FOOTBALL: Bulldog offense shut down again

Quarterback Brook Hart ’11 is taken to the ground by a Penn defender in a 9–0 loss to the Quakers. Hart was sacked four times and threw two interceptions before being replaced by backup Patrick Witt ’12.
Quarterback Brook Hart ’11 is taken to the ground by a Penn defender in a 9–0 loss to the Quakers. Hart was sacked four times and threw two interceptions before being replaced by backup Patrick Witt ’12. Photo by R.J. Rico.

PHILADELPHIA — Defense may win ball games, but when the two toughest defenses in the Ivy League faced each other Saturday, the Bulldogs found they needed some semblance of an offense too.

The Yale offense was unable to score any points for the second consecutive game, and kicker Tom Mante ’10 missed three field goals, as the Bulldogs (3–3, 1–2 Ivy) wasted another strong defensive effort in their 9–0 loss at Penn (4–2, 3–0) on Saturday.

It was the first time the Bulldogs have been shutout since last year’s 1 — 0 loss against Harvard in The Game.

Like Yale’s 9 – 7 loss to the Quakers last year, Saturday’s contest shaped up to be an ugly defensive struggle. Both offenses were kept out of the end zone, and the game’s lone touchdown came on an interception return.

“We played with great intensity, we played with great violence, we played with great effort, but those things are not enough,” head coach Tom Williams said. “You’ve got to execute, and we didn’t do enough of that today.”

At first, though, both offenses looked to be on point.

The Bulldogs’ first drive of the game lasted 13 plays for 48 yards and was highlighted by a 20-yard run by quarterback Brook Hart ’11 that brought the Elis across midfield. They did not get much further than that, though, and a 54-yard field goal try by Mante had the distance, but went wide right. With a successful kick, Mante would have tied his personal and the Ivy League record.

Capitalizing on the good field position after the miss, the Quakers moved the ball 30 yards downfield and made a 35-yard field goal to take an early 3 — 0 lead.

On the next Yale drive, a sack and a false-start penalty pushed the Bulldogs back to their own 15-yard line. Then came the huge blow. Hart’s pass on third-and-23 was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by sophomore defensive tackle Jared Sholly with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

“[Hart] basically threw it right to me,” Sholly said.

A botched snap on the point after touchdown kept the score at 9 — 0, and that’s how it would eventually end.

For the rest of the half, Yale’s offensive production was entirely absent, combining for zero first-downs and a total of 11 yards.

The Quakers too were prevented from crossing midfield until their last drive of the half. After a 15-yard face mask penalty against Yale and a nine-yard completion, Penn had the ball on the Yale 23-yard line, but the clock expired before the Quakers could spike the ball and go for a field goal.

Penn was in control throughout the third quarter, and it seemed only a matter of time before the Quakers put the game out of reach. The Bulldog defense, however, was able to force key turnovers that prevented any more points from being scored.

The first turnover came with eight minutes left in the third quarter, when linebacker Max Newton ’10 intercepted a Quaker pass at the Yale 10-yard line.

On Penn’s next drive, the Quakers once again were close to entering the red zone, but linebacker Tim Handlon ’10 forced a fumble, which defensive tackle Tom McCarthy ’10 recovered on the Yale 25-yard line.

“When we went down 9–0, we knew that we were going to have to step up and not let them score for the rest of the game,” Handlon said. “They were moving [the ball], but we were bending and not breaking.”

But Hart was unable to take advantage of the Penn turnovers, as he finished the game eight-for-13 for 56 yards with two interceptions.

The constant Quaker pressure on Hart did not help — the southpaw was sacked four times.

“[Yale’s] got tall kids who … made some nice catches,” Penn head coach Al Bagnoli said. “So [unlike last year] we were certainly much more worried about trying to get pressure on the quarterback, as opposed to just playing run defense the whole time.”

With Hart not playing well and the Bulldogs having good field position after linebacker Jordan Haynes ’12 blocked a Penn punt, Williams decided to go with backup quarterback Patrick Witt ’12.

Witt immediately provided the spark that the Bulldogs needed.

A 17-yard completion to wide receiver Peter Balsam ’11 and a personal foul against Penn on the play moved the Bulldogs within 12 yards of the goal line. After three consecutive incomplete passes, however, the Bulldogs looked like they would have to be content with three points.

But the points never came as Mante missed the 28-yard attempt — his second miss of the day — wide left with 10:01 remaining in the game.

Despite the rain Saturday, Mante said the weather was not to blame for the missed kicks.

“The conditions on the field had a minimal effect on my two field goal attempts during the fourth quarter,” he said. “I just missed them both wide left, plain and simple.”

After another defensive stop, Witt — who was the starter at the beginning of the season but had not appeared in Yale’s last two games — started where he left off, completing seven of his 10 passes to bring the Elis to the Penn 30-yard line. Once again Yale was stopped short of the end zone, and once again Mante’s field goal was wide left — this time from 47 yards out with 1:36 left.

“We feel like we have two quarterbacks who are capable of moving our football team, and when one is not operating the way we think he should, we have the ability to put the other one in, so that’s what we did,” Williams said. “We just didn’t make the plays in the kicking game that I thought we could have made that would have changed the complexion of the football game.”

The miss gave the ball to the Quakers, who were able to run out the clock after three plays.

Yale, which is already coping with this week’s revelations that strong safety Larry Abare ’10 — who broke his right arm last week against Lehigh — and wide receiver Gio Christodoulou ’11 — who is out for the rest of the season due to a turf toe injury suffered against Cornell — received another scare Saturday. In the fourth quarter as wide receiver and returner Chris Smith ’13 — Christodoulou’s replacement — walked off the field on crutches.

Smith was not available for comment about his condition, but if he is out for a substantial amount of time it would be a huge blow to the already struggling offense. Smith has statistically been one of the team’s top playmakers, having caught 18 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown.

Captain and linebacker Paul Rice ’10, who recently has been hampered by an injured knee and sat out portions of the game Saturday, had a season-low four tackles.

“I really thought that we were going to win,” Rice said. “It’s very disappointing.”

The Bulldogs will travel to Columbia next week as they try to find their offense, which has been absent since Hart’s 390-passing yard game in Yale’s 38–7 victory against Dartmouth two weeks ago.

Comments

  • ’98

    A horrendous performance. Williams is Beckett’s blunder. It’s painful to read his excuses week after week.

    Anybody out there still disagree with me that we should trade our three best players for Marsh?

    Seriously, the coach is witless and the team is heartless.

    We’d be better off being Witt-less and Hart-less.

  • Old Blue

    Roll the guillotine back into storeage for a bit, ’98. Show Mr. Williams a year of mercy, since the unfortunate truth is that his current minions are all holdovers from the ancien régime.

    If there is no improvement next year, others may come around to your point of view.

  • ’98

    Oh, so it’s Bush’s fault.

  • Y11

    I agree with Old Blue, and I’d even give Williams two years to form his own team… but I’d really, really like to beat Harvard before I graduate.

  • Yale facts

    Hold overs from the Siedlecki teams that went 23-7 over his last 3 years.

    The cupboard is not bare.

  • Yale ’07

    ’98:

    You are clueless.

    Hart and Witt are both very talented players stuck behind a young offensive line.

    With protection, they are All-Ivy.

  • Alum

    I agree with Old Blue – at least to this extent: Williams should be retained … as long as he beats Harvard. He recognized this imperative at his initial press conference.

  • ’98

    ’07:
    Ok, watch this young offensive line come through against Columbia and Princeton, while falling apart against Brown and Harvard. Happy, now? “Yale facts” is right on the money.

  • Argle Bargle

    Obviously, its too soon to think about replacing the coach, but his excuses are a little hard to tolerate. I find this comment particularly difficult to swallow -

    “We just didn’t make the plays in the kicking game that I thought we could have made that would have changed the complexion of the football game.”

    Yeah, the whole game turned on a missed 54 yard field goal. Hey, Tom, its the Ivy League. You should be thanking your lucky stars you have a kicker who’s capable of even attempting FGs that long instead of blaming the loss on him.

  • YNHH

    COME ON THE CUPBOARD WAS BARE.WHY DO YOU THINK JACK LEFT.YALE WOULD BE 1-5 instead of 3-3. SPOILED BRATS.
    YOU DON’T KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE SOMETHING GOOD.

  • ’12

    #9: While I mainly agree with what you said, I don’t think he was referring to the 54-yd miss. he was probably talking about the 28-yd miss with 10 mins left. That would have made it a one possession game.

  • @’12

    I don’t think he meant that. I think he meant, had Mante made all three FGs (and the last two, he really should have made…the first one WAS difficult, though he DID make a 54-yarder this season — just saying Mante IS capable), then Yale would have tied Penn by the end of the game at least. I don’t think making a one possession game would have made any difference, seeing our offense just couldn’t get the ball into the end zone.

  • ’98

    OMG – Now we have to parse the verbiage of our football illiterate. At his next post-game press conference, we should hire an amanuensis. How far have we fallen?

  • BillMoore85IsGod

    Sad to say, we could easily end up 5-5. Princeton’s brutal (win), Harvard’s tough (sorry, loss). We should beat Columbia. The Brown game, as always, will be tough, close, and intense. Maybe we can bluff our way to 6-4 like last year. But it’s really hard to see us winning out for 7-3.

    On the upside, with both QB’s back in 2010 behind a better line, plus Smith and Christodolou running wild, we could be really good — IF that nation-leading defense can continue dominating sans Abare and Rice next year.

  • Billy C

    No running game this year! Lets face the facts, Tom Williams did not recruit these halfbacks! No ground attack no Ivy league title. Dont Blame Hart. Smith led all receivrs in catches and yards , never would want to trade him.

  • To BillMoore #14

    For the most part I share your view of what may occur this year. 5-5 is the most likely outcome.

    As for next year, I’m not sure I see the same rosy scenario. Frankly, I’m not sure either of these QB’s will ever lead us to a title.

    The unknown is whether Williams, with his first recruiting class, will be able to lasso some studs – and hopefully more studs than Harvard or Penn are herding into their own corrals.

  • ’98

    Billy C: I love Smith (especially in the classroom), but Marsh is the best freshman in the league. How can you compare Bethel Park,Pa vs Midlothian, Va? He could play in many big Div 1A programs.
    Anyway, looking forward to the trip down to the tip of Manhattan. I promise not to knock Williams. This week, he won’t be the worst coach on the sidelines.

  • Billy C

    Class of 98, We think a lot alike. Marsh may be the leagues best Freshman! However Chris Smith could also play in many top programs. Hey 98 could you give me an update on chris Smiths fourth quarter injury.

  • ’98

    No word yet. Williams didn’t mention his injury at yesterday’s teleconference, nor was he asked (these types of questions may be termed off-limits.) He did, however, say that Chris has done a great job in all aspects of the game, especially since Gio’s injury.
    Hope we get a nice turnout this Saturday. We will (probably) never play against a QB named Millicent again.

  • Eli Fan

    I certainly see/hear all the buzz surrounding freshman Smith’s condition and rightfully so. He’s led in total offense for 3 or 4 wks in a row. His kick returns have been amazing for a 1st year. If he goes down it’s going to have impact

  • BILLY C

    WHOSE THE QB THIS TIME? Probably Witt,Missed the press conferene at the Bookstore.Could it be possible that we draw 35 to 40 thousand for the BROWN home game? It would be nice for a change.

  • Old Blue

    Average home attendance for top Ivies in 2008:

    Harvard: 17,360
    Penn: 11,284
    Yale: 11,071
    Princeton: 9,384

    (Note: since both Harvard and Yale draw half or more of their season’s total in their annual faceoff, Harvard or Yale tends to lead depending on which school has the Y-H game at home. We are the host team this year, so our per-game average should show a big jump over 2008)

  • BILLY C

    Looking foward to seeinng this weeks game at Columbia! Finally took the trip to see historic Franklin field. What a beautiful stadium. Can anyone clue me in on the new stadium at Columbia? Isnt it next to legendary Bakers Field? Havent heard fom 98 in a while. Hope a lot of Bulldog fans will make the trip down to manhattan. See you there.

  • ’98

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_A._Wien_Stadium

    Just watch out for the seagulls, arriving in mid-afternoon.