It is fitting that the Yale Precision Marching Band played Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” during the football team’s 49-14 win against the University of San Diego Saturday at the Yale Bowl.
Though the game was Yale’s opener, the Bulldogs (1-0) played as if they already had two or three games under their belt, displaying both confidence and poise. By the end, Yale had racked up 49 points against the Toreros (1-2), the most the Elis have scored in a season opener since 1929 against Vermont.
“We played a great game today,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “We can’t revel in this game for a season.”
The best performance of the day was turned in by Yale quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04, who was responsible for a school-record six touchdowns, passing for three scores and running for another three. Starting the first game of his college career, Cowan led the Bulldogs in both passing and rushing with 283 yards and 114 yards, respectively.
“You really can’t take credit for something like that,” said Cowan, who completed 18 of 22 passes on the day. “The guys that were surrounding me were making plays as well. Obviously as the quarterback you get all the credit, but it’s not all that hard to find receivers when the guys on the offensive line were giving me all the time in the world to make those passes.”
The Bulldogs set the tone for the game early. On the third play of the game, defensive tackle Bryant Dieffenbacher ’04 forced and recovered a fumble from San Diego tailback Kenneth Villalobos to give the Yale offense the ball at the San Diego 22-yard line. Three more plays and 55 seconds later, Yale jumped on the scoreboard with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Cowan to wide receiver Ralph Plumb ’05.
“To have the game start on that note really fired the guys up and set the tone for the rest of the game,” captain Jason Lange ’03 said.
Throughout the game, the Bulldogs executed with precision and control, never once relinquishing the lead. Both offense and defense came together as the Elis realized the balance that they had worked so hard in the off-season to achieve.
Offensively, Yale demonstrated the return of their rushing game, posting 283 yards on the day. The improvement was partly due to the much-needed return of tailback Robert Carr ’05, who was injured halfway through the 2001 season. Carr finished the game with 104 rushing yards.
Yale did not punt until the third quarter.
The Yale defense also exorcised a few demons Saturday, limiting the Toreros to just 255 yards overall. In addition, the Bulldog defense forced two fumbles, made the Toreros punt six times and sacked San Diego quarterback Eric Rasmussen four times for a total loss of 23 yards.
Even more importantly, however, Yale exhibited fewer of the concentration lapses and unforced errors usually associated with opening day. In the first half, the Elis committed only one penalty and one turnover. When under pressure, the Bulldogs came through, converting all three of their fourth-down attempts.
“We showed a lot more poise than what people were expecting,” Siedlecki said.
The day started shakily for Cowan. On a first-and-goal 10 minutes into the game, Cowan fumbled while running an option play. The fumble turned out to be the only Yale turnover of the game.
“[The fumble] didn’t really bother me that much, and I know I was going to get another opportunity,” said Cowan. “I was just worked on capitalizing on it.”
On the very next drive, Cowan showed his composure, rushing 42 yards for a touchdown. Cowan connected with fullback Jay Schulze ’03 on a 26-yard pass early in the second quarter to up the lead to 21-0. After San Diego scored on a 32-yard run by Villalobos, Cowan responded with an 18-yard touchdown run and a 2-yard pass to tight end Nate Lawrie ’04 to give the Bulldogs a 35-7 lead heading into halftime. Cowan tacked on another six points in the fourth quarter by running for a touchdown with 12:42 left in the game. The only Yale touchdown of the day that did not directly involve Cowan was Carr’s 6-yard carry at 3:09 into the second half.
The last time a Yale team scored as many as 49 points in any game was in 1972, when it scored 53 against Brown.
Although the Bulldogs routed San Diego, they will face a much stiffer challenge next week against a smarter and tougher Cornell team. Unlike San Diego, the Big Red will have seen the option that made Cowan so effective and will have time to make the appropriate adjustments by next Saturday.
While Saturday’s performance was certainly impressive, the caliber of competition Yale will face in the Ivy League, beginning next week in Ithaca, N.Y, will be much higher. But the Bulldogs hopes they have only begun to realize their potential and that subsequent visitors to the Yale Bowl will hear a similar tune from the YPMB.