Though it may have been the 1,400th game played by the Quakers in their history, they were focused only on a first on Saturday. Penn entered its game with Brown at Franklin Field still searching for its first Ivy League win of the season.
The Quakers got it, eking out a 38-36 victory on a field goal at the finish by sophomore Daniel Karrash after Brown (1-5, 1-3 Ivy) had rallied to take a 36-35 lead.
“That’s life, right?” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “You have those highs, and you get down to the lows. You just have to keep on swinging and don’t stop.”
Penn (3-4, 1-3) began the game at a disadvantage. The Quakers were without star running back Karekin Brooks, who missed the fourth quarter against Yale last Saturday and, despite dressing, was kept on the sideline. Without the game-breaking Brooks, the offense was going to have to find success through the air.
After falling behind, 7-0, in the first quarter, Penn was able to take advantage of Brown’s FCS-worst passing defense in the second. Senior quarterback Nick Robinson peppered sophomore receiver Ryan Cragun with targets on a drive that ended when senior running back Abe Willows punched in from the 2-yard line to even the score at 7-7.
Penn’s defense forced a fumble and set the offense up at Brown’s 25. After a 12-yard reception by Cragun brought Penn to the doorstep, Willows struck again from the 8 to give Penn its first lead, 14-7.
Brown’s dual-threat quarterback, E.J. Perry, just wouldn’t go away. The FCS leader in individual total offense per game caused the Quakers fits while rushing for two touchdowns and adding another through the air with just 19 seconds left in the first half to cut Penn’s lead to 21-19.
“You don’t coach a lot of players like him,” Brown coach James Perry said. “He helps us a lot. He is such a great practicer, just a great kid. It is truly fun for me to see him get better every week.”
The Penn defense came up big to start the second half. Senior linebacker Brian O’Neill grabbed> an interception that set up a Rory Starkey touchdown reception and then brought the ball into the end zone himself on a fumble to stretch Penn’s lead to 35-19.
“We always talk about momentum,” O’Neill said. “Big plays, big turnovers like that really change the momentum of the game.”
However, Perry and Brown stormed all the way back. After chipping away throughout the third quarter, Perry found his way into the end zone in the fourth for his third rushing touchdown of the game, vaulting the Bears in front, 36-35.
It came down to fourth down on Penn’s final drive. With a little more than two minutes left, Robinson made a clutch throw on the run to hit Cragun 21 yards downfield to set up Penn in field-goal range. After a couple of rushes brought Penn to the goal line, it came down to the leg of Karrash, who would be making his first career collegiate field-goal attempt.
“I feel like everyone puts in too much work to miss that,” Karrash said. “I was just trying to stay composed. I have faith in my guys up front blocking. Just trying to hit a good ball through the uprights.”