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Penn's Von Bryant scores on a 12-yard run.
Wide right! Penn Edges Princeton, 16-15
Princeton, NJ - A 41-yard FG attempt by Princeton PK Derek Javarone went wide right by about a foot with :23 seconds left to clinch a 16-15 win for the Penn Quakers (7-1,5-0) over Princeton (4-4, 2-3) to set up a showdown for the Ivy League title next week against the Crimson of Harvard (8-0, 5-0).
Punter Josh Appell pinned the Quakers on their own 3 after the Tiger’s first possession to give Princeton the early field position advantage. After forcing Penn to punt after three downs, punt returner Greg Fields (175 all-purpose yards, 90 yards on punt returns) gave the Tigers great field position at the Penn 12 yard line. Penn held though, and Princeton came away with only three points on PK Derek Javarone’s first FG on the day from 25 yards. On the ensuing kickoff return, Penn’s All-Ivy DB Duvol Thompson coughed up the ball, and Princeton had great field position again at the Penn 27. The Tigers threatened to advance into the end zone on a run by Fields who sidestepped a would-be tackler before fumbling away to the Quakers at the nine-yard line to relinquish a potential scoring opportunity. The Tiger defense baffled the Penn offense, however, and Penn punted away following three plays once again. Starting from their own 47, the Tigers prowled to the Quaker 15 where Javarone extended the Tiger lead, 6-0, with a 32-yard FG.
In Q2, Fields returned another punt return to the Quaker 27-yard line. The Quakers averted another Princeton scoring threat when LB Chad Slapnicka snagged a Matt Verbit bullet pass over his head in close range to give the Quakers the ball on their own 25-yard line. After several possession exchanges, Penn started from its own eleven late in the second period. The Quakers drove the length of the field finishing when RB Von Bryant followed his blocking around right end from the Princeton12-yard line to get the Quakers on the scoreboard for the first time. Zoch’s extra point gave Penn the lead 7-6 with 2:11 left in the half. The teams went into their respective locker rooms with that score.
Princeton introduced many of its Ivy League championship teams from various sports from women’s soccer to field hockey to baseball to Lacrosse to water polo! There seemed to be more people on the field than in the stands at the time where the crowd was announced to be 15,891. Guest Game Analysts Ken and Lisa Costa confirmed during their tailgate halftime break that more people seemed to be partying in the parking lot than in the seats of Princeton Stadium. The partying at Princeton was intense as police cars with lights flashing ended some of the festivities near the Penn alumni celebration at dusk after the game. Speaking of Penn alum, Leo D'Ulisse, a Wharton grad and CFF Guest Game Analyst, decided he’ll start a movement to change the name of the Penn “Quakers”. He just can’t fathom toughness, awe or fear by a bunch of football playing Quakers. Quakers represent love, peace and “brotherly love”, like the city of Philadelphia itself (talk about your oxymorons). Funny, Quakers seemed rather appropriate back in the 1970’s when Penn was the perennial Ivy League doormat, but that was before Leo’s affiliation. Hey Leo, how about the EarthQuakers? Anyway, you worry about it and let CFF know how your endeavor turns out. But, the Quakers must be a pretty tough religious group as they have decimated Lions, Tigers, Bruins and Bulldogs for a couple of decades now.
Princeton finally fully exploited a Penn mistake to begin the second half when NT Pat Kelly recovered a Quaker lateral at the 47 on Penn’s first possession. Princeton was finally able to convert to six when the speedy Greg Fields took it around the left side on a flanker around for a six-yard TD run. QB Matt Verbit (17 of 30 for 139 yards) tried for a two-point conversion over right tackle but was stopped short and the Tigers maintained a 12-7 lead. After exchanging punts, the Tigers were on the move again as they approached the Penn 16 as time expired in the third quarter.
Javarone kicked a 33-yard FG to begin the final period and gave Princeton a 15-7 lead. Penn’s offense woke up on its next series though to drive 66 yards as QB Pat McDermott (14 for 27 for 198 yards) found WR Gabe Marabella at the back of the end zone on a 19-yard TD pass. Penn’s two-point conversion came up empty as McDermott’s pass went through the hands of league-leading receiver Dan Castles. The Quakers trailed by two, 15-13, with 12:56 remaining. After a Princeton punt, Penn took over from its own 31. On a crucial third and ten from the same 31, the McDermott-Marabella connection came through again to gain a first down on a 15-yard pass play. The drive continued to the five-yard line where Zoch came in to attempt his short FG from the right hash mark. As the play started, whistles blew as the ball sailed wide right, but the dead ball infraction for illegal motion pushed the Quakers five yards back and gave Zoch a slightly better angle. The freshman from Kinnelon, NJ converted from 27 yards out and Penn took a 16-15 lead with 2:57 remaining in the game. Princeton’s hopes waned quickly as the Tigers faced a fourth and eight its own 22, but Verbit connected with Fields for a 16-yard pass play and a first down to keep the Tiger drive alive. Next, Verbit broke off a long run and a 15-yard penalty for an unsportsmanlike against the Quakers (see what Leo means – an unsportsmanlike Quaker?) put the Tigers on the Penn 20. RB Branden Bensen lost a yard on the next play but spotted the ball in the middle of the field to provide Javarone a FG attempt right down the middle, but on the next play, Bensen not only moved the ball back to the right hash mark, the play lost five yards as well. Two plays up the gut following the first play from the 19 may have only netted a few yards, but they would have maintained a dead-center FG attempt. The third play instead lost another yard and moved the ball only slightly back to center. Enter Javarone, 3 of 3 on the day with only 23 ticks left from 41. The ball lifted, high enough, long enough, but about one foot wide right from CFF’s end zone vantage point! Tigers fell in disbelief and jogged dejectedly off the field as the Quakers celebrated (another point well taken from Leo – picture the guy on the Quaker Oats box celebrating)! Penn not only maintained its eight-game winning streak against Princeton and its 20-game Ivy League winning streak, it set up a showdown next week for its third straight Ivy League Championship when the undefeated Harvard Crimson (8-0, 5-0) visit Franklin Field in Philly for the championship game of the Ivy League! CFF will probably change this week’s plans to get there because this is what college football in November is supposed to be all about. New Deck Tavern anyone?