The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Sophomore wide receiver Jared Richardson celebrates his touchdown against Yale during the game on Oct. 21 in New Haven, Conn. Credit: Weining Ding

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — On a gray afternoon in Connecticut, with trees turning a variety of colors in the background and a crisp fall breeze blowing, it was peak football weather. For Penn football, the scene was completed with a win on Saturday, as the team outlasted Yale to win 27-17. 

The team was playing with heavy hearts following the loss of Michael Gavin, who died last weekend after a yearlong bout with cancer. For the game, the Quakers wore decals with Gavin’s initials on their helmets. 

“Today was special. I’m proud of all the kids, it’s tough enough in this world just to play sports, let alone with real-life situations that hit you right in the face, and to stay together through it was really tremendous,” coach Ray Priore said. 

Despite only trailing for four minutes of game time, it took until the fourth quarter for Penn to take full control. As has been the case for several of Penn football’s biggest wins in the last few years, it was the offense — and junior quarterback Aidan Sayin — leading the way as Penn mostly had its way with Yale’s defense. 

Sayin had one of the best performances of his career, completing 33 out of 48 attempts for a career-high 364 yards and two touchdowns. But even more impressive was sophomore wide receiver Jared Richardson, whose 17 receptions are a new program record for a single game. His 191 receiving yards also rank ninth all-time.

“Our kids, for the first time this year, played a truly collective game from the first snap to the last,” Priore said. “In the first few weeks we were up-and-down a little bit, so today was good to see.”

After Yale won the toss and deferred, the Quakers put together an impressive opening drive, marching 75 yards down the field in 14 plays, capped off by a 13-yard sprint to the end zone by freshman running back Malachi Hosley. Penn converted all three of its third down attempts and executed play fakes and misdirection well to set up explosive runs. 

However, that lead would be short-lived, as the Bulldogs also scored a touchdown on their first drive. The Quakers struggled to stop Yale quarterback Nolan Grooms, who broke free for a 44-yard run and had a short touchdown pass to running back Joshua Pitsenberger.

The offenses traded scores into the second quarter, as Penn retook a 17-14 lead following a touchdown catch from Richardson. Following a Yale punt, Penn’s offense got the ball back once more before halftime. The Quakers made it to the Yale 29, but junior kicker Albert Jang’s 46-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left, leaving the Quakers with a three-point advantage at the break.

Just like last week at Columbia, Penn’s defense led the way in the second half, forcing two Yale punts right out of the break. After an errant snap ended the Quaker’s first offensive possession after halftime, Sayin — deep in Penn territory — found senior wideout Joshua Casilli for 32 yards, and although Yale’s defense held strong in the red zone, the Quakers added to their lead with a 28-yard field goal from senior kicker Graham Gotlieb. On the ensuing drive, while the Penn defense had difficulty stopping Grooms’ dual-threat ability, they held firm in the red zone, forcing a 23-yard field goal and keeping its lead. 

A key part of this effort on this drive — and throughout the second half, in which Yale had just 61 total yards — was the Quaker linebacker core. Senior Jack Fairman and sophomore John Lista, who often spied on Grooms throughout the afternoon, both led the way, with Fairman totaling 10 tackles and Lista recording two sacks. 

“We played a lot of spy coverage. In the first half, they went 8/8 on third down,” Priore said. “What happened when we tried to pressure Grooms is we sometimes ran right past [our defense], and he had success with his legs, just like last year. We switched it up, and leaving Jack Fairman or John Lista as the spy.”

That score was exactly what Penn’s offense needed to take the game over. For the second consecutive game, Sayin orchestrated a masterful drive, burning six minutes of clock time and giving the Red and Blue a first-and-goal at the Yale five-yard line. Despite a pair of holding penalties — including one keeping Richardson out of the end zone on his record-breaking 17th catch of the afternoon — Penn punched it in with a strike from Sayin to junior tight end Bryce Myers. This put the Quakers up by double digits with four minutes left, and following a turnover on downs on Yale’s final possession, Sayin kneeled out the clock to seal victory. 

“Just going one play at a time, not being too high or too low, trusting my coaches, trusting my other teammates, and just doing [our] jobs,” Sayin said about his ability to lead closeout drives.

The win moves Penn to 5-1 on the season, including two consecutive Ivy League victories after a disappointing loss to Dartmouth. The team will look to continue this success next Friday night when the Red and Blue return to Franklin Field to host Brown.