Yale ran 54 plays on offense on Saturday, but not one of those plays involved a player listed as a quarterback on the Elis’ roster.
Even with the personnel shortages, the Bulldogs (2–5, 1–3 Ivy) almost came away with a win at Columbia before falling 26–22 on Saturday,
Running back Tyler Varga ’15 took the majority of snaps on Saturday, although he was occasionally relieved by wide receiver Henry Furman ’14. Although Columbia did not face a true quarterback, the Lions head coach Pete Mangurian said that he could not overcommit to the running game.
“You’d love to say let’s put everybody up there and commit to the run,” Mangurian said. “If you watch what they do in the kicking game, what they do offensively, they’re not just going to run it every down. If you get your nose up in there too much, they’ll throw it over your head.”
The Elis did run on 78 percent of their plays, compiling 262 yards on the ground. Varga led the way with 220 yards and three rushing touchdowns. In a wild fourth quarter that saw three lead changes, Yale’s ground attack gave them a 22–19 lead late in the game, but a fumble by Varga set up Columbia for a last-minute scoring drive. Varga coughed the ball up with 2:05 remaining, and Lions quarterback Sean Brackett led a 59-yard drive that he finished with a 2-yard strike to running back Marcorus Garrett.
“We turned the ball over twice [in the second half] and we didn’t get off the field at all on third downs,” head coach Tony Reno said. “If you do those two things it’s hard to win ball games.”
Yale had taken the lead with 7:30 remaining in the fourth quarter when Varga cut back to his left, stiff-armed a defender and dove inside the pylon for a 25-yard scoring run. Running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 then punched the ball in for a two-point conversion to put the Elis up a field goal.
Columbia (2–5, 1–3 Ivy) failed to tie the game when kicker Luke Eddy pulled his 41-yard field goal attempt wide left but were saved by Varga’s turnover.
On the first drive of the game the Lions took a 3–0 lead with a field goal. But Yale’s defense held the Columbia offense scoreless until the fourth quarter after that.
The Elis struggled to find a rhythm in the opening quarter on offense. Then Varga marched Yale 94 yards down the field to take a 7–3 lead on his 28-yard touchdown run with 13:34 left in the second quarter.
The Lions capitalized on a Yale mishap to cut the lead to two when Varga couldn’t handle the snap. Varga fell on the ball in Yale’s own end zone and was tackled for a safety.
“They made a mistake,” Columbia linebacker Ryan Murphy said. “They fumbled the snap and we were where we needed to be … [and we] capitalized on their mistake.”
Yale expanded on its 7–5 halftime lead when Varga faked a hand-off and slipped across the goal line untouched for a 3-yard score and a 14–5 lead at 8:33 in the third quarter.
The Lions surged back, finding the end zone on their next two possessions.
The first score came when wide receiver Jake Wanamaker hauled in Brackett’s lob to the back corner of the end zone from 4 yards out.
After forcing a Yale three and out, Brackett led the Lions down the field. He scrambled and dove over the goal line from one yard out with 11:38 to go in the fourth quarter and retook the lead 19–14.
Brackett was 33–47 for 328 yards and two scores through the air in addition to his rushing touchdown. His favorite target was wide receiver Connor Neligan, who caught 11 passes for 138 yards.
“Sean is putting the ball on the money every time,” Neligan said. “It feels good out there for the wide receivers.”
Varga’s 220 rushing yards were the most ever by a Yale quarterback, breaking the record of 204 yards set by Nick Crawford ’92 against Penn in 1991.
Yale stays on the road next Saturday to face Brown.