In the last two minutes of Saturday’s game, with Yale trailing 27-10, Jordan Forney ’11 hauled in a touchdown reception, safety Adam Money ’11 recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Phillipe Panico ’13 converted his second field goal of the contest. But those scores only brought Yale within a touchdown of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. The hope for one last score evaporated when a second onside kick sailed out of bounds with 13 seconds left in the game.
After quarterback Billy Ragone took a knee, the Quakers (5-1, 3-0 Ivy) walked off the field at the Yale Bowl with a 27-20 victory over the Elis (4-2, 2-1) in a game that looked much less close than the its score. Penn shut down the Yale rushing attack for most of the game, and capitalized on a trio of late Eli turnovers to build a lead that stood against the Bulldogs until the waning minutes of the game.
After a first quarter in which the Yale defense held Penn scoreless and a Phillipe Panico ’13 field goal gave the Elis an early lead, the Quakers came to life. Quarterback Ryan Becker capped a 12-play, 87-yard drive with a touchdown strike to running back Jeff Jack. Senior kicker Andrew Samson missed the first field goal attempt of his collegiate career, but Penn never looked back from its 6-3 lead.
The Quakers shut Yale down for the rest of the half with their defense and special teams. They preserved the momentum from their touchdown when they recovered a surprise onside kick. Although the Eli defense held strong on the ensuing drive, the offense could do little when they finally did take over, and managed -4 yards on three plays.
Greg Carlsen ’14 lined up to punt after that three-and-out, and sent a line drive to Quakers returner Bradford Blackmon, who carried the kick, untouched, into the end zone.
There remained more than four minutes in the half for Yale to narrow the 13-3 deficit. Though the Elis’ next drive ended in a punt, Money gave the offense another chance when he intercepted a pass from Penn’s Billy Ragone at the Quakers’ own 38-yard line.
But, three flags later, Yale faced a 2nd and 35, and eventually punted. Penn’s strong defensive line had held them to seven yards on 13 carries rushing. Despite the efforts of quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 – who finished with 34 completions on 54 attempts for 331 yards and two touchdowns– the one-dimensional attack had not been able to find the end zone.
The Bulldog attack continued to struggle in the second half. Witt lost a dropped snap, and Penn fullback Luke DeLuca’s 1-yard touchdown dive made the score 20-3 at the end of the third quarter.
But the Elis held on to hope. Witt took advantage of two pass interference calls against Penn and found Allen Harris ’13 for a two-yard touchdown catch – the sophomore’s first – only 10 seconds into the fourth quarter. When Samson missed a field goal on the next Quaker drive, the Bulldogs had a chance to pull within a score.
Then Penn defensive lineman Brandon Copeland caught his own deflection of a Witt screen pass deep in Yale territory. One and a half minutes later, DeLuca dove into the end zone again, and Penn took the 27-10 lead that the Elis desperately and unsuccessfully tried to make up at the very end of the quarter.
Yale had its entire opening day offense on the field for the first time in three weeks, as Witt, running back Alex Thomas ’12, center Jake Koury ’11 and tackle Gabe Fernandez ’12 returned from injury. But Penn’s ferocious rush defense and early lead forced Witt into risky passes, and the Yale defense – despite two interceptions of its own – could not carry the game.
Yale faces Columbia, which has also lost to Penn this year, next Saturday in the Yale Bowl.