October 25, 2008

Late Field Goal Lifts Penn Past Yale 9-7

Oct. 25, 2008

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Andrew Samson's 31-yard field goal with 4:35 to play gave Penn a 9-7 win in a defensive struggle at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field Saturday afternoon. Yale was held to 92 yards on 52 plays, including just 15 rushing yards. That negated another solid performance by the Yale defense, which had to face four Quakers drives that started in Yale territory and allowed only six points on those drives.

"Field position was a huge issue," said Jack Siedlecki, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "Our defense was beyond belief, the way they played with their backs to the wall."

Junior cornerback Paul Rice had the first big play of the game, leaping to intercept an overthrown pass at the Penn 42 and returning it to the Quaker 17. That set up Yale's only score of the day.

"We were in a three-deep," Rice said. "I was a little late on his break. Basically, I got lucky; the ball was behind him and I was able to leap and get it."

Two plays after Rice's pick, his third of the year, sophomore quarterback Brook Hart -- starting in place of injured senior Ryan Fodor -- tossed one to junior H-back John Sheffield just behind the line of scrimmage on the right side. Sheffield had no Quakers within 10 yards as he trotted into the end zone for what counted as a seven-yard touchdown run at 9:24 of the first.

The Yale defense allowed Penn 14 yards on its first drive, and after that the Bulldogs got even stingier. Senior defensive lineman Kyle Hawari's tackle on third-and-one at the Penn 36 forced the Quakers to punt after totaling only nine yards on the next drive. The Quakers netted zero yards on their next possession, as pressure from senior defensive end Brady Hart forced quarterback Robert Irvin into an incompletion on second down and Irvin also sailed one incomplete on third down.

A punt return to the Yale 46 by Chris Wynn gave Penn a momentary spark at the end of the first quarter, but Hawari immediately negated that by sacking Irvin for a 10-yard loss. That Penn drive wound up with -6 yards.

Penn tried changing the field position edge with a quick kick from the Yale 31 at the end of its next drive, and that pinned the Bulldogs at their own three. But a 44-yard punt from junior Tom Mante pushed the Quakers back to their own 48, and a sack by junior defensive end Travis Henry on second down got the Quakers off schedule. After netting only four yards they punted again.

The Quakers finally put a drive together at the end of the first half, taking the ball from their own 36 to the Yale 17. But after a pair of near-interceptions -- one by senior linebacker Bobby Abare and one by senior free safety Steven Santoro -- and another incompletion, the Quakers tried a 34-yard field goal that went wide left.

Penn took advantage of a Yale fumble at the Eli 13 to start its comeback bid at 3:35 of the third. The Quakers advanced the ball only eight yards, but that was enough to enable Samson to come on for a 22-yard field goal.

The Bulldog defense once again came up with a big stand when a failed fake punt attempt gave Penn the ball at the Yale 33. The Quakers drove to the Yale four for a first-and-goal. A toss left on first down appeared to give tailback Mike DiMaggio a clear lane to the end zone, but Rice was able to get his arm up to trip DiMaggio just enough to have him stumble down inches from the end zone. On the next play, the middle of the Yale defensive line got a tremendous push and Hart and Santoro slammed into DiMaggio well short of the goal line.

The Quakers' third-down attempt was doomed from the start, as play action did not keep the Bulldogs off backup quarterback Kyle Olson. Under heavy pressure, Olson was forced to try a short toss to DiMaggio, who was brought down behind the line of scrimmage. Penn did get another field goal from Samson, but Yale maintained its lead.

Penn got the ball back with 10:58 left in the game to start the game-winning drive. No play went for longer than 10 yards, but the Quakers were able to piece together five runs by DiMaggio, two runs by tailback Bradford Blackmon, and a completion from Olson to wide receiver Kyle Derham to get within range for Samson.

Yale got the ball back with 4:30 to play and drove as far as the Penn 32, but a sack there pushed the Bulldogs out of field goal range.

"They shut us down in the run game and they sacked our quarterback when we tried to put it down the field," said Siedlecki.

A pair of Yale incompletions from the Penn 44 enabled the Quakers to get the ball back with 2:03 to play. The Yale defense forced one more Quaker punt, but the 15 seconds left on the clock were not enough for the Yale offense to move past its own 23.

Penn (4-2, 3-0 Ivy League) remains in a first-place tie with Brown, which beat Cornell 27-7 Saturday. Yale (3-3, 1-2 Ivy League) is one of four teams with two losses in league play; the Bulldogs host Columbia next Saturday.

Yale's three losses this season have been by a total of seven points.

"We never wanted the season to turn out the way it has," said Abare. "But I've got nothing but positives for this team. We've played hard in every game, and we've shown a lot of heart."

report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity

Video by Neil Horowitz '09, Yale Sports Publicity

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