At least last week’s game was close.
Saturday, the Lafayette Leopards dominated on both sides of the ball as they defeated the Yale football team, 31-14, at a rainy Yale Bowl.
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Things looked promising for the Elis at first, as wide receiver Peter Balsam ’11 recovered a Lafayette fumble during the opening kickoff.
Unlike when Yale failed to capitalize on good field position last Saturday against Cornell, the Bulldogs took advantage. Tailback Jordan Ferrell ’10 brought the team within three yards of the goal line before quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Balsam on fourth and goal, giving the Elis the early 7-0 lead.
“[Larry Abare ’10] really just struck the guy,” Balsam said of his fumble recovery. “Drew [Baldwin ’12] went for the ball, it bounced off him and then I hopped on it. It was a great way to start the game.”
From there, it was almost all downhill for the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1 Ivy), as the Leopards (3-1) dominated, scoring the next 24 points.
Toward the end of the first quarter, Lafayette mounted an 18-play drive that lasted more than seven minutes and resulted in a 31-yard field goal to make the score 7-3. Beyond the three points, the long drive both tired the defense and disrupted the flow of the offense, which was left on the sideline watching.
“We were off the field offensively for a long time, and I thought that really affected our rhythm,” head coach Tom Williams said.
And the Leopards did not let up.
With two minutes left in the half, Lafayette senior quarterback Rob Curley completed three consecutive passes to junior wide receiver Mark Layton, including a 46-yard bomb down the sideline to put the Leopards on Yale’s 17-yard line. Layton promptly made a 17-yard catch to give Lafayette both the momentum and the 10-7 lead as the teams headed into their locker rooms.
“The turning point of the game was their ability to score right before halftime,” Williams said. “I thought that deflated us a little bit.”
The Leopards made sure that they kept the momentum going for the second half, scoring touchdowns in their next two possessions: a six-yard run by sophomore wide receiver Greg Stripe and a four-yard pass from Curley to Layton. Layton finished the day with seven catches for 116 yards.
The Yale defense, which last week kept Cornell to only three first downs and 166 total yards, struggled against the Leopards, who finished with 24 first downs and 396 total yards.
The Bulldogs believe much of Lafayette’s strength came from the Leopards’ offensive line, three of whom are seniors.
“Their front five were really solid,” linebacker Tim Handlon ’10 said. “It was very frustrating. We try to get off the field quick, so it was a tough one to swallow when they were [driving consistently].”
Offensively, both the Eli passing and running games struggled. Ferrell was limited to 37 yards and Witt, who played most of the first three quarters, went 7 of 13 for 60 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
One bright spot for Yale, however, was the play of back-up quarterback Brook Hart ’11. After playing in two of the Bulldogs’ first nine drives, Hart took over for Witt midway through the fourth quarter and led Yale on their two most impressive drives of the game.
With less than eight minutes left, Hart threw nine consecutive passes, completing eight of them, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Forney ’11 that made the score 24-14.
After Lafayette responded with their own touchdown, Hart was once again under center. This time he orchestrated a 33-yard drive that ended with a missed Tom Mante ’10 field goal with less than a minute remaining.
In total, Hart completed 13 of 17 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown while being sacked four times.
“I feel that it was a spark for our team, but we’ve got to do it for four quarters,” Hart said. “Anyone can go out and put one drive together, it doesn’t really mean too much.
While Hart’s play may not have had much of an effect upon the overall game, it may prove to be significant in terms of who will be taking snaps against Dartmouth on Saturday.
“Obviously Brook came in and did a great job moving the football,” Williams, who has yet to name the starter for Saturday’s game against Dartmouth, said. “As far as who the first guy is, we’ll have to determine that, but I think that both guys are capable of leading our team down the field.”
Injuries also hindered the Bulldogs on the rainy Saturday.
Wide receiver Gio Christodoulou ’11 sat out the game with third-degree turf toe suffered during the Bulldogs’ first drive against Cornell last weekend and said he will be out at least two more weeks.
Tailback Alex Thomas ’12 made his first appearance since injuring his ankle in the preseason and finished with five yards on three carries. Captain Paul Rice ’10 sat out the fourth quarter after taking a big hit during a kick return. He woozily walked to the sideline but is expected to be OK.