HANOVER, N. H. — With 28 seconds left on the clock, cornerback Fred Jelks ’05 made an interception in the end zone that summed up the way much of the game had been played — Dartmouth tried to make things happen offensively, only to find the Yale defense ready to shut it all down.
The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Ivy) defeated the Big Green (0-4, 0-2 Ivy) 24-14 at Memorial Field with a balanced offensive attack and a strong opportunistic defense. With the win, the Elis move into a tie for fourth in the Ancient Eight. Although each team had 16 first downs and Dartmouth had 25 more yards of offense, the Big Green’s five turnovers killed many drives and scoring opportunities. The Big Green was only one for three in the Red Zone and the Bulldogs were three for three.
The Elis scored two touchdowns on passes from quarterback Alvin Cowan ’05 to receivers Chandler Henley ’05 and Ralph Plumb ’05. Henley had four catches for 102 yards while Plumb had 10 for 87. Cowan finished the day 18-for-28 with 206 yards and two interceptions. The third touchdown was scored by tailback Rob Carr ’05, who rushed for 164 yards on 32 carries and also had 70 yards on kickoff returns. Place-kicker Andrew Sullivan ’05 had the last score for the Elis with a 26-yard field goal.
Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said the win was a defensive victory, especially since the offense did not help the Elis much in the fourth quarter.
“[The defense] kept stepping up, stepping up,” Siedlecki said. “They kept playing hard and didn’t let anything distract them. We probably should’ve scored more than 24 [points].”
The defense held the Big Green to three of 14 third-down conversions and forced four three-and-out possessions, not to mention three picks and two fumbles. Linebacker Ben Breunig ’05 led the team in tackles with 14, followed by safety Barton Simmons ’05 and defensive end Brandon Dyches ’06 with 10 each. Breunig and Dyches each had one tackle for a loss.
Jelks said the defense this year has more confidence in itself having gained experience and lost some of the youth from last season.
“During this game, we made a conscious choice to make the plays and be more intense,” Jelks said.
The crucial turnovers were forced by Jelks, fellow cornerback Andrew Butler ’06, Breunig and defensive end Don Smith ’05. In the beginning of the second quarter, Dartmouth signal-caller Charles Rittgers attempted a throw to the end zone but Jelks stepped in front of the receiver and picked off the pass. Jelks’ second interception was at the end of the game and also in the end zone.
Butler also made two big plays to set up turnovers. Butler was often matched up with Dartmouth receiver Andrew Hall and the two struggled with each other for much of the game. With 5:56 left in the fourth quarter, Butler came up big by stepping in front of Hall to make the grab at the 24-yard line and crush the Big Green’s hopes of scoring. Butler was also involved in the fumble in the second quarter by putting a huge hit on tailback Chris Little, forcing the ball out and allowing Breunig to recover it for the Bulldogs.
Butler said the Elis used their momentum so that early big plays generated more big plays later in the game.
“We’re a team that is not going to give up, we’re going to keep fighting,” Butler said. “I always felt I was right there [with Hall].”
Dartmouth head coach John Lyons said the turnovers hurt the Big Green the most, especially since it was a close game.
“[Yale] made the plays, they played better than we did and we broke down at times,” Lyons said. “They got us spread out. We had trouble stopping Plumb and they had the run with Carr.”
This game featured some slight adjustments in the offense with Cowan throwing short quick passes — bubble screens — to Plumb. Plumb was able to take the passes and run down the sideline, gaining significant yardage. Plumb said it is a good play that they have not run that often this year.
“We ran it a lot two years ago, but it’s something in our package,” Plumb said. “We like to stretch their linebacker and flip it out there.”
Plumb’s touchdown reception came on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter on a similar short play. Down at the 2-yard line, the Elis could have easily gone for the field goal, but they ran what Siedlecki called a two-point conversion play. Siedlecki said they had practiced this play during the week and felt comfortable with it since it was the perfect situation. On a short slant route, Cowan connected with Plumb for the touchdown to seal the win by putting the Elis up ten points.
There were times, though, when the Elis struggled to make the offense work as well as they might have wanted it to. For example, they only converted four third downs. But Carr said that the Bulldogs’ strength is in having many good athletes who are willing to sacrifice it all.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Carr said. “If something isn’t clicking, something else is clicking. We have different options and Coach [Siedlecki] did a great job.”
Now that the Bulldogs have one league win, they may have some confidence. But with two of the next three contests at home versus Ivy opponents like the University of Pennsylvania, the Elis still have some work to do offensively, Plumb said.
“We played well enough [at Dartmouth], but to beat better teams we will have to play better,” Plumb said. “We still need to score and put points up when available.”