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ASHBURNHAM, Mass. - The 2012 sprint football season is featuring some of the most frantic finishes in the history of the Penn program. Two weeks after a six-overtime loss at Cornell, Penn picked up its first win of the season in a 24-20 win over Franklin Pierce in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Whit Shaw is Penn's all-time receiving yardage leader and he added to his totals in fine fashion - scoring on a 73-yard pass from Keith Braccia with nine seconds to play - to give Penn the late lead. Shaw's touchdown catch was his second of the day and countered a Franklin Pierce touchdown with 30 seconds left in the game.
Penn trailed at halftime, 14-10, and did not score in the second half until Braccia called his own number from the one-yard line to cap an 11-play, 71-yard drive for the Quakers. Braccia finished the game with 40 yards rushing to go with 196 yards passing and his two throwing touchdowns. The Red and Blue had a decided edge in the ground game, outgaining the Ravens, 207 to 34. Mike Beamish was the lead workhorse for the Quakers on the ground, carrying the ball 25 times for 134 yards.
Shaw's 73-yard touchdown reception matched his output from the rest of the game, giving him 143 yards on six catches.
Franklin Pierce, in its first season of sprint football, opened the scoring midway through the first quarter, D.J. Macdonald rushing for the score from 14 yards out. The touchdown was setup by a 50-yard reception by MacDonald from quarterback Tyler Matthews.
The Quakers put their first points of the game on the board on the ensuing drive with a 31-yard Kai Peng field goal. Penn had marched 49 yards on 11 plays, reaching as deep as the Franklin Pierce nine-yard line before a negative rush by Beamish and an incomplete pass from Braccia resulted in the field goal.
The two teams traded possessions for most of the second quarter before opening up in the final three minutes. In what was a foreshadow of the final minutes of the second half, the first half ended with each team scoring in the final three minutes. Penn took advantage of a short field going 44 yards in just four plays to take its first lead of the game on a 31-yard Braccia pass to Shaw. On the next possession, the Ravens utilized a pass interference penalty on Penn to answer with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matthews to Micah Holdridge with 44 seconds left in the half.
On second-and-10 from its own 49 to start the fourth quarter, Penn put the ball in the hands of Beamish and he delivered to the tune of a 27-yard rush to put Penn in prime position to score. Beamish rushed three more times on the drive, his final carry bringing Penn to the one where Braccia would go on to score.
After Penn was forced to punt with 2:40 to play, the Ravens put together an 8-play, 81-yard drive to take the lead, 20-17, Matthews connecting with MacDonald on a 15-yard pass with 30 seconds to play. Matthews was 6-for-7 for 80 yards on the drive. Jack Miller came through with a big play on special teams for the Quakers, blocking the extra point - which ultimately led to Franklin Pierce needing a touchdown on its final drive instead of a field goal following Penn's final score.
Trailing by three, Braccia was incomplete to Nick Longtin on first down from Penn's 27. On second down, Braccia found Shaw who burst down field for the 73-yard winning touchdown. Franklin Pierce brought the kickoff out to its own 35, and had one shot to score with :01 remaining on the clock. Matthews was picked off by Anthony DiBella at the Penn 44 to deny any chance of more fireworks.
Mack Pierson had 10 tackles for Penn, making six solo stops. He had four tackles for loss, including one sack while forcing a fumble and breaking up one pass. DiBella had 10 tackles, two interceptions and one sack. As a team, Penn had 12 tackles for loss - including four sacks.
The Quakers are now 1-1 on the season, and will return to Franklin Field for the first time in the regular season on Oct. 5 against Mansfield at 7 p.m.
Download: Franklin Pierce Box Score.pdf