With only seven seconds left on the clock, the fans exploded as placekicker Andrew Sullivan ’05 sealed a 31-28 win with a 37-yard field goal.
The field goal capped a 17-0 Bulldogs rally as the football team (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) upset I-AA No. 11 Colgate (2-2) in front of 17,089 at the Yale Bowl. The two teams played fairly even games with both recording 364 yards of total offense. Although Colgate had almost nine more minutes of possession in the third quarter, the Elis outscored the Raiders 17-7 in the fourth quarter to put them away.
Having struggled offensively in the first two games of the season, the Bulldogs brought a balanced offensive attack for the first time this season. Tailback Rob Carr ’05 recorded 169 rushing yards over 24 carries. In the air, quarterback Alvin Cowan ’05 threw for four touchdowns and 211 yards on 19-for-31 passing, connecting with a total of seven different receivers. The Eli defense also played a key role in the win, holding Colgate’s 2003 Walter Payton Award winner Jamaal Branch to 130 yards.
Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said that the team’s confidence in its game plan contributed to the win.
“It was one of the best team wins we’ve ever had,” Siedlecki said. “It was offense, defense, and kicking all together. The biggest thing was for us to come back and win.”
Colgate head coach Dick Biddle said the Elis kept the Raiders off balance and on their heels.
“It was an exciting game,” Biddle said. “I give Yale credit for coming back.”
A Branch-dominated possession put the Raiders up 28-14 late in the game. After the Colgate score, Carr was there for the kickoff and managed to scramble 33 yards on the return.
Carr continued to put up answers to Branch as he ate up the turf on the way to the end zone. Stalled on the Colgate 44, Carr converted on fourth-and-one and burst through to the Raiders’ 20-yard line. Several plays later, Cowan rolled right on second-and-goal and tossed the ball to tight end Ted Stem ’05 who caught it in the end zone for his first career TD reception.
With less than half of the fourth quarter left, chances of another Bulldog score seemed slim.
It was then that the Eli defense came through. On the second play of the Raiders’ possession, quarterback Chris Brown threw a pass right down the middle where safety Matt Handlon ’06 was waiting.
“They ran a sprint-out many times and I saw him sprinting out again,” Handlon said. “I just got over the top [of the receiver] and came down with it.”
Handlon’s interception gave the Elis the ball back at their own 45-yard line with enough time to set up a drive. Again, Carr came up big with a gain of 33 yards that was set up by a block from wide receiver Chandler Henley ’05. Only two plays later, Cowan was again under pressure, but he rolled right and managed to find Henley in the end zone. Cowan tossed it up and Henley leaped over two defenders to snag the ball and tie the game.
“I always tell [Cowan] ‘throw it up, just give me a chance,'” Henley said. “I tried to be as aggressive as possible. You’ve got to make plays like that.”
Henley finished the day with six catches for 80 yards.
With 2:21 on the clock, the Raiders got the ball back on their 27-yard line. On the first play, the Bulldog defense stepped up, and Andrew Ralph ’05 and Don Smith ’05 teamed up for a big hit on Branch to stop him short. On the next play, Brandon Dyches ’05 just missed a sack while Brown’s quarterback keep was limited by Barton Simmons ’05 who forced the Raider signal-caller out of bounds.
On third-and-fourth, Biddle, the Raiders’ coach, said he called for a long pass to try to break behind the Eli defense, but the pass was defended well and Colgate went three-and-out on a crucial possession. Overall, the defense played well as a unit throughout the game, Handlon said.
“The biggest thing was stopping [Branch] but they have so many weapons,” Handlon said. “[Branch] is a big back and it’s tough to wrap him up, but we played hard.”
After Henley returned the punt to the 45-yard line, the Bulldogs had only 1:15 to try to win the game. Cowan hooked up with William Blodgett ’06 and Ralph Plumb ’05 for good gains. On the next play, Carr had a gain of 14 yards for another first down.
Down at the 30-yard line, the Bulldogs called a time-out to try to put together a plan to get some points. After two incomplete passes though, the game came to rest on Sullivan and his bare kicking foot. With 11 seconds left, the Raiders called two time-outs to try to unsettle him, but Sullivan remained unperturbed.
“I have a mentality of putting it through,” he said. “I put my head down and take it one kick at a time.”
The 37-yarder sailed through the uprights with room to spare, effectively ending the game. A teammate lifted Sullivan in the air as the Bulldogs celebrated the kick, the longest of Sullivan’s career.
The clock ran out for the Raiders on the kick-off.
Cowan said the team was not worried at the end, even though the game depended on the performance of one man.
“I don’t think any of us has ever lost confidence in Sullivan,” Cowan said. “You know he cares, you know he really wanted to win.”
The win over Colgate has renewed many fans’ hopes in the football season — hopes that had fallen after the disappointing loss to Cornell Sept. 25. Cowan said that while the victory over Colgate is significant, the team needs to stay focused.
“Obviously it can springboard the team, but we can’t look past next week,” Cowan said. “We played pretty badly the [previous] two games and we were bad off. It’s about getting together as a team.”
This weekend marked the first time that the Eli defense, offense and special teams all worked well in the same game, though it is unclear if the team’s well-rounded performance will continue.