FOOTBALL | Yale wins with high-flying offense

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Photo by Charlie Croom.

On third and eight from his own 41-yard line, quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 dropped back and looked to wideout Jackson Liguori ’14 across the middle.

The ball bounced off Liguori’s hands and seemed destined to hit the ground.

But fellow receiver Cameron Sandquist ’14 was not about to let that happen. The sophomore broke off from his route and snatched the ball out of the air before sprinting 59 yards downfield through a stunned Princeton secondary to put the Bulldogs ahead 10–7 with 1:17 left in the opening quarter.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” Sandquist said. “I was running a seam route up the middle and was just trying to help out with a block for Jackson. Then the ball came out of the sky and into my hands.”

Despite the absence of top receiver Chris Smith ’13, Witt picked apart the Tigers’ secondary, finishing with 26 completions on 33 attempts with 379 yards and three touchdowns, and led the Bulldogs (5–4, 4–2 Ivy) to a 33–24 victory over Princeton (1–8, 1–5). After Saturday’s game, Witt became Yale’s all-time leader in passing yardage with 5,709, surpassing Alwin Cowan ’04.

The Elis effortlessly drove 45 yards to the Princeton 16 during their opening drive. But on third and one, Tigers’ defensive tackle Mike Catapano took down Alex Thomas ’12 for a one-yard loss, forcing the Bulldogs to settle for a field goal.

However, the Tigers responded immediately on the following drive, powering through the Blue and White defense on the ground.

With five minutes left in the opening quarter, freshman tailback Chuck Dibilio took a direct snap and ran toward the left sideline before cutting back inside untouched for a 19-yard touchdown run, putting the Tigers up 7–3.

Princeton had a chance to widen its lead when Deon Randall ’14 fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing Elijah Mitchell to recover the ball at Yale’s 31-yard line.

But the Tigers could not generate any momentum, turning over the ball after a failed fourth-down conversion. The defensive stop set up Sanquist’s touchdown receptions.

Facing the worst defense in the Ivy League, Witt continued the Elis’ aerial assault in the second quarter. After an 18-yard strike to fullback Keith Coty ’14, Witt looked downfield for Randall, who baited the cornerback into going inside before cutting back to the sideline. With plenty of space around him in the end zone, Randall leaped into the air to grab the underthrown pass for a 28-yard touchdown reception.

“I was on our corners and our secondary during the game to let loose and make plays,” Princeton head coach Bob Surace said. “They’re playing too cautious, too not-to-lose.”

However, the Elis struggled to contain Dibilio and the Tigers’ ground game on the following drive, allowing Princeton to move to the Bulldogs’ 23-yard line. But on third down and five, defensive end EJ Conway sacked Wornham for a seven-yard loss, forcing the Tigers to settle for three points and giving Yale a 17–10 leading at halftime.

Starting off the second half, both teams’ offenses proved too much for the other to handle, with Yale striking through the air and Princeton grinding it out on the ground.

On his first drive of the third quarter, Witt dropped back and found an open Liguori for a 32-yard pickup. Taking Smith’s role, the sophomore receiver finished the game with ten receptions for 123 yards.

“We feel like we’ve got great depth at [receivers],” head coach Tom Williams said. “The best thing for Jackson was, because we knew Chris was going to be out, he had all week to prepare as a starter.”

Four plays later, Witt rolled out of the pocket and connected with an unguarded Randall in the corner of the end zone to put the Bulldogs ahead 24–10. Randall caught six passes for 77 yards and two scores.

The Tigers did not give up easily on the ensuing drive, running the ball five consecutive times to drive into Yale’s red zone. Dibilio picked up his second touchdown of the game with 8:31 left in the third on a four-yard run.

The Bulldogs responded immediately with a scoring drive of their own. After missing two games with a knee injury, Thomas broke off a 62-yard touchdown scamper down the right side, running into the end zone untouched and giving Yale a 30–17 lead.

“We were so happy that [Thomas] was able to play today,” Witt said. “He’s been battling to get back on the field. It was almost as if he limped all the way to the end zone.”

But Princeton’s run game overwhelmed the Yale front seven on its next possession, scoring its third touchdown of the game when Diblio rushed six yards into the Blue and White end zone.

Dibilio had 178 rushing yards on 31 carries and became the first true freshman in Ivy League history to rush for over 1,000 yards. By comparison, the Elis finished the game with 122 rushing yards on 39 attempts.

“It is becoming like a broken record,” Surace said. “We outrush a team and we have the ability to stop the run but, like I told the team, it is like life: You have to make plays. We had plenty of opportunities … but you have to be on the good side of those things to win football games.”

Up by just six points with 9:30 left in the game, Witt generated a clock-chewing drive, highlighted by a 21-yard dart to fullback Keith Coty ’14 on fourth and two that brought the Bulldogs to the Princeton 15. Four plays later, Philippe Panico ’13 booted a 27-yard field goal that put the game out of reach for the Tigers.

Wornham and the Princeton receivers struggled against a tough Yale secondary, which allowed just nine completions on 26 attempts for a measly 49 yards.

However, the victory was bittersweet for the Bulldogs. Thanks to a Dartmouth upset of Brown, Harvard’s 37–20 over Penn was enough to guarantee the Crimson sole possession of the Ivy League title.

The Elis will come home next weekend for the 128th edition of The Game to try to spoil the Crimson’s undefeated league play.

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