University of Pennsylvania: Quakers claw back versus Colgate

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One of the looming questions for the Penn football team entering this season has been the play of its quarterback, the Achilles’ heel of last year’s squad.

After the Quakers’ first drive of the 2022 season on Saturday against Colgate at Franklin Field, there seemed to be cause for concern. Following two short completions to junior wide receiver Joshua Casilli, sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin threw an interception, which gave Colgate possession near midfield. The Raiders were able to capitalize and turn the turnover into a 44-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Penn responded with a 16-play, 72-yard drive, which resulted in their own field goal, a 19-yarder by junior kicker Graham Gotlieb that tied the game up at 3-3 at the end of the first quarter.

A second field goal gave Colgate a 6-3 advantage with around a minute left in the second quarter. The Quakers fielded the ball at their own 25-yard line with 1:29 on the clock. On 2nd-and-10 from the Penn 45, Sayin’s pass was intercepted by Colgate defensive back Marquis Cooper and returned 68 yards for a touchdown. The Raiders were successful with the two-point conversion and entered halftime ahead 14-3.

President Liz Magill does the coin toss before the Penn vs. Colgate football game on Saturday at Franklin Field. (Image: Hunter Martin)
The second half was a different story.

Penn received the kickoff and proceeded to go on a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a one-yard touchdown pass from Sayin to senior wide receiver Rory Starkey, Jr. The extra point was unsuccessful, and the score stood at Colgate 14, Penn 9.

On the ensuing drive, the Red & Blue’s defense forced a three-and-out, and the Quakers set up shop at their own 45-yard line. Three completions by Sayin moved Penn to the Colgate eight-yard line. Senior running back Trey Flowers scored on an eight-yard run. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the Red & Blue took a 15-14 lead.

The Quaker defense continued to obstruct Colgate’s offense, forcing another three-and-out and stopping them deep inside their own territory on successive drives.

Starting at their own 32 at the end of the third, Sayin completed four straight passes to advance Penn to the Colgate 25. A pass interference penalty gave the Quakers first-and-goal from the nine-yard line and, after a one-yard loss, Sayin connected with senior running back Jonathan Mulatu for a 10-yard score. The Red & Blue’s lead increased to 22-14.

A 54-yard pass on Colgate’s next drive gave them the ball at Penn’s 35-yard line and put them in position to tie the game. But the Quakers’ defense stayed stout, holding the Raiders to zero points and causing a turnover on downs.

With possession of the ball and 8:02 left in the game, Penn gave the ball to Flowers and told him to do one thing—eat up clock—which he did. The Red & Blue fed him the ball seven plays in a row and ate up 6:35. Gotlieb’s 24-yard field goal with 1:27 on the clock sealed the win.

Sayin finished 31-44 for 289 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Flowers had 19 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. Casilli had 10 catches for 60 yards. Starkey, Jr. had six catches for 50 yards and one touchdown. Senior linebacker Jake Heimlicher had five tackles, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, and two sacks.

The Quakers take on Lafayette, also in the Patriot League, on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Franklin Field.

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