Coming into this past Saturday’s game, Holy Cross wide receiver Ari Confesor was second in Div. I-AA in all-purpose yards. But in a 41-16 rout at Fitton Field, the Eli secondary — despite suffering from a number of injuries — kept Confesor to only 109 all-purpose yards.
The win gave Yale its second consecutive 3-0 start.
“Confesor has never really had a big game against us,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “Particularly in this game we shut him down. He did not have a catch until late in the third quarter and the game was out of reach.”
The Eli secondary was depleted by injuries this weekend. Starting cornerback Greg Owens ’04 had to stay back with an injured hamstring, Fred Jelks ’05 has been battling knee tendonitis, and starting safety William Jacobs ’04 reinjured his knee and missed the majority of the game as a result.
Combine that with the fact that Holy Cross (1-4) entered the game fourth in Div. I–AA passing yardage, and it should have been a safe bet that Yale (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) would have difficulty defending against the Crusaders in the air. Instead, safety Matt Handlon ’06, who was recovering from pneumonia that kept him out of last weekend’s Cornell game, and cornerback Andrew Butler ’06 turned in phenomenal performances and helped humble the vaunted Confesor and company.
Handlon who had a game-high 10 solo tackles, said Yale played their standard defense.
“Obviously we were aware of where Confesor was at all times,” Handlon said. “Our defensive line put some great pressure on the quarterback and our linebackers got to their drops, which leads to success against anyone’s pass game. We were blitzing them quite a bit.”
While Yale amassed 447 yards on offense, Holy Cross managed only 268, turning the ball over once on a fumble and again on an interception caught by Ben Breunig ’05.
On the other side of the ball, Rob Carr ’05 turned in his third straight 100-yard game, and David Knox ’06 rushed for his season-best 81 yards. Meanwhile, quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04 completed 15 of 19 passes for 212 yards, including two touchdowns to Ron Benigno ’04.
Wide receiver Ralph Plumb ’05 chipped in as well. In addition to catching four balls for 66 yards, Plumb completed a pass on a reverse to P.J. Collins ’04 for a gain of 16 yards.
“We’re not much of a trick play type of team,” Plumb said. “In the last two years we’ve run two and they were both against Holy Cross.”
Despite early doubts about the strength of an Eli line that returned essentially no starters, Yale has performed admirably.
“Our line has been playing well all year, and they continued against Holy Cross,” Carr said. “As long as we can continue to play well up front, our offense can be very successful.”
For the third time in as many games, Yale scored on its opening drive when Cowan scampered into the end zone unscathed.
The momentum shift in the game occurred in the second quarter when Steve Ehikian ’04 blocked a punt at the Crusader 32. The turnaround was completed five plays later, when John Troost drilled a 36-yard field goal to give the Elis a 20-3 edge with 10:24 left in the opening frame.
In the third quarter, Holy Cross had one last chance to get back into the ballgame when the Crusaders picked up a Yale fumble at the Eli 24. But Yale defensive end Donnie Smith ’05 put an end to Holy Cross’ comeback hopes four plays later, stripping Crusader tailback Steve Silva of the ball and falling on it at the Yale 15.
Yale will get a chance at redemption Saturday when it takes on Dartmouth at the Yale Bowl. Last season, a loss to the Big Green in soggy Hanover, N.H. foiled the Bulldogs’ bid for their first 4-0 start since 1981.