Jordan Forney ’11 knows how to find the end zone. Two weeks ago, he dove past two defenders and just past the corner pylon on a 28-yard fake field goal run with no time left in the second half. This Saturday, he caught a pass from Brook Hart ’11 in stride on a crossing route and repeated his performance, reaching the football just across the goal line early in the fourth quarter for a 29-yard score.
The extra-point conversion by Philippe Panico ’13 was the only other offense Yale needed, as the Elis (4–1, 2–0 Ivy) eked out a 7–6 nail-biter against Fordham (2–5) at the Yale Bowl, despite the absences of quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 and running backs Alex Thomas ’12 and Mordecai Cargill ’13, who all sat out with injuries.
“You only have 10 chances in a season to win a football game,” said safety Adam Money ’11. “We’d like to win one more handily, but it makes it all that much sweeter when you really muscle it out to get the win.”
Forney’s score was almost not enough. The Rams quickly drove into the Yale red zone on their possession after the Yale touchdown. Fordham quarterback Blake Wayne — who ran a hurry-up attack that caught Yale off guard at times — threw a series of strikes to All-American wide receiver Jason Caldwell and tight end Stephen Skelton, and Fordham lined up for a 24-yard field goal only five minutes after Forney’s score. Kicker Patrick Murray had already converted two longer kicks in the game, and this looked like an easy chip shot.
But Chris Dooley ’13, who had already had a pass deflection on the day, stuck his hand up at just the right time and blocked the kick.
“I just jumped up and got a hand on it and managed to block the kick,” Dooley said. “It was pretty simple, we just did what we had to do.”
The Rams did not threaten Yale’s lead again.
Dooley’s effort was Yale’s first blocked kick of the season. They have seen five of their own kicks blocked. On Saturday, the special teams held strong in every aspect but kicking accuracy. Panico missed field goal attempts of 50, 48 and 41 yards.
“We got off some clean looks today but they just didn’t go through for us,” head coach Tom Williams said. “But we’ll keep swinging at it.”
Field goals accounted for all of Fordham’s offense. Sophomore kicker Patrick Murray converted kicks of 45 and 38 yards despite strong winds that kept both offenses from operating at full efficiency.
But Hart, starting in the place of Witt, who separated his shoulder against Dartmouth last week, showed off the strong arm that earned him a spot on the varsity baseball team last spring. He completed 15 of 29 passes for 227 yards, an interception and the touchdown to Forney.
“That was an unbelievable win because we’ve had a couple guys go down with injuries,” said Hart. “I think that win just speaks a lot about our team and the way we prepare.”
Witt’s was not the only presence Yale was missing on the field. Thomas and Cargill had been both been injured last Saturday and had to watch from the sideline as Javi Sosa ’13 made the most of his first career start, earning 74 yards on 24 carries. Finally, Jeff Fell ’12 started at center in the place of Jake Koury ’11, and John Pedersen ’11 replaced the injured Gabe Fernandez ’12 at left tackle.
“We had adversity, we had a lot of guys hurt,” Williams said. “We had to play quite a few guys who haven’t played much this year. But our expectation is that those guys step up and play like starters. And I thought they did.”
Many of those plays came from the defense, which had to keep up with Wayne, who two weeks ago became the first Fordham quarterback ever to run for 100 yards in a game.
Led by linebacker Jordan Haynes, who recovered the game’s only fumble and led all defenders with 12 tackles, the Bulldogs allowed the Rams only 89 yards rushing and 219 through the air.
The unit’s biggest play came with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, when Money intercepted a Wayne pass at Yale’s own 33-yard line.
“We needed a play to get them off the field,” said Williams. “Money stepped in and made an unbelievable interception on that guy.”
Geoff Dunham ’12 had his first interception of the season and linemen Jake Stoller ’11 and Reed Spiller ’12 each had a sack.
The win was Yale’s third that has been decided by one score or fewer.
“A win like this is character-building,” said captain Tom McCarthy ’11. “After the Georgetown game, we were talking about how that was a character-building win. The way we keep winning, this team’s got a lot of character.”
Yale will look to put that character to good use next week when they try to avenge last year’s 9–0 loss to the University of Pennsylvania (4–1, 2–0), last year’s Ivy League champions. That game will be the first of five consecutive contests against Ivy League foes.
“Our season starts now,” Money said.