At Saturday’s post-game press conference there was not much else Yale coach Jack Siedlecki could say following his Bulldogs’ loss to the Ivy League-leading University of Pennsylvania Quakers.
“They made the big plays,” Siedlecki said. “They have big-time players.”
While the game was supposed to showcase two nationally-ranked Division I-AA defensive units — Yale’s ninth-ranked pass defense and Penn’s second-ranked rush defense — only Penn’s unit showed up, limiting running back Robert Carr ’05 and company to a total of 40 yards on 26 carries.
Instead, it was a day for Penn’s offensive stars to shine with big plays, some trickery, and the benefit of a key Yale penalty.
After running back David Knox ’06 returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and the Bulldog defense recovered a Penn fumble on the subsequent possession, the Bulldogs’ early momentum faded away in the second quarter after punter Chandler Henley’s ’06 second punt.
The Quakers collected Henley’s second punt at the Yale 44-yard line. On the next play, Penn’s first of the series, quarterback Mike Mitchell pitched the ball to wide receiver Joe Phillips. Phillips surprised the Yale defensive secondary and found wide receiver Erik Bolinder for a touchdown, giving the Quakers a 14-7 lead which they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
The successful flea-flicker brought the Quakers out of their first quarter slumber and was Penn’s first big play of the game.
Little did the Elis know it would be one of many.
Penn scored to open the second half with a methodical 10-play, 67-yard drive that included two big plays which seemingly set the tone for the rest of the game. On the verge of having to punt, the Quakers converted on third and 25 when Yale defensive back Don Davis ’03 was called for a questionable pass interference penalty. Four plays later, the drive stayed alive when, on fourth and five from the Yale 28, Mitchell found star receiver Rob Milanese for a 20-yard gain.
A touchdown followed two plays later and the momentum was squarely on the Quaker side of the field. It was the first of three scores on three successive third quarter possessions for Penn — a period in which Yale was outscored 17-3 and the Quakers took the game out of the Elis’ reach.
Mitchell picked apart the beleaguered Yale defense with pin-point accuracy, completing two-thirds of his passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns on the afternoon. His favorite receiver, Milanese, ran and caught at will against the Bulldogs’ outmatched secondary — to the tune of 12 receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
“They have a couple of outstanding players who had a hell of a day, and we didn’t have a lot of answers for them,” said Siedlecki.
With Columbia coming to town next week, the defense, most assuredly, will need to find a way to stifle their opponents’ big play potential and prevent a momentum swing that parallels Saturday’s debacle.