NEW YORK The University of Pennsylvania football team took the field with heavy hearts Saturday at Columbia, but parlayed that into a standout performance on offense in a 44-16 win.
Playing with fallen teammate Kyle Ambrogi fresh in their minds, the Quakers (4-1, 2-0 Ivy) went out and scored on their first two possessions and never looked back. Ambrogi, a senior running back, died earlier this week, shaking the program and entire football family to its core.
Saturday’s game was Penn’s first since Ambrogi’s death, and the Quakers used his inspiration to win going away for their third-consecutive victory. Of particular note was Penn’s running backs; Ambrogi’s backfield mates combined for 277 rushing yards on 42 carries, averaging nearly seven yards per rush.
Sam Mathews led the Quaker running brigade, carrying 21 times for 155 yards (a 7.4 ypg average) and two touchdowns. Joe Sandberg nearly got to 100 yards, as well, gaining 95 yards on just eight carriesa staggering 11.9 averageand scoring on a superb 21-yard gain.
After holding Columbia (2-3, 0-2 Ivy) on its first possession, Penn went right to work with an 11-play, 84-yard drive that took 4:25. Mathews set the tone for the day with three gains of double-digit yards on the drive, and finished it with a 1-yard run to paydirt.
Following a Lion three-and-out, the Quakers went 60 yards in eight plays to double its lead. Mathews again had the score, running it in off left guard from one yard out.
In the second quarter, Penn added to its lead with a balanced, 92-yard drive that ended when Pat McDermott found Chris Mizell for a 5-yard TD. It was the third straight game in which Mizellwho did not have a collegiate TD prior to this streakscored.
Columbia finally got on the board on the last play of the first half, gaining some momentum when Jon Rocholl rocketed a 47-yard field goal through the uprights.
Penn quickly snapped the momentum back to start the second half. On the Quakers’ third play from scrimmage in the third quarter, McDermott fired a pass that squeezed between a pair of Lion defenders into Dan McDonald’s arms. McDonaldwho had two catches for 101 yards on the daytook it from there, easily running the rest of the way for an 80-yard connection and a 28-3 lead.
Penn got the ball back on Columbia’s next possession when Ric San Doval recovered a fumbled snap near midfield, and six plays later the score was 34-3 when Sandberg made some nifty moves on his way to a 21-yard score.
Columbia found the end zone for the first time in the game on its next possession, when Craig Hormann found Brandon Bowser behind the Penn defense for a 72-yard touchdown pass. The Quakers blocked the kick, however, making the score 34-9.
Derek Zoch kicked a 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and after Columbia scored late in the fourth quarter Doug Middleton took the ensuing onsides kick and ran it all the way back for a 43-yard return and a touchdown.
McDermott finished the game with 218 yards passing on 14 completions, with two touchdowns. Sandberg had a team-high five catches for 63 yards, while Mizell had four receptions for 23 yards.
Penn returns to action next Saturday, hosting Yale at Franklin Field. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.
Written by Mike Mahoney, director of athletic communications