It was the Yale in the coffin.
After forfeiting yet another crucial late touchdown, Penn football fell to Yale by the score of 24-19. The Bulldogs (5-1, 2-1 Ivy) pulled ahead with a score with just four minutes remaining in the game, and handed the Quakers (2-4, 0-3) their fourth straight loss, including three straight Ivy contests. All of the Ivy losses have been by one score or fewer.
The loss dropped the Quakers to 0-3 in Ivy League play Saturday, meaning that the Red and Blue are all but eliminated from contention for their third consecutive Ivy League championship.
“It was a disappointing day,” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “We’re inconsistent. We have to start clicking on all cylinders.”
The Red and Blue got out to a hot start, scoring on an opening-drive touchdown pass to superstar wide receiver Justin Watson. The Penn offense would prove inconsistent, however, as the unit scored just one touchdown thereafter and allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked five times.
Those quarterbacks — senior Will Fischer-Colbrie and sophomore Nick Robinson — played nearly identical amounts, throwing 17 and 16 passes respectively. Fischer-Colbrie has enjoyed the bulk of the playing time early in the season, including all of the snaps in last week’s loss to Columbia, the first Quaker defeat to the Lions in 21 years.
Priore attributed Robinson’s increased playing time Saturday to his running ability in the face of Yale’s defensive pressure.
“Nick is different than Will, Nick has a bit more spark with his feet,” the third-year coach said. “They were getting a heavy rush on us over the course of the game. We feel like [escaping pressure] is a strong point in Nick’s skill set.”
So, will the Quakers field two quarterbacks again next weekend? That decision, Priore said, will be made in the week ahead.
“We have to evaluate everything we do… it’s whatever gives us the opportunity to go out and beat Brown next weekend.”
Yale’s offense had the potential to put the contest away earlier than it did, though key penalties — including several in the fourth quarter — aborted or delayed scoring drives. Over the course of the game, the Elis racked up nine penalties to Penn’s three.
“As a coach, you don’t ever hope for a game like this, but we needed a game like this,” Yale coach Tony Reno said.
Watson has yet another standout performance, accounting for 120 receiving yards, over half of Penn’s total receiving yards. Despite routinely getting double teamed, Watson was able to expose key vulnerable areas of Yale’s defense.
Watson, a senior captain, appeared unusually animated on the sidelines during the fourth quarter in an attempt to rally teammates. Penn was able to force a key fumble and score a touchdown (on an option pitch to senior running back Tre Solomon) to briefly take a lead in the final period, though the lead would not hold.
“I was trying to get the guys going, reminding them of all the work we’ve put into this,” Watson said.
Penn’s rushing attack, after finishing 2016 second in the conference in yards, was quiet on Saturday. Although Solomon’s late touchdown was key, the unit netted just 60 yards on the afternoon. Solomon, who led the Ivy League in yards per game a season ago, seemed to be bothered by an undisclosed injury that has severely limited his action this year.
While they are not mathematically eliminated, Saturday’s loss means that the Quakers are all but out of the championship race. For the first time in three seasons, the Red and Blue will not come home with the Ivy League crown — a result which stings especially hard in the wake of three straight heartbreaking, fourth-quarter comeback losses.