PHILADELPHIA – After a defensive stop with 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the University of Pennsylvania sprint football team needed only a field goal to defeat Navy, but the Quakers drive stalled on their own half of the field, and the Midshipmen escaped with a 21-19 victory Saturday evening at Franklin Field.
The Penn defense held Navy’s high-powered offense in check for the majority of the game, and made the Midshipmen look uncomfortable at times. The Quakers managed an interception and a safety, but allowed two big plays that would become the difference makers. Both of Navy’s quick-hitting touchdowns – a 42 yard run and 67 yard catch and run – came soon after Quaker scores in the second half.
After a quick first quarter that saw no scoring, Navy struck first on an 11 yard touchdown run for league leading rusher junior Eric Wellmon early in the second quarter. The Quakers would score on their ensuing possession on a Mike McCurdy pass over the top of the defense to sophomore receiver Mario del Cueto, making it 7-7.
With just under a minute to play in the half, Penn looked as though it had an opportunity to take the momentum into the locker room as freshman Quinn Karam intercepted a Navy pass returning it 18 yards to the Navy 35-yard line, but the Red and Blue were unable to capitalize on the takeaway.
The Quakers broke the tie in the second half on a 54 yard touchdown reception from McCurdy to del Cueto. This time the receiver helped the sophomore quarterback, coming back for the ball before beating three Navy defenders to the end zone.
The Midshipmen answered with the first of their two big plays on a Wellmon 42 yard touchdown run. The junior finished the day running for 191 yards on 35 carries, scoring two touchdowns.
Penn’s Aron Morgan helped the Red and Blue regain the lead with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter on a 29 yard field goal. Navy answered immediately when junior receiver Matthew Hite hauled in a 67 yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Joe Hampton, giving the Midshipmen a 21-17 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Penn’s defense put the Quakers into position to mount a fourth quarter rally when Ed Cai broke free to sack Hampton in his own end zone, making it a 21-19 game. With the ball back in their possession the Red and Blue offense was unable to muster any points before punting to Navy. The Midshipmen would then have the ball for the next eight minutes, icing the game before Penn’s final drive, and coming away with the victory.
The Quakers totaled 287 yards of offense, 237 passing, and just 50 on the ground. Junior Stu Helgeson lead Penn with nine tackles, while Cai finished with eight and a sack and pass breakup. Karam had six tackles and the interception.
Penn returns to action on the road, next Friday Oct. 10 at Franklin Pierce. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.