The stage was set on Friday for the Yale football team: After starting 0–3, the Bulldogs gutted out a win over defending conference champion Dartmouth and put themselves in a position to beat Penn to seize second-place in the Ivy League standings. Yet it was the Quakers who had the last laugh once the curtains closed, serving the Bulldogs a 42–7 defeat under the lights at the Yale Bowl.
The Penn (4–2, 3–0 Ivy) offense imposed its will on Yale (1–5, 1–2) through the air and on the ground. Quaker quarterback Alek Torgersen threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns, while top wideout Justin Watson reeled in three of those touchdowns along with a career-high 166 yards. Penn running back Tre Solomon, who entered the game leading the league in rushing, added 120 yards on the ground in addition to 66 from Torgersen.
Yale’s attack followed the same formula as in weeks past. The run game was bolstered by 118 yards from Alan Lamar ’20, but quarterback Tre Moore ’19 struggled to connect with his receivers, totaling just 93 passing yards along with a touchdown and two turnovers. Moore was not helped by a poor performance from his receivers, who dropped a number of on-target balls.
“We knew [Penn was] a really good team and we’d have to stay with them,” head coach Tony Reno said. “At times we did and at times we didn’t. We have to work to get better as a football team.”
While the Bulldog offense managed just seven points, the game was undoubtedly lost on the defensive side of the line. Torgersen, an Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year favorite, fired the ball all over the field with impressive accuracy in the first half, and Watson ran around and behind the Eli secondary with ease. Penn attempted just six passes in the second half, two of which came courtesy of Torgersen’s backup, Michael Collins, as the senior sat during the entire fourth quarter.
Complementing Solomon’s 120-yard game, Torgersen contributed just as many problems in the run game as in the passing game. The quarterback did not rush for fewer than four yards on any attempt, and kept the struggling Bulldog defense on the field by scampering for two third-down conversions in the first half.
“They came in and stuck to their game plan and we had to make a few adjustments,” captain and linebacker Darius Manora ’17 said. “We didn’t play well and needed to tackle better. They executed their plays and we didn’t execute ours.”
The Elis entered the game with the top rushing offense in the Ivy League. Although the unit saw some success against Penn, it did not dominate as it recently had against Dartmouth and Fordham. Moore contributed just four rushing yards from the quarterback position and Dale Harris ’17 played mostly at cornerback, getting only three carries on offense.
Lamar kept the running game afloat in his return from injury, rushing for 118 yards to reprise his 180-yard performance in the Dartmouth game two weekends ago. The freshman shouldered the load without his usual ensemble in the backfield — in addition to Harris playing mostly defense, backs Deshawn Salter ’18 and Candler Rich ’17 both missed the game due to injury.
“I wasn’t cleared until the end of the week,” Lamar said. “I just took it as I was going to play so I just worked hard all week and went from there.”
Moore completed just 13 of 30 passes in the pocket, with his longest going for just 13 yards. The sophomore also fumbled on a run on the opening drive and threw an interception three series later. Penn scored touchdowns on both possessions following Moore’s early turnovers.
In what seemed to be the prologue to another quarterback controversy, Moore was benched for a series in the second quarter after his interception, with quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 assuming the spotlight under center. The freshman assembled a middling 14-yard drive that resulted in a punt, and Moore returned the next drive with noticeable uptick in accuracy.
“I just wanted to give Tre a break,” Reno said. “Things were going really fast, and at every other position you can give a guy a break when they need it. We’ve done that before with Morgan Roberts ’16 and we did it today with Tre.”
Struggles in the passing game cannot rest solely on Moore’s shoulders, as young receivers, playing instead of an injured Christopher Williams-Lopez ’18, dropped several potential first-down passes.
Yale’s late touchdown ensured that the team narrowly avoided tying the worst home loss in its history on Friday, faring slightly barely better than in its 42-point losses to UConn in 1998 and to Colgate in this year’s season opener. The Elis will look for a better result under Friday night lights next week as they travel to Columbia for a 7 p.m. clash.