Courtesy of Jack Warhola
Facing Penn under the lights of Franklin Field, the Yale football team dimmed the Quakers’ hopes for a share of the Ivy crown while keeping its own championship aspirations alive.
The Bulldogs (4–2, 2–1 Ivy) began the second half of their 2018 campaign, which features five games against conference opponents, with a road trip after three straight weeks at the Yale Bowl. Team 146 dominated Penn (4–2, 1–2) with a strong offensive showing led by quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20, who exited the contest with an undisclosed leg injury in the third quarter, amplified by the ground gains of running back Alan Lamar ’20. Despite the Quakers holding Yale to just 23 points, the Eli defense posted its best showing yet to secure a comfortable 23–10 win.
“We were just physical,” linebacker Noah Pope ’22 said. “We were physical to the ball, being the more physical team, and you could see that. I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time to make big plays. Honestly, we were just the more physical team up front, and it allowed us to be able to mix our plays.”
The Bulldog offense, rejuvenated from last week’s triumph over Mercer, got off to a hot start on the first play of the game. Lamar burst through a hole in the offensive line for a 47-yard gain, bringing the Elis deep into enemy territory. After a completion to wideout Reed Klubnik ’20 on the sideline, Rawlings ran into the endzone for the first score of the game.
Lamar, who catalyzed the first offensive series, continued to rack up yards between the tackles. After the Quakers settled for a field goal on the next series, the tailback, who has re-emerged as Yale’s primary ball carrier while Zane Dudek ’21 has been sidelined by injury, broke through the line again and sprinted to the endzone on another huge 47-yard rush. Lamar sat out the entirety of last season due to a torn ACL but finished the day with 24 carries totaling 179 yards, just one short of his career-best performance.
In the passing game, the dependable trio of Rawlings, Klubnik and wide receiver JP Shohfi ’20 complemented Lamar’s gains on the ground. The junior wideouts each contributed six receptions, bringing their combined total receiving yards to 1,070 of the squad’s 1,693 in 2018.
The graduation of several key starters on the defense from Team 145 last spring left major concerns about the state of Yale’s young defenders coming into this year. But the Eli defense came up big against Penn. Stingy against the ground game, the Bulldogs shattered any of the Quakers’ hopes of running the ball by limiting Penn to a measly 14 total rushing yards through the entire contest, compared to Yale’s 244, and forced Quaker quarterback Ryan Glover to make plays through the air in order to move the ball downfield. Running back Karekin Brooks had previously emerged as a critical offensive weapon for Penn with 535 yards and seven touchdowns on the season, but he was limited by Yale to a paltry nine yards rushing.
“I was very proud of the defense,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Our defense is very young with one senior on the team. We’re young in the secondary. We’re young everywhere. We’re growing as a defense. For them to have those [defensive] holds was very important for their growth as a unit.”
To conclude a scoreless second quarter, Lamar bowered up the middle near the goal line to extend Yale’s lead to 21–3, the most comfortable margin the Elis enjoyed throughout the contest.
But the game’s second half almost immediately presented the Elis with a challenge. On Team 146’s first possession of the half, Rawlings was injured on a run in which he scrambled for a first down at Penn’s nine-yard line. The junior, who started every game last season to guide Team 145 to the Ivy Championship, needed to be helped off the field and did not return. Fellow signal caller Jimmy Check ’21 stepped in and found Klubnik at the Quakers’ one-yard line. But on the fourth-and-goal play for Yale, the Quakers recovered a Lamar fumble and converted the takeaway into points by driving 99 yards in 12 plays capped off by a touchdown to receiver Steve Farrell.
Penn’s seizure of that opportunity did not translate to a shift in momentum for the rest of the contest. Check managed the game for the Elis to bleed the clock, but Yale scored its only points of the second half after a botched snap forced Glover to fall on the ball in his own end zone, resulting in a Yale safety to extend Team 146’s lead by a pair of points.
The Elis’ longest drive of the fourth quarter was just 36 yards, but the defense produced crucial plays to hold off the Quakers, who averaged a starting field position around their own nine-yard line in the final frame. Backed up, Glover attempted nine passes and completed just three as his team failed to score any points. He was also sacked three times in the game by the Bulldogs, who walked away with the 23–10 win and improved their league record to 2–1. With three weeks of Ivy play in the books, just two teams, Princeton and Dartmouth, remain undefeated.
“It’s always a great feeling to win, especially in the Ivy League, since every game is like a playoff here,” Lamar said. “To come here and pull out a win and further our chances in the Ivy League race is a great feeling.”
Columbia, the Elis’ next opponent, remains winless in Ivy play and will host Yale on Saturday.
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