Running back Karekin Brooks continued his explosive senior season with a career-high four total touchdowns, leading the Penn Quakers to a 38-24 victory over the Sacred Heart Pioneers on Saturday afternoon.
The senior running back from Georgia ran for 178 yards on 28 carries and had three scores. He also added two receptions and a highlight reel receiving touchdown.
“It feels good,” Brooks said with a laugh when reminded of his four-touchdown stat line. “I’m just happy we came out and got the win. Whatever it takes to get the win, I’m down to do that.”
This season, Brooks currently leads the FCS in rushing yards per game (157.3), despite the Quakers only playing four games.
The senior has established himself as one of the greatest running backs in school history, currently ranked sixth all-time in both rushing yards and touchdowns and tenth in all-purpose yards.
“He’s humble and one of the hardest-working players on the team,” Quakers head coach Ray Priore said. “He has great patience as a running back. When he decides to put his foot in the ground and go, he goes. He’s a weapon.”
Nevertheless, Brooks still had an explosive day behind a shuffled Quakers’ offensive line, which was missing injured senior left tackle Greg Begnoche.
With Begnoche unavailable to play, right tackle Dan Beaver moved to left tackle, center Trevor Radosevich moved to right tackle, left guard Ace Escobedo moved to center, and Joe Basiura started at left guard.
Out of all the starting offensive linemen, Escobedo had the most notable adjustment to make in Penn’s shotgun-based offense.
Aside from one crucial red-zone snap, which was recovered by Sacred Heart for a touchdown. He snapped the football well on Saturday.
The offensive line also allowed senior quarterback Nick Robinson to have another efficient performance under center.
Robinson had a slight dip from his normally high completion percentage (69.3). But he did not turn the ball over and manufactured multiple scoring drives for the Quakers, thanks to chunk plays.
Robinson ultimately completed 48.8-percent of his passes for 267 yards and two scores against the Pioneers.
On the other side of the ball, the Quakers had one of their best games of the season defensively. Penn’s defense only allowed Sacred Heart’s offense to score two touchdowns and convert a 30-yard field goal.
Penn also recorded two crucial interceptions against Pioneers quarterback Logan Marchi, including a game clincher from senior defensive back Sam Philippi in the fourth quarter.
The Quakers will now enter the heart of their regular schedule with only Ivy League matchups remaining. Penn finished non-conference play with a record of 2-1, including a one-point loss to nationally ranked Delaware.
Next week, Penn will travel to New York City to take on the Columbia Lions and legendary Quakers head coach Al Bagnoli. Bagnoli was the head coach at Penn from 1992-2014 and led the Quakers to nine Ivy League Championships.
Ray Priore joined Penn’s coaching staff in 1987 as the linebackers coach and remained on the Quakers’ staff for the entirety of Bagnoli’s tenure at Penn.
Priore eventually progressed from a position coach and was Penn’s defensive coordinator from 1998-2014. He became the head coach when Bagnoli left Penn.
Despite not working together anymore, the two coaches have remained close friends. Priore talked about their friendship at Ivy League media day in August.
“We are dear friends. I was very fortunate that he hired me on his staff and that I worked for him for twenty plus years. Coach Bagnoli is so wise to the sport. He had his eye on recruiting and so many different things.”
“He still has a house in South Jersey, and we live about 500 yards from each other. We never get a chance to see each other because we’re always doing different things.” Priore said.
They will be doing different things on different sidelines next weekend, but the two old pals will have another five minutes to catch up during pregame warm-ups next Saturday in NYC.