PHILADELPHIA Rob Lombardi scored two rushing touchdowns for Penn, including the gamewinner, and then broke up Cornell’s last-ditch effort to tie the game, securing a 35-28 win in overtime for the Quakers.
Penn led 28-14 entering the 4th quarter, but watched the Big Red open up its aerial attack, resulting in two TDs, from Upal Sarker that sent the game into overtime.
In OT, Penn had the ball first. After a facemask penalty negated a sack of quarterback Michael D'Angelo, the Quakers used a 2-yard run by Albert Tsai and a 15-yard pass to Marten Basta to set up the go-ahead score. Lombardi scampered to the outside and found the endzone for the lead.
On Cornell’s possession, it looked as if the Big Red would easily tie the game. Zak Dentes opened by finding Michael Brennan along the left sideline for 12 yards. The two connected again for 11 yards, setting up first and goal from inside the two-yard line. A rush from Dentes resulted in no gain. A hand-off to Matt Malleo was stuffed by Gage O'Connell. On third down, Cornell went back in the air and Dentes’ pass to Malleo was incomplete, setting up fourth down. Dentes looked to have Brennan open in the right corner, but Lombardi showed his versatility by leaping and getting a hand on the ball to deflect it away and seal the win for the Quakers.
With the win, Penn moves to 3-1 on the season and is now 2-0 in CSFL play. Cornell drops to 3-2 with a 1-2 mark in league play.
Cornell opened the scoring with a Malleo 2-yard touchdown run. Cornell recovered a fumble by D’Angelo at the Penn 13 and took used four plays and a Penn pass interference penalty to find the endzone.
Penn also used a turnover to score its first points when they followed a Jacques Beauvais interception with a quick seven play drive to score a D’Angelo 17-yard TD. What appeared to be a sure sack by the Big Red turned into an opportunity for D’Angelo to show his athleticism as he broke around the left side and dove into the endzone, tieing the game 7-7.
Early in the second quarter, Penn pinned Cornell deep in their own territory and forced a punt that gave Penn the ball at Cornell’s 35-yard line. On 2nd and seven from the 32, D’Angelo found Michael Stack crossing across the middle of the field and connected for a score, giving Penn a 14-7 lead that they would hold at the half.
Another Penn turnover resulted in a touchdown for Cornell as they converted a fumble by Lombardi at his own 33 into a Dentes’ six-yard rushing score to tie the game.
Lombardi made up for his miscue on the first play after the ensuing kickoff. He took a D’Angelo hand-off at his own 42 and broke free up the middle for a 58-yard score.
The Quakers used another long play to extend the lead to 28-14 when Tomas Altamirano brought in a D’Angelo pass for 71-yards with 3:56 left in the third quarter.
With 13:30 remaining in the game, Cornell took over at Penn’s 46-yard line. After a Glenn Palmer rush for one yard, Dentes connected with Brennen fro 27-yards to the Penn 18. Cornell gained no yards on its next two plays before Dentes found Sarker open for an 18-yard touchdown, bringing the Big Red within a touchdown.
At that point Penn tried to eat as much clock as it could, featuring a heavy does of rushing plays. Unfortunately, Penn could not kill the entire clock and had to punt the ball back to Cornell with under two minutes remaining in the game. The punt took a tremendous bounce for Penn, stopping at the Cornell 2-yard line.
Dentes brought his team to the line of scrimmage needing 98 yards to extend the game. He had no timeouts to stop the clock. A completion to Brennan for 16-yards gave the Big Red some breathing room. His next pass was incomplete, but on second down he found Shaker for 13-yards. His next pass was to Malleo who pulled it in for 15-yards. Following another incompletion, Dentes hooked up with Shaker for 28-yards to the Penn 26. His next pass was also to Shaker, who found paydirt, tieing the game 28-28 with 32 seconds left in the game.
Penn attempted three passes in the last 27 seconds, but all three were incomplete, setting the stage for overtime and Lombardi’s heroics.
Head coach Bill Wagner was proud of his team for the way they bounced back from Cornell’s rally.
“I am excited about the way we responded,” he said, “This was a physical game and we were able to make the plays at the end when it mattered.”
He also credited his team’s toughness.
“We had guys out there tonight who didn’t see an ounce of action in practice this week because they were too banged up. They played every down tonight though. That is what this team is all about.”
The win for Penn lines up a showdown with Navy next weekend at Franklin Field. Both teams enter the game with 2-0 records in the conference. A win next week will secure the first CSFL Championship for Penn since 2000. The game starts at 7 p.m.