PHILADELPHIA - Trust us when we say that this one was not nearly as close as the score might indicate.
Sure, if you saw the score flash acrossyourTV ticker or you checked any number of websites, you might have seen that the University of Pennsylvania defeated Yale, 38-21, Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field. You might have looked up the stats and seen that the Quakers (5-1, 3-0 Ivy) had 377 yards of total offense and gave up 237 to the Bulldogs (2-4, 2-1). First downs? Penn had 21, Yale 11. On paper, a relatively pedestrian win that puts the Quakers in the driver's seat of the Ivy race as the only unbeaten team remaining.
What you did not see were the first three quarters of this game, when Penn completely overwhelmed Yale on both sides of the ball.
"For the first three quarters that was probably, from top to bottom, as well as we have played in a long time," said Penn head coach Al Bagnoli, a line he reiterated time and again during the postgame press conference. "Our guys deserve a lot of credit. We did a really good job defensively, and I could not be any prouder of the team."
The defense was once again a rock. The Quakers entered Saturday's game leading the nation in rushing defense, and it was business as usual through three quarters. As the teams entered the fourth quarter, Yale had rushed 16 times and averaged one yard per rush -- in the wrong direction (minus-16 yards). It was only whenPenn's second-stringers came on that the Bulldogs, who had a grand total of 19 yards of offense through 45 minutes, were able to find a rhythm and put points on the board.
"The most important thing about our defense is that we go out as a group," said Ric San Doval, who had three tackles and once again spearheaded the defensive effort. "We all take pride in what we have done on the field so far. Hats off to the defensive coaching staff, they do a great job week to week scheming, and we really play intelligent defense."
"We all take pride in our work, especially in stopping the run," said Naheem Harris, who had five tackles and was in on two sacks. "We did that very well today."
On the other side of the ball, Penn lost starting quarterback Pat McDermott during its second series of the game but hardly skipped a beat. Bryan Walker stepped in and led the Quakers to all of their points on the day. Walker finished the day completing 10 of 20 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Sam Mathews led the running game, carrying 19 times for 68 yards and Penn's other three scores. As a team, the Quakers racked up 215 rushing yards.
"Having some experience lastseason really helped in adjusting from high school to college play," said Walker. "The rain affected the game play a little bit today, but we try to keep the mindset that, rain or shine, we are going to run our offense."
Penn had a sustained drive that ended in disappointment to start the day, when Derek Zoch's 44-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar and failed to clear it. The next three times the Quakers had the ball it resulted in a touchdown, however, starting with another long drive that ended when Mathews ran it in from a yard out. The drive took 12 plays and covered 46 yards.
After Penn held Yale to a three-and-out, the Quakers quickly struck again. On the second play from scrimmage, Walker put a pass in the numbers of Joe Sandberg, who escaped out of a pair of Yale defenders and went in easily for a 48-yard play. Following another Yale three-and-out, Penn needed just three plays to get Mathews in the end zone for the second time, this time from six yards out.
The Quakers added to their lead before halftime when Walker found Matt Carre for a 29-yard touchdown across the middle. That ended a seven-play, 61-yard drive.
Meanwhile, Yale was getting just two first downs in the first half. The first one came midway through the second quarter, the result of a pass interference penalty by Penn. The second one came with less than a minute to go before the halftime whistle. At the end of the half, Penn had 255 yards of total offense on 44 plays; Yale had nine on 27 plays, and was mired at minus-17 yards rushing.
Penn tacked on 10 more points during its first twodrives of the second half, as Zoch kicked a 37-yard field goal and then Mathews tied a career high with his third touchdown on a 5-yard scamper. Meanwhile, Yale continued to struggle offensively; when the fourth quarter started, the Bulldogs still had just two first downs.
Sandberg finished the day with 44 yards rushing and a team-high 69 yards receiving on four catches. Carre had three receptions for 44 yards.
Penn is back in action next Saturday, traveling to Providence, R.I. to meet Brown. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
Written by Mike Mahoney, director of athletic communications