PROVIDENCE, R.I.– Saturday was just not a lucky day for the Yale football team.
Despite racking up almost 500 yards of offense, the Bulldogs (4-4, 2-3 Ivy) could not get a break against Brown (4-4, 2-3), losing 24-17 at Brown Stadium. Coming out of halftime leading 17-14, the Elis’ second-half woes continued unabated as the Bears shut them out with a tight red-zone defense. The Bears scored 10 points in the second half to win, utilizing tailback Nick Hartigan’s 135 rushing yards,which included two touchdowns, to control time-of-possession and wear down a Bulldog defense that would not quit.
“It’s just been a little bit of a snake-bit team,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “We moved up and down the field, but we didn’t put it in the end zone. The bottom line is we did not convert the scoring opportunities we had.”
The Elis came out in the second half focusing on the passing game after the Bears worked to shut down the run in the first half. Yale’s first two possessions had little success because of defensive pressure on quarterback Alvin Cowan ’05, but the third possession was different. On the first play, wide receiver Ralph Plumb ’05 set the tone by coming up with a 37-yard reception amidst triple coverage. Another Plumb catch brought the Elis to the 22-yard line, but the Bears’ pass rush kept Cowan from completing a pass for a first down. On fourth down, place-kicker Andrew Sullivan ’05 attempted a 32-yard field goal, but his kick went wide right.
“[The game] shows how we haven’t gotten breaks this year,” captain Rory Hennessey ’05 said. “We’ve had a lot of tough breaks. Frustration is frustration; it’s tough.”
After the Bears charged down the turf with two long passes by quarterback Joe DiGiacomo and scored the crucial game-winning touchdown, the Bulldogs responded with a similar drive after tailback Rob Carr ’05 took the kick-off up to Yale’s 48-yard line. A 25-yard strike to wideout Chandler Henley ’06 brought the Elis close to the end zone again. But the Bears’ pressure forced two incomplete passes that again brought up a Sullivan attempt on fourth down. This time, Sullivan missed a 40-yarder.
Sullivan was one-for-four on the day despite coming into the series leading the league in field goal percentage.
“[Sullivan] has had a great year,” Siedlecki said. “He just didn’t have a good day today.”
It would not have come down to Sullivan’s kicking, though, if the Bulldogs had converted more than five of their 17 third downs.
“We didn’t capitalize on a couple opportunities,” Plumb said. “That’s just the way the game works sometimes. You can’t point the finger at any one thing.”
Another Eli drive was killed when Carr fumbled the ball at the Brown 27-yard line because of strong pressure brought by the Bears. The next possession also came up short. After establishing the pass game, a run play was called, and Carr blasted through for a 19-yard gain. But when only three yards were needed for a first down, three incomplete passes gave the Bears the ball back at their 24-yard line.
“In the red zone, the field gets shorter, and they didn’t have the threat of us throwing over their heads,” Cowan said. “[Brown] played well in the red zone.”
The last-ditch attempt at a score for the Bulldogs produced similar results, as the pressure from the Bears and the pressure the Elis put on themselves stopped the drive.
Although the offense could not finish its long drives, the Bulldog defense played with tenacity and helped keep the Elis in the game. Linebacker Ben Breunig ’05 led the team with 13 tackles, including one sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Breunig came up with several big tackles to help stop Brown drives. He said the Bears did exactly what Yale thought they were going to do by giving the ball to Hartigan 41 times.
“Bottom line is that they put 24 points on us,” Breunig said. “That’s just too much. We stopped them pretty good on first and second down, but we didn’t make the plays to get off the field.”
Despite the loss, it was a record-setting day for the Elis in the air. In the second quarter, on fourth and two, Cowan broke the Yale career passing yards record with a six-yard toss to wide receiver Ashley Wright ’07. Cowan finished the day with 419 yards on 31-for-57 passing, including two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Most of Cowan’s passing yardage came on plays to Plumb, who also had a record-setting afternoon in front of a crowd of family and friends. Plumb’s 258 yards of receiving helped him break the Yale career receiving yards record. His personal stats for the game were also significant, as his 258 yards put him fourth in Ivy League history for most yards receiving in a game. His 18 catches also ranked him third for most catches in a single game. Both Cowan and Plumb, however, said they do not care about the records now because they would have rather won the football game.
“None of that [stuff] matters,” Plumb said. “It’s real frustrating. It’s all for naught.”
It might be easy for the team to give up on this season now that the Bulldogs are tied for fourth place in the Ancient Eight, but Hennessey said the Elis know there are still two very important games left.
“No one is feeling sorry for themselves,” he said. “We are still playing hard.”
The Elis will play Princeton at home Nov. 13 and face the Cantabs in Cambridge Nov. 20.