Ron Benigno ’04 and P.J. Collins ’04 couldn’t have asked for better starts to their final season, nor could Rob Carr ’05 have hoped to pick up any closer to where he left off last year as the Ivy League’s leading rusher. And while captain Alvin Cowan ’04 didn’t duplicate his record-breaking six-touchdown performance during last season’s opener against San Diego, he did account for over 300 yards of total offense and four scores.
In short, Yale (1-0) embarrassed Towson (2-2) 62-28 with an offensive explosion.
Just short of 10,000 fans watched the Elis push the home scoreboard to its highest total since 1930, while falling just one yard shy of 500 for the game.
Towson did tie the Bulldogs at seven after a fumbled snap gave the Tigers possession on Yale’s 15-yard line. Towson evened the score again at 14, but in the remaining 12 minutes of the half Yale seized control of the game.
Facing a fourth and four from the Towson 34, head coach Jack Siedlecki made the gutsy call for a fake QB option. Cowan sprinted right, down a line of surging blockers, and appeared to be about to either cut up the field or pitch to a back to his outside. Instead he stepped back from the line of scrimmage and lofted a spiral to wide open fullback Alex Faherty ’05 for a 31-yard gain. On third and goal, Cowan broke the tie for good with a scramble into the end zone for his lone rushing score.
The Tigers were still within striking distance when Towson head coach Gordy Combs called for a fake punt on fourth and 10 from his own 23-yard line, bypassing punter Steve Bulcavage, who is averaging a whopping 47 yards per punt. The risky call was almost worked, but Faherty again came up with a big play, distracting Towson receiver Rocky Brown just enough to prevent the catch.
Though the Bulldogs failed to convert their good fortune into points, they were able to pin the Tigers deep in their own territory and, after holding them on the ensuing possession, recover the ball near midfield. The Elis were not about to waste that kind of field position again.
Cowan connected with Collins for 33 yards before hitting Benigno on a post from the slot position for the first of his three scores.
“Since I was in the slot I had man to man with the safety,” Benigno said. “I just had to beat him and then Alvin made [a] great throw to keep the ball away from him.”
Towson’s next possession ended in climactic fashion as Eli cornerback Fred Jelks ’05 picked off Jason Amer’s pass and returned it, with the help of two Ben Breunig ’05 blocks, 49 yards for a touchdown.
“I think Ben pancaked the QB,” said Jelks of the block Breunig threw near the 10-yard line to prevent what seemed like an inevitable tackle.
Towson might have thought that things couldn’t get worse in the second half. They were wrong.
“They had a lot of bad things happen to them,” Siedlecki said. “I felt we were in better shape.”
Defensive back James Beck ’05 saw something similar.
“They beat themselves,” he said. “I could feel them getting frustrated.”
After watching Towson go three and out on the first possession of the final half, Yale fans saw running back David Knox ’06 in what would seem, to the untrained eye, to be an unusual position. Knox lined up in the middle of the line, along with fellow running back Pat Bydume ’04, for the punt rush.
“I was actually very good at [blocking punts] in high school,” Knox said. “Last year we had a different special teams coach and he didn’t want to put me on [the punt block team], and when he did, he put me on the outside. This year I demanded that [special teams] coach [Matt] Dence put me in the middle, and I’m happy to be there.”
Knox blocked the punt, attributing the effort to Bulldog scouting that noticed that the Towson long-snapper consistently blocked to his left. Knox and Bydune lined up the center’s left and shot across to the gap on his right.
“Their personal protector came on the field late,” Knox said. “After I got through the line untouched, he didn’t even have a chance. I don’t know if he even tried to block me.”
Andrew Butler ’06 recovered the block punt at the Towson 7-yard line, setting up Carr’s third touchdown two plays later.
“It definitely broke their back,” said Know of the blocked punt. “That play let them know that they might as well give up.”
Benigno found the end zone again before Towson could muster another score.
The Tigers yanked quarterback Amer in favor of Anthony Melzi in the second half. Melzi proved that the Bulldogs, despite their overwhelming success on Saturday, are susceptible to the big play when he hit Will Marcus for a 59-yard touchdown pass.
The Elis also switched signal-callers in the fourth quarter, and in backup Jeff Mroz’s ’05 first pass of the day, he hit Chandler Henley ’06 for the wide receiver’s first collegiate touchdown and Yale’s last score of the day.
“I was just running a post and I just got some single coverage,” Henley said. “Jeff had to break a few tackles and then threw a laser — it was the best ball I’ve seen. I didn’t even really do much, it just hit me right in the chest.”
The game came to a fitting end: with defensive end Carl Williott ’06 flattening Melzi as he released a weakened pass that landed in the hands of Jonas Rodriguez ’04, who returned it 56 yards as time ran out and then was swamped by a horde of enthusiastic teammates.