Fourth quarter unkind again to Penn in 24-19 loss to Yale

Penn quarterback Will Fischer-Colbrie (14) makes a pass after almost getting sacked against Ohio Dominican on Sept. 16 at Franklin Field.

When you lose your first two league games on the last play, you can be excused for seeing ghosts. That may have been what Penn wideout Christian Pearson saw when a Will Fischer-Colbrie pass hit him in stride near the goal line. The 45-yard touchdown was going to break a tie with Yale 3 1/2 minutes before halftime Saturday at Franklin Field. Only Pearson did not catch the ball.

Next thing you know, Penn is facing a third-and-30; Yale is rolling down the field for a touchdown and a two-point conversion 30 seconds before halftime.

It was the kind of sequence that could have broken a team’s spirit. Only Penn converted two fourth-quarter fumble recoveries into a field goal and a 2-yard touchdown run by Tre Solmon with  minutes, 3 seconds left to retake the lead. However, Yale, which had been averaging 41 points per game, fifth in FCS, came right back to score on a 4-yard TD pass from Kurt Rawlings to Christopher Williams-Lopez with 4:11 remaining, forced a three-and-out, then ran the clock out, winning, 24-19.

“Obviously a disappointing day,” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “Our kids worked hard and prepared hard. The fourth quarter has not been nice to us over the last couple of weeks. … Their hearts are in it, just not capitalizing on opportunities you’re going to have.”

Yale (5-1, 2-1 Ivy) dominated on the ground, outrushing Penn 217 yards to 60. Tailback Zane Dudek, who has set a Yale freshman touchdown record with nine and once ran for 492 yards in a Pennsylvania high school game, rushed for 103 yards on 12 carries.

Penn’s Justin Watson, one of the best receivers in Ivy history, got his school-record tying 27th receiving TD on the Quakers’ opening possession, a crossing pattern just beyond the line of scrimmage that ended with a perfectly angled dash to the pylon for a 23-yard TD. Watson, a likely mid-round 2018 NFL draft choice, finished with 10 catches for 120 yards, his Ivy-record 16th 100-yard receiving game. The records did not make him feel any better.

“Losing hurts,” Watson said, “whether you had the lead or didn’t. … We hate losing, period. There’s a locker room full of guys that feel the same way.”

Penn (2-4) is 0-3 in the Ivy for the first time since 1996. These Quakers could just as easily be 3-0. Instead, the two-time defending league champs are out of the race before the end of October.