PHILADELPHIA - Not again.
Penn lost a football game Saturday. In overtime. Check that -- in triple overtime.
And once again, this loss was not without its controversy.
Controversy No. 1 -- did Yale running back Mike McLeod get into the end zone on third down during Yale's possession in the third overtime? It appeared that he bounced off the ground about a half-yard shy of the end zone, buthis momentum (and reach) put the ball over the line. However it appeared, the refs were quick to signal touchdown.
Controversy No. 2 -- facing fourth-and-goal from inside the 1,and needing a touchdownto tie the game, Penn rolled a halfback pitch to the left. Joe Sandberg caught the pitch and quickly realized he had nowhere to go -- Yale had sniffed the play out. Sandberg turned back, came to the right side, and with several more Yale defenders bearing down on him had the wherewithal to throw a pass to fullback Nick Cisler in the end zone. Touchdown!
Hold on. Flag.
The penalty? Ineligible man downfield. Bring it back five yards and re-play fourth down. This time, quarterback Bryan Walker tried Braden Lepisto on a slant route,but the ball sailed a bit and slid through the leaping Lepisto's outstretched hands.
Final score: Yale 26, Penn 20.
The final sequencecapped off a wild affair at Franklin Field, one thatprovided several riveting moments forthe Homecoming crowd of 15,668 and a national television audience on YES Network.
With the win, Yale improves to 6-0 (3-0 Ivy) and continues its best start since 1981. Penn, meanwhile, drops to 2-4 overall (1-2 Ivy) with yet another hard-to-swallow defeat. Starting with last year's game at Yale -- almost exactly a year ago, to the day --the Quakers haveplayed four overtime games and lost all of them.
This game pitted the teams picked to finish 1-2 in the Ivy League during the preseason, and -- pre-game records aside --it met the hype.
In a battle of the Ivy League's top running backs, Yale's Mike McLeod and Penn's Sandberg both reached the 100-yard mark but were held in relative check (by their lofty standards). McLeod broke a 46-yard TD early in the game, but aside from that he carried 34 other times for 101 yards, giving him 147 total which was well below his pregame average (199.0). Sandberg, meanwhile, muscled his way to 110 yards on 34 carries.
Yale has dominated its opponents this season, outscoring them by an average of 38-12, and for a quarter Saturday it looked like the Bulldogs would add the Quakers to their list. After both teams were held to punts on their opening drives, Yale caught a break when Walker's pass was intercepted by Paul Rice at the Penn 46-yard line. On the next play, McLeod broke through up the middle and raced into the end zone, making the score 7-0.
Penn went for the bomb on second down of its second possession, but once again a Yale defender caught the ball. Starting on their own 28, the Bulldogs again marched through the Quakers defense, this time to the Penn 22-yard line before they were forced to kick a field goal. Penn caught a break at that point, as Alan Kimball missed on the 39-yard attempt to keep the score 7-0.
Penn's defense stiffened after that, while the Quaker offense began to spark midway through the second quarter. Starting from the Yale 44, Penn took seven plays to get to the 9-yard line, then scored when Sandberg surprised everyone with a halfback option pass to Josh Koontz for the score and a 7-7 tie.
Yale got the ball to start the third quarter, but on just the second play from scrimmage quarterback Matt Polhemus threw a ball that Penn cornerback Chris Wynn drew a bead on and intercepted (his fourth pick of the season). Catching it at the Yale 45, Wynn returned it 12 yards to the 33. Penn's offense could only gain nine yards in eight plays, but freshman Andrew Samson put points on the board when he drilled the 43-yard field goal for a 10-7 Quaker lead.
It marked the first time this season Yale has trailed in the second half.
That lead held into the fourth quarter, as the Penn defense seemed to gain confidence with every failed Yale possession. However, even the defense could not keep the Bulldogs off the board on just the second play of the quarter, when Walker was hit from behind as he looked to throw a pass. Walker fumbled the ball, and Yale's Bobby Abare was able to grab it on the Penn 18-yard line.
The Quakers once again stiffened, allowing just four yards on three plays, but were helpless to watch as Kimball was good on a 31-yard field goal that tied the game at 10-10.
Both teams had little success moving the ball the rest of regulation, and when Tyson Maugle picked off a Polhemus bomb down the right side in the final seconds, the stage was set for overtime -- the second in a row between these two teams.
Yale started with the ball in overtime, and got off to a great start when Polhemus found Chris Denny-Brown for a 21-yard gain on the first play. After a false start, the Bulldogs went for a shot in the end zone, and pass interference was called on the play. With the ball on the 2-yard line, Yale did not mess around, going to McLeod who got in for the touchdown.
Penn's first possession was a little more adventurous. The Quakers got to 4th-and-5 at the 20-yard line, and Walker's pass to Lepisto fell incomplete. However, pass interference was called on the play, giving Penn new life. After Walker missed Dan Coleman on first down, he rushed seven yards to the 5-yard line, and then on third down he found Marcus Lawrence for the TD reception.
On to the second overtime.
Penn went first this time, and a pair of Sandberg rushes put the ball on Yale's 8-yard line. On first down, Sandberg was stopped for a 3-yard loss, then Michael DiMaggio gained one on a rush and Walker found Cisler for four more. Facing fourth down, the Quakers opted to kick, and Samson was good on his 23-yard attempt to give Penn a 20-17 lead.
Yale got to Penn's 11-yard line for a first down, then ran McLeod for four and three yards, respectively, to set up 3rd-and-3 at the 7-yard line. Polhemus looked for Denny-Brown again, this time unsuccessfully, to set up fourth down. Yale opted for the tie, and barely got it when a bad snap was well-handled by the Bulldogs holder. Kimball, who had to stutter-step on his approach, showed enough resolve and split the uprights to force the third overtime.
Yale again went first, and again went for the quick strike -- this time, Polhemus and Denny-Brown connected for 20 yards on the first play. It was McLeodafter that, as he gained three yards on first down -- with another yard added thanks to a facemask penalty on Penn --and none on second down before his touchdown. Per NCAA rules, Yale was forced to go for two points and failed.
That set the stage for the Quakers' final gasp. On first down, Penn ran a trick play, as Kyle Derham lined up left, came back across to the right, took a pitch from Walker and looked for Coleman in the end zone. The pass was incomplete, but a Yale holding penalty gave the Quakers a first down at the 15-yard line. A pair of Sandberg rushes added seven yards, and then Walker found Koontz for seven more to set up first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Sandberg had first crack and was stuffed, followed by Cisler, and then Sandberg again. That set up fourth down, and after a timeout Penn ranits fateful, nearly successfulplay.
The Quakers are back in action next weekend at Brown.