The University of Pennsylvania’s defensive line is regarded as the best in the Ivy League.
Yale quarterback Peter Lee ’02 found that out the painful way.
Lee was sacked 10 times and hit and hurried at least a dozen more as Penn’s (5-0, 3-0 Ivy) defense dominated the line of scrimmage en route to a 21-3 battering of the Elis (3-2, 1-2) Saturday in Philadelphia. The Bulldogs only managed a first quarter field goal in being held without a touchdown for the first time in 36 games, a streak dating back nearly four seasons.
The loss, Yale’s second in Ancient Eight play, effectively dropped the Elis out of the running for the Ivy League title.
The Penn defense, led by All-Ivy defensive tackle John Galan (8 tackles, 3.5 sacks), terrorized Lee in the pocket all day long with relentless blitzing that overwhelmed the Yale offense.
When the Quakers were not sacking Lee, they hurried the senior quarterback, flushing him out of the pocket and causing him to make inaccurate throws.
“We ran the blitz to perfection,” Galan said. “Our [defensive backs] had great coverage. [Lee] looks down the field, he doesn’t have anyone to throw to. Bam — there’s a sack.”
One such sack proved especially devastating to the Elis.
Early in the second quarter, Galan and linebacker Steve Lhotak sandwiched Lee and caused him to fumble. Penn safety Kunle Williams picked up the ball and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 Quaker lead.
It was Lee’s first turnover of the year in one of the most forgettable games of his Yale career. Though Lee managed to throw for 245 yards, he completed only 19 of the 44 passes he attempted.
But Lee was not the only Eli who struggled against Penn — Yale’s running backs were equally frustrated.
The Elis — who ran for over 200 yards in each of their previous two games — rushed for minus-19 yards against Penn. The 65 yards lost on sacks skew that number, but the Eli running game still managed only 45 positive yards against the Quakers’ punishing run defense, which is ranked second in Division I-AA.
“It starts with the defensive line,” Quaker linebacker Travis Belden said. “[We] control the line of scrimmage, and [then] we control the game.”
The Bulldogs did not lack scoring chances. Five times Yale took control of the ball within 60 yards of the end zone, but five times the Bulldogs failed to get into the red zone.
When Lee was able to get off a throw, the results were not much better — a few of his passes missed their targets, and another handful were dropped by his receivers.
“We are going to watch the film [Sunday] and it’s going to be one of those would’ve, should’ve, could’ve games,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said.
Yale’s offensive woes were contrasted by one of the best defensive performances the Bulldogs have delivered this season.
The Eli pass rush sacked Penn quarterback Gavin Hoffman seven times for a loss of 61 yards. Yale also limited Penn running back Kris Ryan to 79 yards on 29 carries, the first time he was held under 125 yards all season.
“Our defense played a tremendous game,” Siedlecki said. “If a team scores only two touchdowns on [our defense], we should win.”
The Bulldogs received the ball to open the game and advanced deep into Penn territory. A fake punt that resulted in a 36-yard completion from third-string quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04 to wide receiver Billy Brown ’02 highlighted the drive. The Elis reached the Penn 5-yard line before settling for a 25-yard Justin Davis ’02 field goal.
Penn responded with a 73-yard drive of its own that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Ryan.
The Quakers increased their 7-3 advantage with Williams’ fumble return for a touchdown early in the second quarter. They then capped off the first half with a 91-yard drive that ended in another Ryan scoring run and a 21-3 Penn lead.