Justin Watson stood front and center with his team, the Trustees Cup in his hands while the University of Pennsylvania’s band played its alma mater. He wore a beaming smile, and with good reason. He ended his Penn football career with a 29-22 win over Cornell at Franklin Field on Saturday afternoon, in which he solidified his place as the best wide receiver in school history.
Watson capped off his incredible Quakers career with an equally incredible 13 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t just the volume of the catches that were so incredible, but the weight of each of them. When the offense sputtered, Penn dialed up No. 5, and he answered the call every time.
“You get spoiled,” Penn head coach Ray Priore said of having Watson.
“There’s not a better human being around,” Priore added. “You combine that with work ethic, focus, determination, leadership and everything else, and some God-given skills, that’s pretty special.”
Perhaps the most important series of the game for Watson was his last one. Penn started at its 3, down 22-21. After two catches and a rush on the drive already, Watson laid out to catch a 34-yard pass from Nick Robinson with just over two minutes left that got the Quakers to Cornell’s 3-yard line. After Tre Soloman punched it in for a touchdown, Priore dialed up Watson for the two-point conversion, which he executed to perfection, to give Penn (6-4, 4-3 Ivy) the win.
“Down the stretch, he might have touched the ball every play,” Cornell head coach David Archer said. “I don’t know very many people in our league, or in the FCS, that can make some of the catches he made in this football game.”
Even after Watson and the offense gave Penn a lead with 2:06 left, Cornell (3-7, 3-4) drove down to the Quakers’ 1-yard line with under 15 seconds remaining. The Penn defense held strong for two plays to seal the win.
Watson finished his career at Penn with school career records in receptions (218), receiving yards (3,777), touchdowns (34) and all-purpose yards (4,116) and touchdowns in a season (14 this year).
“It’s been a blessing,” Watson said. “Penn and this football team has given me so much. … I’m just so happy I’ve been able to give back to this program for everything they’ve given to me.”
Watson walked off Franklin Field a winner in his career finale. So what’s next for the 6-foot-3, 210 pound senior?
“Hopefully, we’ll be watching him on Sunday soon,” Priore said with a smile.