Playing without a true quarterback, the Bulldogs (2-5, 1-3 Ivy) were unable to come out of the Big Apple with a win Saturday afternoon, blowing a fourth quarter lead to fall 26-22 to Columbia (2-5, 1-3 Ivy).
Last week the Bulldogs had to deal with the loss of starting quarterback Eric Williams ’16. This week, the Elis were without any of their three quarterbacks.
Running back Tyler Varga ’15 took the majority of Yale’s snaps, but he was occasionally spelled by WR Henry Furman ’14. Furman had not played quarterback since high school, where he was a three-year starter and 2009 first-team all-leaguer for Lincoln High in Portland, Ore.
Columbia drove down the field on the first drive of the game, but the Yale defense held firm on its own 11-yard line to force a Columbia field goal.
After the two teams traded punts, the Elis were finally able to drive the football.
Running the option and a normal running game out of their traditional formations, Varga led the Elis on a 7-play, 94-yard drive that he capped off with a 28-yard scoring run.
Yale’s defense forced a punt on the Lions’ next possession, but punter Paul Delaney pinned the Elis deep on their own 9-yard line. On the next play, Varga could not handle the snap and was brought down for a safety after recovering in the end zone.
With the Yale lead cut to just two midway through the second quarter, the Bulldogs responded by forcing the Lions to punt yet again.
Running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 gave the ball right back to Columbia when he fumbled on the second play of Yale’s ensuing drive. Columbia appeared destined to take advantage of the Yale turnover when running back Marcorus Garrett rushed for 6 yards to set Columbia up with first and goal on the Yale 1-yard line.
Four plays later, however, and the Elis had the ball back after a goal line stand.
Reno then called Furman’s number to lead Yale in the two-minute drill. His first two collegiate passes were completions, the second to wide receiver Austin Reuland ’16 for a first down. Furman’s next to passes fell incomplete, however, and Yale punted the ball back to Penn with less than a minute remaining.
Defensive back Kurt Stottlemyer ’13 crushed Columbia’s hopes of a halftime lead by intercepting quarterback Sean Brackett on the final play of the first half.
Yale had the ball to start the second half, but not for long. Cargill fumbled the ball on Yale’s first play from scrimmage after the break. The giveaway was Cargill’s second of the game and fourth this season.
The Lions were again unable to capitalize on Yale’s mistake as the Elis stopped Columbia on a fourth down try on the Yale 26.
Twelve plays and 74 yards later, Varga extended Yale’s lead when Columbia’s defense bit on the fake hand-off, allowing the running back-turned-quarterback to slip across the goal line from 4 yards out.
Columbia responded with a 75-yard drive of their own, which ended when wide receive Jake Wanamaker hauled in Brackett’s 4-yard lob to the back right corner of the end zone.
After forcing Yale to punt, the Lions took the lead with 11:38 to go in the final quarter when Brackett took it in for the score himself from 1 yard out.
The lead changed again on Yale’s next drive. The offensive line pushed right and Varga appeared to follow them, only to turn on a dime and cut back left and run 28 yards before diving just inside the pylon. Reno opted to go for two and Cargill converted by powering his way up the middle into the end zone.
The Elis led 22-19 with 7:30 left in regulation and appeared to be on their way to running out the clock after Columbia’s 41-yard field goal try went wide to the left.
With just 2:05 remaining, Varga rushed for a first down at the Columbia 41, but fumbled the football as he was falling to the ground. Reno and the Bulldogs argued that the play was dead because Varga was down by contact, but the call stood in favor of the Lions.
Brackett orchestrated an eight-play, 59-yard drive that returned the lead to Columbia with a 2-yard pass to Garrett.
With just 45 seconds to go, Furman again went under center for the Bulldogs. Although he was able to pick up a first down at the Yale 42 with a 17-yard strike to wide receiver Cameron Sandquist ’14, time ran out on Yale’s hopes of a comeback.
Varga led the Elis with 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns. His total set the record for most yards on the ground by a Yale quarterback Nick Crawford ’92 with 204 yards against Penn in 1991.
Yale will hit the road again next Saturday when the Bulldogs travel to Providence, R.I. to face Brown.