From the University of Pennsylvania’s record-setting 18-game Ivy winning streak to Yale’s few plays in the second half, this weekend’s game hinged on each team’s momentum.
The Bulldogs (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) were defeated by the Div. 1-AA No. 22 Quakers (5-1, 2-0 Ivy) 17-7 on Saturday before 17,737 spectators at the Yale Bowl. Just as in last weekend’s loss to Lehigh, the Elis played a strong first half but were unable to get into any rhythm after halftime because they rarely possessed the ball. With the score tied 7-7 at the half, the Quakers soon established a dominant running game driven by momentum. The loss not only drops the Bulldogs into a tie for fourth place with Brown, Columbia and Cornell in the Ivy League, but also removes them out of any serious contention for the Ivy championship.
“We didn’t convert some plays that we needed to convert,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “We made a big play and think, ‘Here we go,’ But we just don’t snowball. [The players] know we let one get away. We feel a little snake-bit.”
The Bulldogs ran only 17 plays during the 6:06 of their possession in the second half, making it difficult to accomplish anything offensively. On the first Yale possession of the second half, Robert Carr ’05 carried the ball twice, only to come up inches short of a first down. The Quakers got the ball after a long punt by Tyson Crawford ’05.
With the Bulldogs down by three points early in the third quarter, the defense stepped up. Defensive lineman Nick Campbell ’05 stopped Penn’s Sam Matthews from making a big run and cornerback Fred Jelks ’05 broke up a pass, forcing Penn to punt. Ashley Wright ’07 blocked the kick of the Quakers’ Josh Appell, one of the best punters in the Ancient Eight.
The Elis got the ball back on Penn’s 34-yard line, but again came up empty. The Quakers shut down the run and an incomplete pass set up fourth and 11. The Bulldogs tried to convert, but a false start brought them back five yards and forced Crawford to punt again.
On the third Eli possession, Carr could not find the success he had in the first half as the Quakers held on to force another three-and-out. Then, midway through the fourth quarter, it appeared that the pressure had forced the Elis to come alive. Momentum was building as quarterback Alvin Cowan ’05 connected with wide receiver Ralph Plumb ’05 three times for 52 yards, marching the Bulldogs down the field. However, after another long completion to Plumb, Penn’s Brad Martinez hit Plumb at the 15-yard line and forced a fumble.
“I was just inside man-to-man, and he tried to cut it back,” Martinez said. “I brought my hand in then. I was just going for the tackle, to be honest.”
This fumble, like the one last week against Lehigh, killed the Eli hopes for a comeback.
“You certainly can’t blame anybody but the guys out on the field,” Cowan said. “Mistakes are going to come back to haunt you against a team like Penn.”
Mistakes also kept the Bulldogs from generating any sustained success. From botched route-running to lining up in the wrong formations to 45 yards of penalties, the Bulldogs took themselves out of the game. Two 15-yard penalties kept the Elis from converting and continuing towards the end zone on long drives in the first half.
“When you aren’t clicking those [penalties] get magnified,” Siedlecki said. “We made some of the stupidest offensive mistakes since I’ve been here. We’re veteran guys; it’s just things you wouldn’t expect.”
Excitement did not have any adverse affects on the Quakers, though. Instead of making a lot of adjustments after the first half, Penn simply played tougher. Having only run the ball 15 times in the first half, the Quakers gave the ball to Matthews and Kyle Ambrogi 31 times in the second to dominate the clock and repeatedly move the chains. The Quakers finished with 27 first downs and 221 rushing yards compared to the Elis’ 12 first downs and 164 yards on the ground.
“I thought our kids played a fabulous second half,” Penn head coach Al Bagnoli said. “We really tried to ratchet up the pressure on offense and defense. We just never let them have enough momentum.”
The Quakers also beat the Bulldogs in the air. Pat McDermott completed 21 of 35 passes for 276 yards, finding Sam Castles eight times for 131 yards. Facing a passing and running threat, the Bulldog defense had a hard time getting settled enough to shut Penn down. But the Eli defense continued to make enough plays to keep Yale in the game.
“On defense I think we played our butts off,” Siedlecki said. “Our defense had to get tired. [Penn] ran 84 plays.”
Besides the interception and the blocked punt, the Bulldogs also had six tackles for losses including two sacks. Linebacker Ben Breunig ’05 again led the defense with 15 tackles, one of which was for a loss of two yards. Safety Matt Handlon ’05 had one sack in the first quarter for a loss of eight yards and defensive end Brandon Dyches ’05 had the other sack for a loss of 10. Despite these bright spots, the defense did not seem to be proud of its performance.
“We gave up a lot of third downs we should’ve stopped,” Harris said. “They [Penn] didn’t show anything different. They played their offense well.”
Cowan, Carr set new marks
Despite the loss, it was a milestone day for the Elis: Both Cowan and Carr broke school records. Cowan threw his 36th career touchdown pass to wide receiver Chandler Henley ’06, who made a spectacular diving catch in the end zone and rolled to come up with the ball. The pass broke the previous record for career touchdown passes held by Joe Walland ’01. Cowan finished the day 12 of 21 for a total of 149 yards.
In the first half, Carr was able to find holes in Penn’s defense to rush for 144 yards and break the record for career rushing yards. Carr’s 3,047 career yards place him ahead of Rashad Bartholomew ’01, who held the previous record with 3,015. Carr ended up with 167 yards rushing on 31 carries.
Both athletes wished that the new records had been set under different circumstances.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but in the middle of the game I was still trying to do things to win the game,” Carr said. “The way I look at it, it’s about the team. We were just trying to get a win.”
Siedlecki expressed similar sentiments.
“Records and things are for after the season but I congratulate them,” Siedlecki said. “They have done great things for our program. It’s too bad it came in a loss. That’s one of the most discouraging things. We are known as an offensive team and we haven’t done it lately.”
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