Rob Carr ’05 had his worst rushing performance of the season, but he still made the play that swung the game in Yale’s favor.
On the kickoff following a game-tying Dartmouth (0-4, 0-2 Ivy) touchdown, Carr ripped an 86 yard kickoff return for a touchdown — one of the 20 longest kickoff returns in Yale history. It moved Carr into sixth place on Yale’s all-time rushing touchdown list, and returned the momentum of the game to the Elis (4-0, 2-0), who did the rest of the scoring to win 40-17 in front of a 20,891 strong Parents’ Weekend crowd at the Yale Bowl.
“We kicked off and I think that was the difference right there,” Dartmouth head coach John Lyons said. “It looked like [Carr] was going down and he just shot out of there and went the distance.”
The Big Green held Carr, who gained 29 rushing yards on 12 carries, below 100 rushing yards for the first time this season. The prolific Bulldog rushing attack also had its lowest output — 173 yards — of the season on Saturday.
But the passing game more than picked up the slack. Captain Alvin Cowan ’04 passed for 318 yards in addition to his 89 on the ground.
“They really sold their souls to defend against the run,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said.
Both Siedlecki and Lyons said that Yale had a number of passing plays that Dartmouth just could not stop. Siedlecki said the Elis went to the same play about five times during the game.
“I knew that sometime down the line [opponents were] going to stop Robert [Carr] and David [Knox '06], and we were going to have to win a game through the air,” Cowan said.
Cowan found receiver Ralph Plumb ’05 on a number of key plays, including a 14-yard completion on fourth and nine from the Dartmouth 36-yard line with Yale ahead 23-17 in the fourth quarter. The drive ended with a touchdown to Plumb who had nine receptions for 161 yards.
“It’s great to have a coach who has that much confidence in his players,” Cowan said of Siedlecki’s decision to go for it on fourth down.
Plumb wasn’t the only Eli to have a good receiving day. Tight end Nate Lawrie ’04 had his best game of the season with a nine-reception, 95 yard performance.
“[Because Dartmouth had] so many guys in the box, [their cornerbacks] bite on moves a lot easier [because] they know they don’t have any help on either side,” Plumb said.
Although Yale had 484 yards of total offense, Dartmouth did not fare much worse with 461. Tailback Pat Risha amassed 109 yards rushing for the Big Green, while Rittgers passed for 258.
“I know they had a ton of yards,” Siedlecki said. “But defensively we hung in there and turned them over three times.”
Yale recovered fumbles on Dartmouth’s first two possessions. Defensive back Fred Jelks ’05 intercepted a Rittgers pass with just over three minutes left in the game. Fifteen seconds later, David Knox stood in the end zone following a 35-yard dash for the last score of the game.
On special teams, kicker John Troost ’05 hit both his field goals, while Dartmouth kicker Tyler Lavin made one of three. The Elis also held Dartmouth to only 17 yards per kick return, and none of Lawrie’s punts were returned.
Linebackers Ben Breunig ’05 and Ken Estrera ’04 again led the charge for the Eli defense, collecting 19 tackles in total.
“This was a helluva [sic] football game,” Siedlecki said. “We made some huge plays.”
“[Dartmouth] could have won the game,” Risha said.
But Yale didn’t falter as they had the past two seasons when 0-3 Big Green squads spoiled 3-0 Yale starts, and the Elis advanced to their first 4-0 start since 1981.