What went wrong, 2009-’11

A failed fake punt attempt by Yale on fourth-and-22 helped Harvard overcome a 10–0 fourth quarter deficit to win 14–10 at the Yale Bowl in 2009.
A failed fake punt attempt by Yale on fourth-and-22 helped Harvard overcome a 10–0 fourth quarter deficit to win 14–10 at the Yale Bowl in 2009. Photo by Brianne Bowen.

2009:

Yale’s first-year head coach, Tom Williams, had used trick plays to his team’s advantage all season. That changed for the Bulldogs, though, at the 126th Game on Nov. 21, 2009 as the Elis fell 14–10 to Harvard at the Yale Bowl.

With Yale on its own 25-yard line and leading 10–7 with 2:25 remaining in the game, Williams opted for a trick punt play on fourth-and-22. Safety John Powers ’13 took a handoff and gained 15 yards on the play, but he was tackled well short of the first-down marker. The Crimson took over on downs and proceeded to drive down the field for a touchdown. That score propelled Harvard (7–3, 6–1 Ivy), which trailed by 10 early in the fourth quarter, toward its eventual victory.

For most of the game, the Bulldogs had the momentum — and the crowd — on their side. The Elis surprised their rivals by running the ball early and often and owned a 10–0 lead at halftime. While Harvard came out strong in the second half, the Elis held strong on a series of fourth-down conversion attempts, including one goal-line stand after the Crimson drove the ball to the Yale 1-yard line. But the Elis could not muster any points after their defensive heroics, and the Crimson scored a touchdown to cut the lead to three with 6:46 to go. With a minute and a half remaining in the game, Harvard quarterback Collie Winters completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to put the Crimson up 14–10 and complete the comeback.

The loss sent Yale to its first losing season since 2005.

 

2010:

Yale’s seniors took the field at Harvard Stadium on Nov. 20, 2010 seeking the first win against Harvard of their college careers.

The Elis (7–3, 5–2 Ivy) took an early lead and dominated every statistical category against the Cantabs (7–3, 5–2 Ivy), but they failed to hold off a scoring surge by Harvard for the second consecutive year. The Bulldogs fell 28–21 — the team’s ninth loss to Harvard in 10 years.

In a game marked by a sobering collision between lineback Jesse Reising ’11 and Harvard’s Gino Gordon, after which Reising had to be wheeled off the field in a stretcher, Harvard took advantage of every Yale mistake. The Cantabs scored touchdowns on a kickoff return, after a shanked Yale punt and off another punt that was blocked.

Those scores helped give the home team a 28–14 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Although captain Tom McCarthy ’11 gave the Elis hope when he forced a fumble in Crimson territory and Alex Thomas ’12 narrowed the lead to a single touchdown minutes later, the Bulldogs could not close the gap.

Soon after Harvard stopped Gio Christodoulou ’11 well short of the first down marker on a desperate fourth-and-17 attempt, the Bulldogs walked somberly into their locker room as Harvard students and players raced onto the field.

“We let it all out there,” McCarthy said. “We gave it everything we had. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. There are definitely no regrets from the players and coaching staff.”

 

2011:

The Yale faithful marched into the Yale Bowl on Nov. 27, 2011 full of hope that Tom Williams and his players could turn around a disappointing season and avoid the Elis’ (5–5, 4–3 Ivy) second-ever five-game losing streak to the Crimson.

Star quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 announced he would play in The Game, which was scheduled for the same day as his Rhodes Scholarship final interview, and when Witt connected with wide receiver Jackson Liguori ’13 for a 24-yard touchdown to open the scoring, the sea of blue erupted.

But from that point forward, the scoring was all Harvard (9–1, 7–0 Ivy). The Crimson offense steamrolled the Bulldog defense, piling up 506 total yards — 355 through the air and another 151 on the ground.

Harvard quarterback Collier Winters thoroughly outplayed Witt, completing 64 percent of his passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Three different Crimson players found the end zone on the ground as well.

The Yale offense, by contrast, managed only five first downs and committed four turnovers, including an interception late in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown. The Elis’ running game managed only 76 yards on 30 attempts for a 2.5-yard average.

The 45–7 final score was Yale’s worst loss to its archrival in 29 years and the second-most lopsided Bulldog defeat in the history of The Game.

“It came down to us not executing against a good football team,” team captain Jordan Haynes ’12 said. “Ending my career this way — it is definitely a low point for me in my 12 years of playing football. All I can hope for is … that the guys in the coming years can make things happen.”

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