Sprint Football Defeats Navy in Overtime Thriller

Box Score Penn-Navy (PDF)

PHILADELPHIA - For the first time since 2000 and only the second time ever, the University of Pennsylvania sprint football team has defeated both service academies (Army West Point and Navy), sealing the sweep with a dramatic 29-23 overtime victory over the Midshipmen Friday night at Franklin Field. The Quakers now sit at 4-0 for the first time since 2010 and are the lone undefeated team in the Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL).

How it Happened
The game got off to an ominous start for the Red and Blue, as Navy's Patrick McMahaon took the opening kickoff from Patrick Boyle at the four yard line and ran the length of the field for a touchdown, putting the Quakers in an immediate 7-0 hole. Penn went three-and-out on its first possession of the game, before the home defense returned the favor against the Mids, forcing a three-and-out of its own. Senior Mike McCurdy got the Quaker offense rolling on their next drive however, first completing a 32-yard pass to Aidan Kelly, before dancing around for an 18-yard gain on the ground of his own. McCurdy punctuated the drive with a 30-yard throw to Charles Augustini which tied up the game at 7-all. 

There was nothing doing from either side on offense to end the first quarter, as Navy used a Brendon Clements-focused rushing attack that was defended well by Penn playmakers Ed Cai, Quinn Karam and Tracey Woods Jr. After the Mids stalled out again to begin the second quarter, the Quakers got to work on offense for another fruitful drive. The Red and Blue alternated run and pass plays with Jake Klaus on the ground and McCurdy through the air to Kelly and Andrew Sutton, before finally setting up on the Navy 2-yard line after another Kelly reception. Robert Diorio took the hand-off and barreled in for the touchdown, giving Penn a 14-7 lead midway through the second.

Navy began what would be yet another long and grueling drive for the Quaker defense, marching all the way down to the Penn 12 before Tom Tyrrell delivered a huge swing of momentum for the home team, hauling in an interception in the end zone to retain possession for the Red and Blue. The Mids would return the favor ultimately, as McCurdy threw just his first pick of the season to Tommy Guinan at the Navy 25 yard-line on the next drive. The Midshipmen took advantage, using a methodical drive led by Nick Deterding consisting of eight plays and 75 yards to connect on a two-yard touchdown pass to end the half, knotting play at 14-14.

Coming out of the locker room, Penn received the ball first and jumped ahead again, capitalizing on a fourth-down conversion by Klaus and 34 rush yards from McCurdy to get in field goal range, as Mario Del Cueto vaulted the Quakers up 17-14 on a 23-yard kick. 

After a strong defensive stand by the Penn defense, the Red and Blue found themselves extending the lead as McCurdy and Co. converted two third downs, mixing in rushes from the quarterback and running back position along with screen passes to Augustini before McCurdy scampered in from 13-yards out, adding another Quaker touchdown to the scoreboard. Devin Graves came up big for the Mids on the point after, blocking Del Cueto's kick and keeping the score at 23-14. 

After Navy punted to wrap up its first drive of the final quarter, the Red and Blue were unable to add to their total and gave the ball back to the visitors. The Mids began to chip away, as Deterding shredded the Penn defense for passes of 42 and 38 yards before stalling out at the Penn 9-yard line, setting up Jules Murphy for a 26-yard field goal to cut the lead to 23-17. 

The Quakers would prove unable to convert on fourth down on their next drive after McCurdy found Sutton for 31 yards, returning the ball to Navy who would set up for a game-tying drive of 11 plays, 68 yards. Deterding again controlled things for the Mids, completing passes of 17, 13, 15 and 18 and winding down the clock in the process. At the Penn 3-yard line, Deterding found JT Thompson open for the touchdown, tying the game at 23 and giving Navy the chance to seal the contest on the extra point. Drama ensued, as first Murphy missed the extra point before Penn was called for a penalty, and on the retry, Murphy missed again, keeping the score tied much to the delight of the Quaker faithful. 

Penn elected to kneel to end the game, sending the battle with Navy into overtime. The Quakers got the chance to take the field first on offense, gaining five yards from a Klaus run before McCurdy completed a 17-yard pass to Sutton to set things up from the Mids' 3-yard line. Diorio would seal the touchdown for the Red and Blue, but Del Cueto's kick was blocked for a second time, opening the door yet again for Navy.

Clements ran for 17 yards to open up the offense for the Mids, following that up with a four-yard rush and a one-yard rush from Deterding. On 3rd-and-goal from the three, Clements fumbled the snap, while Chris Colavita surged into the backfield to recover it, sealing the win, 29-23 over Navy. 

Inside the Numbers
McCurdy threw for 265 yards on the night, competing 16 of 31 passes and totaling one touchdown. After a beleaguered start to the season, the rushing corps for Penn came through in a big way, amassing 139 yards on the ground, let by McCurdy himself who recorded 74. Klaus added 60, while Diorio was clutch in short yardage, owning two touchdowns on the evening. 

Kelly caught six passes against Navy for 110 yards including a long of 32. Augustini added four catches, while Sutton's three receptions totaled 63 yards. Penn scored on each of its three chances in the red zone, while converting nine of 16 third down opportunities. 

Defensively, Quinn Karam led the way with 9.5 tackles against the Mids, followed by Console with eight. Sam Smallzman notched a sack against Navy, while Cai and Boyle combined to add another. Tyrell and Colavita added to Penn's CSFL leading number of 15 turnovers this fall with an interception and fumble each. 

Matt Caltabiano continued his impressive year as a punter, totaling three kicks for an average of 43.3 yards, including a long of 55. 

What's Next?
The Quakers will now get a much-deserved rest heading into the midpoint of the season. Their next game will be another home contest, as the Red and Blue welcome in Chestnut Hill on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.

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