PHILADELPHIA –The University of Pennsylvaniasprint football team won its eighth consecutive home opener with a 36-19 victory over Cornell, blowing open a two-point game with 16 consecutive points.
The win improves the Quakers to 2-0 in 2014, marking the first 2-0 start to a season since the 2010 campaign.
The offensive numbers with similar for both sides, with Penn gaining 394 total yards of offense to 342 for the Big Red. The difference, though, was big plays.
Penn’s defense picked off Cornell quarterback Rob Pannullo twice and added a fumble recovery touchdown to stymie Cornell’s fast-paced attack and force the Big Red to abandon the run game. While the Big Red finished with 238 yards of rushing, over two-thirds of that came in the first half while the game was within reach.
Mike Beamish was a workhorse for the Quakers in the backfield, carrying the ball 26 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns. His longest run of the game was a 50-yarder in the first quarter which set up first and goal from the six. Three plays later, Charles Cato burst through the line and into the end zone from two yards out for Penn’s first touchdown of the game.
The Cato score settled the Quakers down after Cornell marched 59 yards on nine plays to open the game on the first drive with a touchdown. After the Benjamin Herrera two yard touchdown, Penn outscored the Big Red, 36-11.
Big plays were a big part of the Penn attack. In addition to Beamish’s 50-yard run, Mario del Cueto had two catches of over 30 yards – including a 34-yard diving catch into the endzone to give Penn a 13-8 lead early in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, Jack Epstein scurried for 56 yards – most of them after the catch – to set up Penn’s final touchdown of the game after the Big Red had closed within 10 points at the 6:05 mark.
What was cleverly managed by the Quakers was the fact that despite the big plays, the offense still orchestrated long scoring drives to wear down the Big Red. In the second half, all three of Penn’s scoring drives were seven or more plays and each chewed up over four minutes of clock. The longest was an 11-play, 69-yard drive which culminated in a 22-yard Mike McCurdy field goal to give Penn a 22-11 lead with 0:34 left in the third quarter.
Cornell, on the other hand, had six drives stall out either via turnover or a turnover on downs. The crucial sequence for the Big Red saw Robert Diorio pick up a Pannullo fumble – forced by Derek Shnider – and return it 38 yards for a touchdown to put Penn up 19-11 with 4:43 left in the first half. Just 0:43 later, Garrett Breedon intercepted Pannullo at the Penn 10-yard line to deny a Cornell big play.
Defensively, Chris Colavita lead all players with 13 total tackles, including a game-high 10 solo stops. It was Robert Diorio, however, who had the biggest impact defensively. Five of his seven tackles were solo stops, and he added an interception and a 10-yard sack to his fumbler return for a touchdown. Jose Nino Domond deflected two balls at the line of scrimmage – the second leading to Diorio’s interception.
The Quakers return to action October 4 against Navy at Franklin Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Game Notes: Mike Beamish’s 149 yards give him 2,235 for his career and move him into third place all-time on Penn’s career rushing yardage list … Up next is Mike Bagnoli (2007-10) who ran for 2,693 … Mike McCurdy’s 213 yards passing were the 28th most in a single game in Penn history … The 36 points scored against Cornell is the most by the Quakers since a 41-3 win on 10/26/01.