Last week, after watching Penn football fall to Columbia for the team's third loss in a row to Ivy League competition, all I could think about is how the Red and Blue could recover.
Despite the contest starting off relatively uneventful in terms of scoring, the Quakers were able to hold off the Lions for the first half. But as soon as senior quarterback John Quinnelly was sacked, the downward spiral began, and Penn fell 23-14.
While upsetting, the switch at quarterback to freshman Aidan Sayin the following week was not surprising seeing that Penn has seemed to follow this trend in the past couple of games.
Yet, against Yale, watching starting quarterback Aidan Sayin play made something clear: this problem with recovery isn’t limited to Quinnelly and his play style. It’s rooted in the whole team.
The same trend appeared. The Quakers initially held off the Bulldogs, keeping the score even during the first quarter.
Following a variety of calls — most importantly a pass interference on a would-be interception and a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct at the start of the second — the momentum of the game changed, with these penalties propelling Yale closer to the end zone, and eventually a touchdown.
The Quakers started off strong on their next drive with sophomore Maurcus McDaniel taking over momentarily for Sayin and working closely with senior running back Trey Flowers. However, the Quakers halted their own momentum by committing penalties, which prevented them from scoring and forced them to hand possession back to Yale.
The Bulldogs took advantage of Penn's penalties, as quarterback Nolan Grooms threw a pass to wide receiver Mason Tipton to solidify Yale's lead before the half. By the time linebacker Brian O’Neill intercepted one of Grooms' passes, it was too late for the Quakers to regain their momentum.
Penn’s loss was not for a lack of trying. The team adapted to a new starting lineup and running back Isaiah Malcome and Flowers certainly have chemistry with Sayin — racking up the team's most points since the start of the season.
The defensive line consistently held off Yale’s speedy offense helping the two teams maintain nearly even possession. However, when it came to efficiency and penalties, Yale greatly outperformed Penn.
Perhaps it was the sheer desperation from losing to Yale in the three previous matchups against the Bulldogs or the loss of momentum that drove both the offense and the defense to lose composure. However, in every game this season, the Quakers have forfeited more yards in penalties than their opponents.
One thing is for certain. Penn has the potential to secure wins over its opponents, but the team is struggling with concentration and kickstarting its momentum earlier.
With only four Ivy League teams left to play, Penn needs to prove they can play clean and consistently drive the ball for four quarters straight.