New York City — Friday night redemption could not have been much sweeter for the Yale football team. After getting demolished 42–7 by Penn at home last Friday, the Bulldogs notched their second win of the season against Columbia in the Big Apple.
The Yale (2–5, 2–2 Ivy) defense, ranked last in the Ivy League entering this game, had its best performance of the season versus the Lions (2–5, 1–3). Yale forced five turnovers en route to a 31–23 victory, despite the offense totaling just 250 yards.
“I’m very proud of this football team,” head coach Tony Reno said. “It’s not easy to win a game in this league with its parity. [Our players] play their best football when their backs are against the wall.”
Both offenses struggled in a first quarter that amounted to a field position battle. Columbia picked up 56 total yards in the opening frame while Yale finished with negative yardage and gave up three sacks. Quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 replaced Tre Moore ’19 at the beginning of the second quarter and though he only passed for 150 yards, he also threw three touchdowns — the best mark for a Yale quarterback in any game this season.
The Eli defense picked up the slack from the offense, forcing two turnovers in the first period. On the first play of Columbia’s second drive, cornerback Jason Alessi ’18 intercepted quarterback Anders Hill after stepping in front of a deep post route. Linebacker Victor Egu ’17 then forced a fumble that was picked up by safety Foye Oluokun ’17 on Columbia’s next possession. However, neither of these turnovers led to offensive success.
Yale finally found the endzone at the start of the second quarter, when defensive lineman John Herubin ’18 picked up a Columbia fumble forced by linebacker Darius Manora ’17 and rumbled 61 yards for the first points of the game.
“Our secondary played really well and the linebackers were hitting the gaps and forcing fumbles,” Herubin said. “We were getting some pressure on the D-Line. It was an all-around effort.”
While the Yale drive would end in a punt, the Lions returner muffed the ball and the Bulldogs recovered inside the redzone. The Elis capitalized, with Rawlings tossing a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Myles Gaines ’17 in the back of the endzone.
The Bulldog defense continued its strong play, setting up the offense with good field position. The Elis drove down the field once again and finished the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Robert Clemons III ’17 on a fade to the back corner of the endzone.
After an impressive 38-yard run by Rawlings got them into the redzone, Yale finished off the half with a field goal from 30 yards, to bring the score to 24–0.
Neither team put points on the scoreboard in the third quarter. Columbia marched into Yale territory twice, but the Eli defense held fast with two fourth-down stops, one of which was an interception by cornerback Marquise Peggs ’19.
Yale scored a touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter to increase their lead to 31 points. A 40-yard pass to running back Alan Lamar ’20 set up an 11-yard touchdown reception by tight end Leo Haenni ’17, Rawlings’ third touchdown pass of the day.
Columbia finally got on the scoreboard when Hill found wide receiver Cameron Dunn for an 11-yard touchdown with 9:21 to play in the fourth quarter. Less than three minutes later, Hill connected with wide receiver Ronald Smith II for a 28-yard score as the Eli defense began to fatigue.
Yale could not gain any momentum offensively for the rest of the game, and Columbia would add another touchdown with under a minute to play, again by Smith. However, the Elis would close out the game by recovering a last-ditch onside kick, holding on for a 31–23 win.