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Penn plugs in Becker, beats Yale

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Penn has the luxury of employing two fifth-year quarterbacks and on Saturday it was the understudy who kept the Quakers undefeated in the Ivy League.

Making only his third start at quarterback, Ryan Becker directed Penn to a 28-17 victory over Yale before 11,289 at Franklin Field.

Becker, was filling in for injured Billy Ragone, who made 32 previous starts for Penn (4-2, 3-0 in the Ivy League). He threw two for touchdowns and didn't have an interception.

Ragone was out because of an ankle injury he sustained last week against Columbia.

Becker completed 10-of-13 passes for 167 yards. Running back Kyle Wilcox gained 129 yards on 23 carries for Penn.

"We didn't plan on having him (Ragone) out there," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "It was too much of a risk. He's got a fairly severe ankle sprain. We have too much confidence in Ryan (Becker). He knows the offense, so there was very little decision."

Yale (3-3, 1-2 in the Ivy League) also was shorthanded, as starting quarterback Hank Furman, running back Tyler Varga, who is second in rushing in the Ivy League, and wide receiver Chris Smith did not play because of injuries.

Varga, hampered by a foot injury, was replaced by true freshman Candler Rich, who accumulated 97 yards on 20 carries. Morgan Roberts, a sophomore transfer from Clemson, made his first start at quarterback for the Bulldogs.

Roberts, who competed 20-of-34 passes for 193 yards, led a fourth quarter comeback that fell short for Yale, throwing two short touchdown passes. He hit Deon Randall on a six-yard strike with 4:42 left in the game and Grant Wallace, also for a six-yard score, at the 12:25 mark.

The sophomore quarterback from Charlotte, N.C., was harassed for much of the afternoon by a Penn front line that is among the leaders in the Ivy League in sacks.

"Every quarterback gets uneasy when you can force home from his spot," Bagnoli said. "We were much more aggressive early with man coverage. We probably went a little softer in zone coverage and they took advantage of it in the fourth quarter."

The Quakers sacked Roberts twice and registered four plays for losses of 18 yards.

"I thought he kept grinding along," Yale coach Tony Reno said of Roberts' performance. "I don't think it was a pretty performance but he was able to get a foothold in the fourth quarter. Our problem offensively was we weren't able to get anything going until there was 10 minutes left in the game, and that point you're chasing so many points. It's tough to come back."

The fourth quarter scores ended Penn's streak of not allowing a touchdown in six consecutive quarters.

Penn (4-2, 3-0) used two third-quarter scores to seal the victory.

Adam Strouss, Penn's third-string quarterback, scored from the one for a 28-3 cushion after Connor Loftus' extra point.

The Quakers took a 21-3 lead when Spencer Kulcsar ran two yards for a score and Loftus added the extra point with 11:08 remaining in the third. The score ended a six play, 79-yard drive that took 2:23.

Penn did an effective job blending the run and the pass in the first half, rushing for 88 yards and passing for 98.

"We have expectations of him (Becker)," Bagnoli said. "He's played a lot of football here. He's been in the program an awful long time."

Becker connected with Connor Scott on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 56 seconds left in the first half and Loftus' extra point gave the Quakers a 14-3 cushion.

The Bulldogs were careless with the ball in the first half, committing three fumbles, two of which they lost. They converted on third down only four times in the first half.

"Our margin of error is so slim," Reno said. "That's one of the reasons why we lost today, putting the ball on the ground."

Penn's Ian Dobbins took advantage of a Yale miscue on a punt late in the first quarter, pouncing on the loose ball after it deflected off a Yale player at the 33.

Two plays later Becker found a wide open Wilcox out of the backfield for a 29-yard touchdown strike with 3:22 left in the first quarter. It was Wilcox's first scoring reception of the season.

The extra point provided the Quakers with a 7-3 lead.

Yale safety Cole Campbell recovered a Penn fumble at the 27, setting up the Bulldogs' first score in the opening quarter. Kyle Cazzetta kicked a 32-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 6:04 left.

NOTES: Penn's only Ivy League loss last season was to Yale. Since then, the Quakers have reeled off seven straight league victories. ... Saturday marked the 81st meeting between the rivals, with Yale leading the series 45-35-1. ... With the victory, Penn has won 17 of the last 21 meetings.
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