Oct. 25, 2003
A 21-point fourth-quarter comeback by Yale wound up going for naught, as the Penn Quakers rebounded to win 34-31 in overtime at Franklin Field. The Bulldogs had trailed 24-3 entering the final quarter but reeled off four touchdowns to bring about the first overtime contest in school history.
The Elis' fourth-quarter magic contrasted greatly with their first-half struggles. Yale got one first down on its first possession but could not move the ball past its own 33 and had to punt. An 18-yard return by Adam Francks set the Quakers up at their own 43, and they quickly made their way down the field. Runs of 17 and 10 yards by tailback Sam Matthews proved to be key, and fullback Kevin DeSmedt finished the drive by punching the ball in on third-and-goal from the one.
The Bulldogs then hurt themselves with two interceptions, the second of which came when a wide-open tight end Nate Lawrie juggled the ball into the waiting arms of Penn defensive back Bryan Arguello at the Quaker 48. The Bulldog defense held firm after each turnover, though, including an open-field tackle by defensive back Greg Owens on Matthews to keep him short of a first down and eventually force a punt. That set up a 12-play, 72-yard Bulldog drive that featured runs of 20 and 17 yards by tailback Robert Carr. It ended with a 41-yard field goal by John Troost with 12:23 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs got one back in the turnover battle when defensive back Andrew Butler picked up a fumble by Penn receiver Dan Castles at the Eli 29, but the offense picked up just 18 yards and had to punt. That gave Penn a chance to start pulling away before halftime. The Quakers drove from their own 22 to the Eli 45, and from there got a leaping grab by Castles over the middle that he took all the way to the 11. On the next play, quarterback Mike Mitchell hit receiver Kevin Barr in the endzone for a 14-3 lead with 3:59 left in the half. When Yale went three-and-out on its next drive, the Quakers got the ball back with 2:22 to play and drove to the Yale one, where they faced a third-and-goal. Mitchell attempted to lob a pass to tight end Joe Pankratz in the corner of the endzone, but Yale defensive back Steve Ehikian had him covered and he came down out of bounds. Penn settled for an 18-yard field goal and a 17-3 halftime lead.
Yale got a momentary boost at the start of the second half when linebacker Kenneth Estrera ended the first Penn drive with an emphatic tackle for a loss on third and two at the Penn 39. But the offense could not convert a third-and-one and punted the ball back to Penn. Matthews came up with a big 23-yard run to the Yale 37. Four plays later he took off untouched on an 18-yard touchdown run to make the score 24-3 with 7:47 left in the third.
In desperate need of a score, the Bulldogs got one thanks to some key passes from their captain, quarterback Alvin Cowan. A leaping grab by wide receiver P.J. Collins on the sideline converted a third-and-16 at the Yale 28, and a 14-yard catch by receiver Ron Benigno converted a fourth-and-four at the Penn 31. Five plays later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Cowan took the ball left on an option and dove to reach the pylon for a touchdown. Troost's extra point made the score 24-10. But Penn then drove 73 yards in eight plays, capped by a pinpoint 22-yard pass from Mitchell to Castles in the endzone for a 31-10 lead.
The Elis moved quickly down the field on their next drive, which was jump-started by a 44-yard kick return by Carr. Needing to go just 53 yards, the Bulldogs made it in nine plays, the last a spectacular leaping grab in the endzone by receiver Chandler Henley for a 13-yard touchdown. After that, the Bulldogs continued their comeback attempt thanks to a perfectly placed onside kick by Ryan Allen, which was recovered by Yale's Alex Faherty at the Eli 48. Receiver Ralph Plumb drew a pass interference call to convert a third-and-six at the Penn 35, and Cowan converted a fourth-and-five at the Penn 25 by throwing an eight-yard bullet to Lawrie. Two plays later, Cowan connected with Plumb in the endzone to pull Yale within a touchdown with 4:32 to play.
Penn was able to recover the next onside kick, but the Yale defense kept the Quakers from getting a first down. Penn punted with 3:57 to play, setting Yale up at its own 17. Cowan then completed 10 of 14 passes, utilizing four different receivers and finishing with an 11-yard touchdown to Plumb with just 32 seconds on the clock. Troost's extra point tied the game, leaving the home crowd stunned. Yale survived one last scare when Penn drove to the Eli 28 with four seconds left before Veldman missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.
The Quakers won the coin toss in overtime and Yale started on offense, driving from the 25 to the five. But Penn's Casey Edgar was able to get a hand on the field goal attempt, keeping the Elis off the board. Penn then got a big 15-yard rush from Matthews on first down, and three plays later Veldman booted a 23-yard field goal for the win, 34-31.
The Quakers improved to 3-0 in the Ivy League, while Yale dropped to 2-1. The Elis return to action next Saturday in New York against Columbia at 3:30.