Late Rally Not Enough in 28-17 Loss at Penn

Charles Cook. (photo by Jack Warhola)
Charles Cook. (photo by Jack Warhola)

Bulldogs Hurt by Four Turnovers

PHILADELPHIA – In a game where the two teams combined for seven turnovers, the Penn football team ultimately took more advantage of Yale's miscues. The Quakers thus came away with a 28-17 victory over the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field, holding off a late rally by Yale that included two touchdown throws from sophomore quarterback Morgan Roberts.

Roberts was starting for injured senior quarterback Henry Furman; the Bulldog offense also had to cope with injuries that sidelined the team's leading rusher (junior tailback Tyler Varga) and the receiver who was second on the team in catches entering the day (senior wide receiver Chris Smith). Roberts wound up throwing for 193 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while freshman tailback Candler Rich (20 carries, 97 yards) and junior wide receiver Grant Wallace (eight catches, 104 yards, one touchdown) helped fill some of the void left by the absence of those impact players.

Two of Yale's first five drives ended in fumbles, and one of those led to a Penn touchdown as the Quakers built a 14-3 lead in the first half.

"Fumbles aren't acceptable," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We spend countless hours on it in practice. It's the first thing we do. We're hurting ourselves that way."

Yale (3-3, 1-2 Ivy League) took advantage of the game's first turnover to go ahead 3-0. After sophomore strong safety Cole Champion recovered a fumble caused by junior linebacker William Vaughan at the Penn 27, junior punter/placekicker Kyle Cazzetta drilled a 32-yard field goal at 6:04 of the first.

The Quakers recovered a fumble on a Yale punt return at the Eli 33 late in the first. Two plays later, quarterback Ryan Becker found Kyle Wilcox -- listed as a defensive back but playing running back -- all alone on the left sideline after a play-action fake. Wilcox dashed into the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown that put the Quakers ahead 7-3 at 3:22 of the first.

Becker was starting in place of Billy Ragone, the Quakers' injured starting quarterback.

"Becker had been playing every week," said Reno. "When he's in there, their offense doesn't skip a beat. And Billy Ragone is a guy I have a ton of respect for."

The Yale defense came up with a stand to keep the score close early in the second quarter. Junior defensive back Charles Cook broke up a pass in the end zone on a Penn drive following a Yale fumble at the Penn 47, and two plays later the Quakers missed a field goal.

The Quakers eventually took advantage of an edge in field position to go ahead 14-3. After forcing the Bulldogs to punt from their own 13-yard line, Penn got the ball at the Yale 40. After converting a crucial fourth-and-one from the Yale 31 with a run, the Quakers went for the end zone. Becker lofted one down the right sideline, where it hit wide receiver Conner Scott in stride for the score with 56 seconds remaining in the half.

After Yale punted on its first drive of the second half, the Quakers went ahead 21-3 on a two-yard touchdown run by running back Spencer Kulcsar. The big play of the drive was a 42-yard completion from Becker to wide receiver Christian Stapleton, who made a leaping catch at the Yale 26 despite a pass interference call on the Bulldogs.

Yale's offense ended a 0-for-7 drought on third down conversions by getting one on a pass from Roberts to freshman wide receiver Myles Gaines on the second Eli possession of the third quarter. But later in the drive the Bulldogs came up empty on a third-down conversion and a fourth-down conversion from the Penn 30, giving the ball back to the Quakers.

On Penn's ensuing drive, a pass interference call in the end zone on Yale on a third-and-five pass from the six gave the Quakers a new set of downs at the Eli two. The Bulldogs stopped the first two tries, but on the third quarterback Adam Strouss kept it and tumbled into the end zone for a 28-3 Penn lead with 1:33 remaining in the third. The 11-play drive had taken more than six minutes off the clock.

Yale got its first touchdown of the day on the sixth play of the fourth quarter, as Roberts fired one to Wallace in the near corner of the end zone from six yards out. The Bulldogs missed the extra point, leaving the score at 28-9.

Senior defensive back Nick Okano recovered another Quaker fumble, this one caused by Champion at the Eli 25 with 9:05 left in regulation. That led to another Bulldog touchdown drive, culminating with Roberts zipping one to junior wide receiver Deon Randall in the end zone with 4:42 to play. A completion from Roberts to sophomore wide receiver Sebastian Little on the two-point conversion attempt pulled Yale within 28-17.

All told, 142 of Roberts' 193 passing yards came in the second half.

"He just kept grinding along," said Reno. "We were able to get a foothold in the fourth quarter. But at that point you're chasing so many points it's tough to come back."

The Bulldogs recovered the onside kick by freshman placekicker Bryan Holmes at the Penn 41 with 4:42 left. But a leaping interception by Quakers defensive back Sam Chwarzynski at the Penn 16 ended that drive after one play.

Yale drove to the Penn 23 with less than two minutes to play with help from 30 yards' worth of penalties from the Quakers. But an interception by Chwarzynski ended that drive and any chance of a comeback.

With the win, Penn (4-2, 3-0 Ivy League) keeps pace at the top of the Ivy League standings with Princeton, which moved to 3-0 with a 51-48 win in triple overtime at Harvard Saturday.

Yale returns to the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field Saturday to host Columbia.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity