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Sophomore wide receiver Rory Starkey has a combined 184 yards and one touchdown in Penn football's last two games.

Credit: Alec Druggan

Coming off of a blowout loss to Columbia last week, Penn football has the daunting task of facing off against Yale this Saturday in New Haven, Conn.

The Red and Blue will have their work cut out for them this weekend. Yale has a significant home-field advantage, as the team is 3-0 at the Yale Bowl this season. On top of that, the Bulldogs' points per game exceeds Penn’s by nearly a touchdown. With Penn still chasing its first Ivy win, this road test will be particularly demanding.

However, the Quakers have shown flashes of solid play in their nonconference schedule, as they averaged 31 points per game in those three contests.

This season, the two teams have had a common opponent in Dartmouth, and both were defeated by the Big Green. Penn lost to Dartmouth by far less than Yale, which suffered a 32-point loss against the Big Green just two weeks ago. On the other hand, Penn was able to consistently stifle Dartmouth's advances after the first quarter of play, something Yale struggled with until the beginning of the fourth quarter.

While the shared opponents end there, some indications for Saturday can be inferred from how the two teams’ past competitors have fared this season. Unfortunately for the Quakers, this comparison proves to be in Yale’s favor. With Delaware and Richmond tied in their conference, Yale’s win over Richmond and Penn’s first-game defeat against Delaware can potentially provide some insight into the outcome of Saturday's game, although both matches were decided by a mere point. 

Penn secured a four-point win against Lafayette this season, but Yale’s decisive victories over Fordham and Holy Cross — two teams ranked far above Lafayette in conference standings — put the Red and Blue's win into context. While Penn has a one-game lead on Cornell in overall wins, Yale’s home triumph against the team should be taken as a warning for the Quakers. Cornell and Penn are tied in the conference at 0-2 and share a 1-2 away record.

A particularly revealing indicator of Saturday’s outcome could lie in Penn’s recent game against Columbia last week. Columbia holds the same conference standing as Yale at 1-1. Penn was decidedly defeated by a substantial 38 points last week, only getting on the scoreboard after a fumble by the Lions in the fourth quarter.

As a result, the Quakers gave Columbia its only home win of the season and reacquired a losing away record. Yale’s additional home successes compared to that of Columbia only exacerbate the situation, and the Quakers have plenty of pressure on them to hold their own this weekend. Needless to say, the Red and Blue cannot afford to play the same way that they did against the Lions if they want to have a chance in New Haven.

With all that being said, Penn has the tools to improve its play at New Haven. While Penn falls behind Yale in passing touchdowns, the two teams have nearly the same amount of total touchdowns. The Quakers have average passing yards and third down conversion rates comparable to that of Yale and even surpass the Bulldogs in rushing yards per game. 

Penn needs to find its groove in converting these plays to points in order to have a strong showing this Saturday. With other weighty opponents like Harvard and Princeton on the horizon, Saturday’s game could be one of Penn's best chances to get back to its winning ways in the Ivy League.