Riding a three-game losing streak into Saturday’s game against Columbia at the Yale Bowl, the Bulldogs broke records and regained the confidence that came with their 3–0 start to the 2013 season.
In the highest-scoring game for either program so far this season, Yale (4–3, 2–2 Ivy) topped the Lions (0–7, 0–4) 53–12. Several Elis set or tied records on Saturday: running back Kahlil Keys ’14 broke the all-time school record for yardage on a rushing play with a 94-yard touchdown run; kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’14 tied his career-best with a 46-yard field goal and; and tailback Tate Harshbarger ’14 scored his first career touchdown. The Bulldogs also intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. On offense, Yale tallied 569 yards compared to just 246 yards for Columbia.
“I think it tells you a lot about the character of this team,” said head coach Tony Reno. “They put it all together on the field today.”
The Elis put themselves on the scoreboard twice in the first quarter with a field goal and a touchdown. Yale got to the scoreboard first with an 11-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a career-tying 46-yard field goal from Cazzetta. Yale was unable to find the end zone for most of the first quarter, but the Elis managed to open up the floodgates with a reverse play.
Quarterback Hank Furman ’14 handed the ball off to tailback Candler Rich ’17 at the 15-yard line and then delivered a block while Rich reversed it to wide receiver Deon Randall ’14. Randall then took the ball down the left sideline for a gain of 10 with 2:06 remaining in the first quarter. After a false start penalty, the Bulldogs scored their first touchdown of the game when Furman handed the ball off to Rich on the left side. Rich then made two sharp cuts and walked into the end zone for his second touchdown of the year.
Although Yale’s offense was the story of the game, its defense punished the Columbia offense to make sure that the scoring was a one-sided affair.
“The execution [by the defense] has been much better than it has in the past weeks,” Reno said.
On the first play of the second quarter, Columbia’s Chris Connors received the ball over the top of the offensive line and cut across the center of the field, but defensive back Charles Cook ’15 delivered a bone-crushing hit and forced a punt.
In the second quarter, the Lions managed to narrow Yale’s lead to four.
On third down from the Yale 22-yard line, Furman tossed the ball down the left-side line, but Columbia’s Brian East intercepted it. East then ran the ball all the way back to make it 6–10. The Lions would not get any closer, however, because kicker Luke Eddy’s extra point attempt went wide.
The score would not stay that close for much longer.
Just over seven minutes into the second quarter, Furman sank deep in the pocket and waited for Randall to make his way past the defense and into the end zone before making a 26-yard touchdown pass to put Yale up 16–6. Cazzetta then knocked his second extra point of the game through the uprights to make it 17–6.
With 53 seconds remaining in the first half, Yale looked to widen its lead. Furman took a high snap and faced instant pressure from the Lions’ defenders as they broke through the offensive line. Furman picked his head up quickly and dished a short pass to Rich, who ran for a few yards before diving between two defenders into the end zone. Yale received a illegal substitution penalty before the extra point and the extra yardage forced Cazzetta to kick wide, so the Bulldogs headed to the locker room after 30 minutes of play up 23–6.
At the start of the second half, Columbia came out strong after the kick return with two completions before disaster struck once again. The Lions were called for a holding penalty, took a sack and botched the punt on a bad snap. It did not take the Elis long to capitalize. Furman capped a five-play, 24-yard scoring drive when he found Randall over the middle for a gain of 19 yards to set up Rich for his third touchdown of the game. Yale took a 30–6 lead after the extra point.
Yale’s defense continued to squash any hopes that Columbia had of a comeback.
With four minutes left in the third quarter, linebacker Andrew Larkin ’16 had his first career interception at the 50-yard line to keep the momentum with the Bulldogs. After a brief media timeout, Furman took the snap and lobbed the ball downfield for wide receiver Grant Wallace ’15 who caught it with ease along the right sideline and raced past the defender into the end zone to put Yale up 37–6.
After the defense forced a punt that rolled to a stop on the six-yard line, Keys took the handoff just outside the Yale end zone and ran the ball for 94 yards — the longest run in Yale history — for his first career touchdown. The ball was dropped on the extra point snap, and Cazzetta was tackled after he picked up the ball, but Keys’ run widened the Elis’ margin to 37 by the end of the third quarter.
“I actually didn’t realize it was a record when I was on the field,” Keys said. “I saw a great opening and wanted to hit it hard, and I took off.”
As the fourth quarter rolled around, the Bulldogs put Eric Williams ’16, last year’s opening day starter, at quarterback for the first set of snaps. The Bulldogs were eventually forced to punt, but defensive back Cole Champion ’16 raced upfield to strip the ball from the punt returner at the 29-yard line. Williams was able to help the Bulldogs progress 10 yards before Cazzetta kicked his second field goal of the game to put Yale up 46–6.
With the game out of reach for the Lions, Harshbarger put the final nail in Columbia’s coffin and widened the deficit to 46 with a 14-yard scoring run. Cazzetta made it 53–6 with yet another extra point.
“I can’t speak to it enough about how much of [a] team this is and how tight a team like this is,” Furman said. “[Harshbarger] is the hardest worker on the team. He’s just one of those guys that’s the glue for our program.”
Columbia rallied with four minutes left to play, but it was too little, too late for the Lions. Ryan Flannery caught a 23-yard pass from Trevor McDonagh to make it 53–12.