PHILADELPHIA - To be truthful, it was a day made more for ducks than football. A driving wind, a pouring rain (that only got worse as the game went on) and a slippery turf guaranteed that things would not be easy for the University of Pennsylvania and Bucknell football teams Saturday at Franklin Field.
So what did the Quakers (3-1) do? They played solid defense. Real solid defense.
They held the Bison (1-4) -- who entered Saturday's contest16th in the nationin rushing offense -- to 74 yards on 46 attempts, a 1.4 average per carry. They jumped on a Bucknell fumble in the end zone for a score. They intercepted a pass and took it in for another score. And then they recovered another fumble deep in Bison territory, which set up a one-play drive that went all of eight yards.
In other words, they made things easy in a 53-7 victory.
"That was as bad a weather game as I have experienced in a long, long time," said Penn head coach Al Bagnoli afterward. "It was very important for us to get ahead early while the weather was still decent, because it is very difficult to come from behind in weather like this."
"We had to pay extra attention to their offensive sets, because of their versatility at quarterback," said Kory Gedin, who led a defense that held the Bison to minus-15 yards rushing on 21 first-half attempts. "All of the defensive players had an assignment, and each player did their job. That really shut down the options for them."
Penn's offense actually got things started in the first quarter, scoring on its first possession with a seven-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by Pat McDermott's 15-yard pass to Chris Mizell. On the ensuing PAT attempt, holder Scott Williams bobbled the ball, then got up and ran it in to put Penn up, 8-0.
It was a harbinger of things to come for the Quakers.
In the second quarter, Penn's defense began to impose its will. Pinning Bucknell deep in its own territory, the Quakers took advantage of a fumbled snap by Bison QB Mahdi Woodard when Greg Ambrogi recovered it in the end zone for another score -- it was Ambrogi's first career touchdown.
On its very next drive, Penn added seven more points with a five-play, 63-yard effort that ended with McDermott finding Matt Carre for a 24-yard TD. Following the kickoff, the Quaker defense again made a big play when Williams picked off a Woodard pass at the Penn 48-yard line and brought it all the way back 52 yards for another score. That made the score 28-0.
"I just remember seeing the ball in the air, and I seized the opportunity," said Williams. "I made a few cuts against the grain, and the blocking was great, but the play was mostly reaction."
"The turnover battle was truly the difference in the game," said Bagnoli, noting that Penn picked up three Bison fumbles and intercepted two passes -- and scored touchdowns as a result each time. "We were able to keep constant pressure on them and force them to try to make big plays, and we capitalized on their mistakes."
Bucknell recovered to finally get on the board, as the tables briefly turned and Penn turned it over deep in its own territory when McDermott's pass was picked off by Sean Conover. Just two plays later, Dante Ross fumbled the ball, picked it up, and ran into open territory to score.
Penn would strike one more time before the half, though, as Derek Zoch kicked a 24-yard field goal with just two seconds left.
Penn's defense allowed theQuakers totacktwo touchdown onto its lead in the third quarter, as Kyle Ambrogi refused to let his brother take the spotlight by rushing for both scores. The first one came after Gedin intercepted a Woodard pass at the Bison 19-yardline, and the second was an eight-yard scamper set up by Joe Anastastio's recovery of a Ross fumble on the previous play.
Freshman Kelms Amoo-Achampong scored Penn's final touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard rush, and on the ensuing PAT another bobbled snap turned into two points when Dan McDonald found Braden Lepisto and passed to him.
Penn has closed out its non-conference portion of the season and will play the first of six-straight Ivy games next Saturday at Columbia. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. in New York City.
Written by Mike Mahoney, director of athletic communications