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Penn Squeaks By Leopards in Closing Minutes

Sept. 18, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - A lengthy late drive by the Penn offense sealed a 19-14 decision over Lafayette on Saturday night at Franklin Field, snapping a three-game win streak for the Leopards in a series that dates back to 1882.

Penn's 14-play, 75-yard late in the fourth quarter ended with a 12-yard run by Lyle Marsh. The two-point conversion failed and the Leopards were left with 6:21 on the clock.

In a surprise move, Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani called on junior QB Ryan O'Neil to take over the Leopards' offense. O'Neil who was on crutches early in the week, after being knocked from the season opener with a knee injury was not expected to play Saturday night.

O'Neil completed three passes and the Leopards were moving the ball. Lafayette faced a 4th-and-1 at the Penn 46-yard line. After a timeout, the Leopards came out in their short-yardage package. O'Neil handed off up the middle to sophomore Vaughn Hebron, but he was stopped short by a host of Penn defensive lineman.

Penn took over on downs with 4:07 left. As it did for most of the game, the Lafayette defense held its ground and forced a punt. Lafayette took over with 2:26. The drive ended when O'Neil was picked off by Josh Powers with 2:26 left.

The Leopards did have one last gasp, when Penn returned the turnover favor on a Billy Ragone fumble. Lafayette took over with 1:12 left. Eleven-yard completions to Mitchell Bennett and Mark Layton moved the chains to the Penn 38-yard line with seconds left on the clock. On the Leopards' final play, a hook and ladder, the game ended with O'Neil finding Layton who pitched to Hayes before Hebron was knocked out of bounds.

In the first half, the Leopards had just one first down on offense, but defense and special teams' took care of the scoreboard side of things, giving Lafayette a 14-6 lead at halftime.

Trailing 3-0 minutes into the second quarter, Lafayette pinned Penn deep in its own end. The Leopards' Ben Eaton blocked the Penn punt after a bungled snap and Kyni Scott was there to recover in the end zone for the 7-3 lead.

A minute and a half later, the Lafayette defense took its turn. Kyvory Henderson deflected a Ryan Becker pass on his rush. Mike Phillips collected it and lumbered 25 yards for the touchdown of his football career.

Penn cut its deficit to 14-6 following a 14-play, 71-yard drive that ended with Andrew Samson's 36-yard field goal.

In the second half, Penn moved within one, 14-13, nine minutes into the third quarter. The Quakers face a 3rd-and-goal at the five-yard line when Ragone hit Matt Tuten in the corner of the end zone.

For the game, the Lafayette defense held tough while being forced to be on the field for long stretches. Penn held the ball for 37:44 compared to 22:16 for the Leopards. Mike Schmidlein had a game-high 11 tackles followed by Doug Gerowski with nine and Kyle Simmons with eight. For Penn, Jon Saelinger had a career game with three picks.

Penn used ground attack that churned out 243 yards with six backs carrying for 25-plus yards. Lyle Marsh led the way with 68 yards on 14 carries. Penn had 392 yards of total offense to 168 for Lafayette and enjoyed a 243-19 disparity on the ground.

The Leopards (0-2) return to action with the second of four straight Ivy League foes on Sept. 25 at Princeton (0-1).

Kyni Scott served as the special teams' captain for the game after his stellar play at Georgetown.

Lafayette is 0-2 for the first time since 2001.

Penn senior quarterback Keiffer Garton did not dress for the Quakers, recovering from an ACL injury sustained last season. Billy Ragone and Kyle Becker split time with Ragone seeing the majority of the second half.

In the last four games of the series, the average margin of victory has been four points. Lafayette won 8-7 in 2007, 24-17 in 2008, 20-17 in overtime in 2009.

The win was the 800th in the history of the Penn program, joining Yale and Harvard in that club at the FCS level.