his career.
The Tigers converted a second-half Penn turnover into points as Princeton took over possession on its own 47-yard line and drove 45 yards on seven plays to set up Greg Fields eight-yard touchdown run. Verbit two-point conversion run came up short and the Tigers led 12-7 with 7:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Javarone added a 33-yard field goal to make the score 15-7 to open the fourth quarter, but Penn answered quickly on the ensuing drive. The Red and Blue used seven plays to drive 66 yards in just one minute, 52 seconds for their next score. McDermott hit Gabe Marabella twice at the end of the drive, once for a gain of 20 yards and again on a 19-yard scoring strike. Marabella had a career-high 96 yards receiving on seven catches to lead the Red and Blue. A failed two-point conversion allowed Princeton to retain a 15-13 lead with 13 minutes left in regulation.
Penn welcomes undefeated Harvard, who handled Columbia, 38-0, on Nov. 13 for the Franklin Field finale. The winner ensures itself at least a share of the 2004 Ivy League championship. The game, broadcast on CN8, ESPN Radio 920 AM and www.pennathletics.com, will kick off at 1 p.m.
Written by Mat Kanan, associate director of athletic communications