The Bulldog football team stormed the Yale Bowl on Saturday seeking revenge for last season’s 45–6 loss to the Big Red in their Ivy League opener — and, revenge they found.
Yale’s defense forced Big Red quarterback into three turnovers while quarterback Hank Furman ’14 and wide receiver Deon Randall ’14 combined for five touchdowns as the Elis powered past Cornell 38–23. Today’s matchup was all about composure; the Bulldog defense forced Mathews to scramble frequently, while the Yale attack remained stoic as it marched down the field.
“Every year is a new year,” head coach Tony Reno said. “The carry over from last year that we had was growth.”
Captain and defensive end Beau Palin ’14 said he has been happy with how the Bulldogs have been performing, but added that there was still room to improve after last week’s win over Colgate. Today, Yale (2–0, 1–0 Ivy) proved it could dominate through the air as well as on the ground, picking up a total of 566 offensive yards and attaining 30 first downs.
Reno stressed the depth of Yale’s wide receiving corps as an essential part of spreading out the defense and creating opportunities on offense. Randall, wide receiver Chris Smith ’14 and wide receiver Grant Wallace ’15 combined to catch 22 passes for 296 yards.
“We’re a team that has a multitude of weapons,” Reno said. “Randall and Smith, Wallace — you have to defend all those guys at the perimeter. It’s very frustrating to try to defend our offense.”
Yale shocked the Cornell defense right from the opening kickoff. After Smith returned the opening kickoff to the Cornell 49-yard line, a series of punishing runs from tailback Tyler Varga ’15 and a 34-yard strike to wide receiver Grant Wallace ’15 brought Yale to the doorstep. Furman then punched it in on third-and-goal to take a 7–0 lead early in the first quarter.
Cornell (1–1, 0–1) switched to the no-huddle offense to try and keep Yale’s explosive offense on the sidelines, but came up empty on their first possession.
Cornell picked up two first downs on their opening drive, but stalled. They caught a break when outside linebacker Tre’ Minor blocked kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15 as he attempted a 36-yard field goal halfway through the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Cornell kicker John Wells knocked down a 31-yard field goal to narrow the gap to four at 7–3.
With the Big Red facing third-and-13 on the Yale 43 at the end of the first quarter, Mathews was hit as he threw the ball and defensive tackle Jeff Schmittgens ’15 intercepted the errant pass to stop the drive.
The Elis did not capitalize on the gift, however, and Cornell’s offense came out like a Big Red machine on its next drive.
A big pass interference penalty against linebacker Will Vaughan ’15 negated a third down stop for the Bulldogs. Another third down conversion for Cornell brought the ball to the Yale four-yard line. Mathews made the Bulldogs pay two plays later, throwing a nine-yard strike to wide receiver Lucas Shapiro to take a 10–7 lead with 0:51 remaining in the half.
The Elis, refusing to finish the first half down to the Big Red, had a few more tricks up their sleeve.
Chris Smith made a big play just prior to halftime, breaking a 33-yard catch to take the Elis inside Cornell territory. Wide receiver Myles Gaines ’17 gained 24 yards along the right sideline, and Cazzetta’s 25-yard attempt knotted the game at 10–10 at the break.
“We have a great culture on the line,” offensive lineman Ben Carbery ’15 said. “We communicate well together… What really impressed me about today was that we didn’t have the easiest first half, but the way we came out in the second half; we took over that game. The offense moved so smoothly.”
While Yale showed that they could strike quickly at the beginning of the game, they proved that once again with a zippy attack in the second half, racking up 28 points to Cornell’s 13. Crucial to the Yale attack, however, was Yale’s consistent and relentless defense.
On Cornell’s opening drive in the second half, linebacker Andrew Larkin ’16 sacked 2011 Ivy League Player of the Year Mathews for a nine-yard loss. Defensive back Cole Champion ’16 lead the Elis with 10 solo and 5 assisted tackles and Palin had three solos and one assisted.
In addition to strong defensive play and a versatile offense, the Bulldogs made the tough plays into spectacular ones when it counted.
On a crucial fourth down at the Cornell 47, Varga broke multiple tackles and spun through a hole in the line for a 19-yard gain. Three plays later, Yale converted a third down into a touchdown as Furman hit Randall for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
Randall went on to catch two more touchdown passes to tie the school record with three receiving touchdowns. The last player to have three receiving touchdowns in a game was wide receiver Ashley Wright ’06 in 2005 — also against Cornell.
Time was of the essence for the Yale offense as none of their scoring drives lasted more than three minutes. On one drive, the Elis ran seven plays for 66 yards in 41 seconds.
“We talked a lot about controlling the controllables: turnovers, penalties and third-down conversions,” Reno said. “The kids did a great job — it’s all them. I can’t say how proud I am of this group.”
Yale managed to attain a 54-point swing from last year’s defeat to this year’s victory.