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Quarterback Alek Torgersen played well but Yale was able to disrupt the sophomore's rhythm in the second half, holding Penn back. 

Credit: Thomas Munson

T wo weeks ago, Dartmouth exposed Yale’s flaws, showing that the Bulldogs were beatable.

But Penn football wasn’t able to do what the Big Green did. In fact, the Bulldogs accentuated the Quakers’ flaws throughout the game, letting a national TV audience see what has plagued the Red and Blue all year.

For the first four games of Penn’s season, the Quakers simply couldn’t stop anyone. Jacksonville dropped 34 points. Villanova one-upped them with 41. Fordham finished off nonconference play with a 60-spot that left Penn fans weary.

But the Columbia game became a beacon of hope for the Quakers as Penn did everything right for the majority of the game. The offense clicked with a balanced attack while the defense made the Lions look like mincemeat.

Needless to say, Penn’s confidence was up after finally getting its first win.

But it all came crumbling down against Yale, play-by-play, Tyler Varga run after Tyler Varga run.

Varga set the tone for the game right after Penn went three-and-out to begin the game. Like he has done all year for Yale, the senior running back rushed into the second and third level, reeling off some solid runs to begin the game.

And like it has done all year, Penn’s defense had a propensity to give up the big play. On fourth and one at the 22, Varga broke free and easily got into the endzone for a touchdown.

But it wasn’t just Varga reeling off plays that made Penn look like a second-rate defense: Junior quarterback Morgan Roberts gave NBCSN viewers a chance to see the Red and Blue’s struggling secondary.

Roberts — who struggled and threw two interceptions in a loss to the Quakers last season — was the star of the game, throwing more touchdowns than incompletions. The junior picked on whichever cornerback fit his fancy, hitting his receivers with relative ease.

In particular, Roberts continually found senior wide receiver Grant Wallace, who was able to get by every defensive back that Penn put on him.

"[The Bulldogs] certainly have the capability of exploding and that’s the fear that everyone has playing against that offense this year,” coach Al Bagnoli said. “I thought the whole key was trying to minimize big plays and hopefully get a turnover or two, and, defensively, we didn’t get any turnovers and we gave up way too many big plays.”

All in all, the Bulldogs were able to score early and often, tallying their most points against Penn since 1967.

With Yale up from the start, Penn was forced to abandon the running game and throw the ball. While sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen was extremely effective at times, the offense was easier to stop once it became one dimensional, similar to many of Penn’s losses already.

“We got behind and we had to play uphill,” Bagnoli said. “That’s an awful lot of pressure you’re putting on a sophomore quarterback.”

Yes, this is Yale, a team that is bulldozing FCS (and FBS) defenses left and right. Varga and Roberts are early favorites for the Ivy League’s Offensive Player of the Year, and the team is a strong Ivy title contender.

But there was time –— mostly before the season began — that Penn fancied itself an Ivy contender as well. Bagnoli said in the Ivy League’s preseason teleconference that the team’s front seven was going to be its strength. And it’s not like the defense didn’t have a plethora of upperclassmen returning.

However, Yale, like Villanova, Dartmouth and two others before it, found Penn’s flaws and exploited them. It is clear by now that Penn has a problem with big plays. That they can’t effectively stop a good passing attack. That it struggles to stay balanced offensively.

And with Brown and its improving offense coming to town for Homecoming, it is time for Penn to address these flaws in order to win.

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