November 21st, 2009 | Sports

THE GAME 2009: Yale blows lead in final minutes

Yale's running game was consistently shut down in the 14-10 loss.
Yale's running game was consistently shut down in the 14-10 loss. Photo by R.J. Rico.

All season Yale’s first-year head coach, Tom Williams, has used trick plays to his team’s advantage. That changed for the Bulldogs, though, on Saturday — and in the most critical of ways.

With Yale on its own 25-yard line and leading 10-7 with 2:25 remaining in the game, Williams opted to try a trick punt play on fourth-and-22. The run by safety John Powers ’13 gained 15 yards but was well short of the first-down marker, causing the Elis to turn the ball over on downs.

Harvard players celebrate an interception to end Yale's hopes of a last-minute upset.
Harvard players celebrate an interception to end Yale's hopes of a last-minute upset.
Head coach Tom Williams leads the Yale team onto the field before the game.
Head coach Tom Williams leads the Yale team onto the field before the game.
Harvard wide reciever Matt Luft scores the game-winning touchdown in the Cantabs 14-10 victory.
Harvard wide reciever Matt Luft scores the game-winning touchdown in the Cantabs 14-10 victory.

Crimson junior quarterback Collier Winters took advantage of the favorable field position and threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Chris Lorditch with 1:32 left to play, as Harvard (7-3, 6-1 Ivy) overcame a 10-0 deficit in the fourth quarter and defeated the Bulldogs (4-6, 2-5) 14-10 at the Yale Bowl.

The defeat marks Yale’s first losing season since 2005 and the eighth time in nine years that Harvard has defeated Yale in The Game.

“With [2:25] on the clock left and the fact that [the Crimson] had used their last timeout, we felt that we if we had executed that play and gotten the necessary yardage, the game was over,” Williams said. “The other factor that came into mind was it seemed like they had gotten some momentum offensively. We didn’t want to give them an opportunity to get a quick score.”

Captain and linebacker Paul Rice ’10 added: “We have a very energetic team, so when Coach Williams brought in that kind of philosophy, we all bought into it. I agree with coach: play to win football games.”

For most of the game, the Bulldogs had the momentum — and the crowd — on their side.

During Yale’s first drive, tailback Alex Thomas ’12 had seven runs for a total of 35 yards, but the Bulldogs were stopped on third-and-nine in the red zone, forcing a field goal try. Kicker Alex Barnes ’11 made the 26-yard kick to give Yale the early 3-0 lead.

The drive showed a shift in the usual pass-heavy offense the Bulldogs have relied on recently. Thomas finished the game with 124 rushing yards — the first 100-yard game that an Eli tailback has had all season.

Harvard head coach Tim Murphy said Thomas caught the Crimson by surprise.

“We thought they would throw the ball until the cows came home,” Murphy said. “But [Yale] did a great job and took it right to us [and] ran the football well.”

On the Cantabs’ subsequent drive, they too showed the early ability to advance the ball, moving up 40 yards in four plays. But when Winters reached forward with the ball to try to get a first down, linebacker Tim Handlon ’10 forced a fumble and cornerback Adam Money ’11 recovered the ball.

Taking over on their 41-yard line, the Bulldogs quickly made it into the red zone after a 21-yard pass to fullback Shane Bannon ’11, a defensive pass interference call and a 15-yard run from Thomas. From there, tailback Rodney Reynolds ’10 ran for a touchdown on third-and-goal on the three-yard line to give Yale the 10-0 lead with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The score was not only Reynolds’ first career touchdown, but it was also the Elis’ first offensive touchdown against Harvard since 2006.

Both teams had other chances to score in the first half, but decisions to go for it on fourth down backfired on both offenses.

At the end of the first quarter, Winters threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-11 on Yale’s 24-yard line. Toward the end of the second quarter, the Bulldogs failed to convert a fourth-and-one on Harvard’s 27-yard line.

Harvard’s best chance to score came early in the second half when the Crimson were looking to attempt a 35-yard field goal. The play turned out to be a fake, but junior holder Matt Simpson’s five-yard pass was not long enough to gain the first down.

The Bulldogs too had their own desperation play when kicker Tom Mante ’10 missed a 62-yard field goal attempt short and wide left as the first half came to a close with the Bulldogs leading 10-0.

“We were relieved we weren’t down by more because we were outplayed terribly,” Harvard coach Murphy said.

From the start of the second half, the Crimson, which had had 188 total yards in the first half, continued to move the ball, and the Elis continued to stop them on fourth-down attempts.

After running 10 times and passing once, the Crimson had advanced 75 yards and had first-and-goal on the five-yard line. The Eli defense regained its momentum, though, and stopped the Cantabs’ fourth-down conversion on the one-yard line.

The defensive stop brought the Yale crowd to an uproar as the players jumped off the field and, according to Rice, helped the Elis regain the momentum.

“In my four years here, goal-line defense is something we’ve really prided ourselves on,” he said. “That play was a great momentum shift for us. It was a great team defensive play.”

Two drives later, the Bulldogs were in the red zone to start the fourth quarter and were looking to put the game away with a touchdown. But on third-and-12 on Harvard’s 15-yard line, quarterback Patrick Witt’s ’12 five-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Forney ’11 was well short of the first down and — just like the Elis’ first drive of the game — the Bulldogs were forced to go for a short field goal.

This time, though, Barnes’ 27-yard kick was wide left.

“In the second half we failed to score, and that’s discouraging,” Thomas said. “You can’t expect to win with 10 points on the board against a great team like Harvard.”

The turning point in the game came with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Once again the Crimson elected to go for it on fourth down, but this time Harvard’s risk paid off. On fourth-and-four with the ball on their own 30-yard line, junior tailback Gino Gordon appeared to be wrapped up short of the first down, but he broke off the tackle and ran 19 yards. A defensive stop would have given the Eli offense a very short field to work with, but instead Harvard was still pressuring.

“I thought we had it,” Rice said. “I thought we had tied him up. I was sure we were off the field.”

Williams added: “If we make that play, we felt like we win the football game.”

Two plays later, Winters found a sophomore receiver Adam Chrissis over the middle for a 41-yard touchdown that brought the score to 10-7 with 6:46 left to play.

Getting the ball back, the Eli offense took four minutes off of the clock but were soon met with fouth-and-22 after a holding penalty was called and Witt was sacked for a five-yard loss.

It seemed the Bulldogs — with All-Ivy punter Mante — were going to punt the ball and force the Crimson to put together a long drive with no timeouts remaining and with only 2:25 left on the clock.

Instead, though, the Williams made a decision that he may regret for years to come.

The Bulldogs had already found success on a trick punt play that they had used twice this season, one of which had resulted in the Elis’ only touchdown last month in their 7-0 victory at Lehigh. Suspecting that Harvard was ready for this play, Williams said the Bulldogs added a slight alteration to it. Instead of Rice taking the snap and running right, this time Rice caught it and flipped it to safety Powers, who ran 15 yards down the left sideline.

It was not enough, though, as Harvard took over on Yale’s 40-yard line and as Yale players on the sideline threw their helmets to the ground in frustration.

“We had set that play up all year,” Williams said. “We thought it was worth 22 yards and we came [seven] yards short. The whole idea was to keep our foot to the pedal, to not play scared. If everybody is looking for somebody to blame, blame this guy right here.”

But Murphy said he does not think Williams should be blamed for the loss.

“I was surprised [they didn’t punt], but it’s like everything else: You’re a genius if that play goes; if it doesn’t, then, well, you know the deal,” he said.

Three plays later, on third-and-two, Winters found Lorditch for a 32-yard pass across the middle to give the Crimson their first lead of the game, making it 14-10 with 1:32 remaining.

It turned out to be all the Cantabs needed.

Though the Bulldogs still had all three of their timeouts left and were quickly able to drive 29 yards to midfield, Witt’s first down pass was intercepted by Crimson senior linebacker Jon Takamura with 51 seconds remaining.

It was Witt’s first interception of the game, but it was arguably the most damaging of his career.

The Bulldogs did get one more shot at a miracle comeback with 25 seconds left, but Witt was sacked at Yale’s four-yard line, and the Elis’ last-second hook-and-ladder play only went 18 yards as time expired and as Harvard fans rushed the field.

Yale had been so close to mounting the stunning upset, but as game ended the Yale crowd could only sit in stunned silence.

After the loss, Williams expressed a sense of empathy for the Yale senior class and the recent struggles the seniors have had against their rivals.

“You want so badly for [the seniors] to win their last game against their rival,” Williams said. “It hurts.”

  • anonymous

    losers!!!!

  • anonymously disappointed

    “With [2:25] on the clock left and the fact that [the Crimson] had used their last timeout, we felt that if we had executed that play and gotten the necessary yardage, the game was over,” Williams said.

    Yeah, well that’s true…but what are the odds you’re going to pick up 22 yards? And if it doesn’t work, look at the field position you give them! Talk about being worried that the Crimson had some offensive momentum going.

    Better to have punted the ball and make Harvard go the length of the field while managing the clock. Make them EARN it!

  • Ivy Watcher

    This coach needs to do some serious re-examination. Last week, he had his team engage in taunting its opponent during pre-game warmups, crossing the 50 yard line to do so. On the opening kickoff, one of his players is ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now, a bonehead play snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, something for his players to stew on for 10 months. Drop the embarrassing intimidation tactics — look how well they have worked — and focus on basics and sound decision making.

  • pj ’63

    In the same vein as the ’68 Crimson headline, “Harvard Wins 29-29″, how about the Daily running, “Williams loses to Harvard 10-14″?

    After making the worst call in recorder history, he doesn’t even have the sense to admit it was colossal blunder. How did such an idiot ever get in to Stanford?

    He should never be allowed to coach another Yale game.

  • onlooker

    Williams, you fool! Belichick thought it was (mistakingly!) worth the risk on 4th and 2, not 4th and 22!

  • Tell It Like It Is

    Coach Williams should resign.

  • ralph

    not a good call 4th and 22 no way. harvards 4 th down play was right they were losing tom.out coached.the team played very good today and came up empty.okay we learn from this. however this was the game 52000 in stands for a ivy leauge game wow .so all you alunmi that forced jack out have to be thinking is harvard just better than yale the last 15 years.

  • disgusted!

    Additionally, there were 3 Seniors who were not in one one single play on Senior Day. Shame on that coaching staff! According to Williams, “those players are all his family.”Yea, right!

  • disappointed

    Williams’s call was without a doubt the dumbest, most illogical I’ve ever seen. If Yale had been losing at that point in the game, then maybe it would have made sense to go for it on fourth and VERY long, from well inside one’s own territory. But since Yale was leading, the call shows that Williams was either trying to be flashy, wasn’t paying attention to field position, or, as his comments about Harvard’s offensive momentum suggest, had no faith in his defense, which in fact had been playing solidly the whole game. Too bad the players had to pay for such terrible coaching.

  • to “tell it like it is”

    Yale is probably stuck with this guy for a number of years.

    After a “nation-wide search” during which their first three choices turned them down, they settled on this guy – who had never been a head coach anywhere. The fact that he is black – for which Yale has taken due credit – contributes to the insurmountable problem of canning him in the near future.

    He is certainly secure until there is a change at the Athletic Director level.

  • Further to #10 and Others

    I watched the Harvard game on Versus TV. The most disturbing thing to me, much more important in the long run than the unhappy final score, was Coach Williams’ sideline antics which were repeatedly on display yesterday. His exaggerated gesturing — presumably addressed to the Harvard crowd and the Harvard players, since his own team and people on the Yale side could not see him — were very much like the worst of the many NFL players who exult and taunt opposing players and appeal to the basest instincts of the crowd by strutting and dancing after sacking the quarterback or clobbering a running back into insensibility. His behavior is not at all excusable as a way to instill passion and “fight” in his players. These are things that no coach, least of all at Yale, should ever be doing. I’m sad to have to say it, but Coach Williams seemed to me to be an exemplar for the worst behavior in sports.

  • Who is he kidding?

    Williams made the stupidest coaching decision I have ever seen. Yale’s punter had been booming kicks all day, and the defense had turned in three or four clutch stops.

    How could he have been so stupid? And how can he not admit it afterwards?

  • what.

    i will never understand the ydn’s logic in choosing which comments to allow through. yale won’t fire williams because he’s black? why is anyone allowed to say that?

  • y08

    The guy made a horrible play call, but even after punting the ball, Harvard could have very well gone down the field and scored. At that point in the game, Harvard had all the momentum, and it didn’t matter where you gave them the ball on that possession–they were going to score.

    I’m not willing to throw this guy under the bus just yet–his players came out ready to play, and actually made a contest out of a game that many thought was going to be a total blowout. His play-calling kept Harvard on its toes, and forced them to adjust their defense–Harvard’s coach even admitted that Williams’ decision to go with the run caught them off guard. We never were able to say either of these things about a Siedlecki led team against Harvard.

    Given the choice between Williams and Siedlecki, I’d take Williams any day. Let’s also not forget that he still hasn’t had his first full recruiting class.

  • West Coast Harvardian

    Thanks Yale! I had a giant smile on my face all Saturday. Nice way to start your day (note 12pm end time on the west coast). What an epic collapse. EPSN was laughing at you guys.

    I can’t help but think that Harvard keeps beating Yale in recruiting because, well, let’s face it, most atheletes would rather live in Boston than New Haven.

  • Re: #13

    It could be that, or it could be Harvard’s laughable recruiting standards. See Amaker, Tommy:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/sports/ncaabasketball/02harvard.html

  • West Coast Yale Alum

    To the above “West Coast Harvardian”;
    (1) Harvard is in Cambridge, not Boston (have you ever walked through West Cambridge at Night? Or ventured across the bridge into Allston–past the giant hole in the ground that was to be the Harvard Stem Cell Institute?)
    (2) It’s ESPN (not EPSN)
    (3) We might have lost “The Game”–but at least we have our “Handsome Dan” while you have your “Pathetic Puritan” who looks more looks like a constipated leprechaun with each passing year.
    (4) Here’s to cold porridge in the Harvard House dining halls! Maybe if you shut your piehole and donated some $ to your august alma mater your fellow “Harvardians” might at least enjoy a hot breakfast.
    Sincerely,
    Yale West Coast Alum and HBS Alum

  • Saybrook ’95

    OK–in hindsight, it was a bad call. But at least Williams is willing to do the unexpected and mix things up. My criticism is that by going for it on 4th and 22 he showed a lack of respect for his defense. Moreover, he has an excellent punter who averages 50 yards. If his D forced Harvard to a field goal, the game would have been tied and gone into OT. I don’t understand the comment by “Further” about Williams’ unprofessional antics on the sidelines–I also watched the game on Versus but perhaps I missed it. If he did engage in such behavior, it is inexcusable and he should be reprimanded by the head of Yale Athletics.

  • 02138

    For the past few years it has been great fun to read the post-game bleatings of the Blue at the YDN site! “Fire the Coach, Fire the Coach!!!

  • Stanford Alum

    Hey Yale,
    Don’t give up on Coach Williams. He is a solid human being and will be a great coach. Be patient and give him some time to turn around your program. Yes, “the call” was very high risk—but Tom plays to win on every play and he will mature as a coach as time goes on. And just wait ’til he starts recruiting. He knows talent. At Stanford, we have a phrase: “An ounce of recruiting is worth a pound of coaching”.
    Be patient. All good things take time. Go ELIS!

  • Ummmm?

    That call was as bad as it gets. Incompetent in the extreme. Just plain dumb. Not to mention embarrassing. The question is not whether this coach is a good guy or recruits well or whether maybe they would have lost anyway, but how it is that someone who does this for a living could have signed off on that play. It was really really really poor.

  • WB ’95

    Unreal! There is no way to defend that call. Even if hahvuhd was totally fooled …. TWENTY TWO YARDS!!! That is not hindsight and No! if we get the first down, Williams is not a genius! He is one lucky dude. Every year I try to tell my friends who went to Big 10, Pac 10 and Big 12 schools that Ivy games are fun and the football is of decent quality. And then this! We’re supposed to be smart, right?

  • Y11

    He gets one more year, that’s it.

  • longtime fan

    I’ve watched this rivalry in person and from afar for over 50 years. I’ve watched thousands of other college and NFL games. This is the worst coaching decision I have ever witnessed. I like Williams, and want him to succeed. However, my gut reaction when I watched THE PLAY was, “Does this guy have a gambling problem?” I’m not being sarcastic. I don’t think he went into the tank. I spent my entire career as an investigator; and from what I’ve read, and my take on William’s demeanor, I’m as certain as I can be this was just what was stated previously, the worst coaching decision of all time. But in trying to process what I saw on Saturday, that dark thought entered my mind. I hope this works out and Williams has a good career, but Damn!

  • Distressed Alum

    As a former Yale captain, pre-game taunting is a pathetic trait of any of our sports teams. If it is true that the football team engaged last week in this stuff, then the program is increasingly off the rails. This is not the University of Miami we are talking about, nor any other big time program. The athletes are supposed to represent the best of the best, while maintaining perspective about where sport and academia collide and co-exist. Coach Williams, don’t forget the aims of your employer’s institution and lead your players by example. Pre-game taunting episodes, more than the extraordinarily poor call that was made yesterday, will lead to a very quick ticket out of New Haven. For now it is my opinion that Coach Williams deserves a second season (despite the lively debate).

  • I agree with Stanford Alum

    … just give him 10 years or so and Williams may “mature as a coach.”

  • anon ’77

    where’s the comment from the athletic director??

  • SA 1974

    Coach Williams:

    You are a moron!

    First, go on record and say you made a real bone head move. You made a colossal mistake. Apologize to your team and to the Yale community.

    Second, apologize to the Harvard community for your side line antics. You represent Yale! Make a statement to the Harvard Crimson and the Boston Globe and be contrite.

  • Sven

    The Yale Punter leads the IVY League in average distance. Play to your strength. My high school coach taught me that.

  • Alum

    Even beating Yale wasn’t good enough to save the Princeton coach’s job.

    http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/11/22/24523/

  • Harvard Undergrad

    Hey, way to kick your coach when he’s down Yalies!

    You guys are horrible! It’s his first year and both Harvard and Yale suck as teams, but Williams signed on to a team with problems. You guys are talking as though we’re the Pac 10 and we lost the Rose Bowl. Come on guys! No one goes to Harvard-Yale for the actual game! We go to hang out with our rivals, maybe get a bit (or a lot) drunk, and if we somehow stumble upon the actual game, then wow! To condemn Williams when he’s a new coach for a crappy team is simply ludicrous. Both Harvard and Yale made crappy plays and to be honest, the way this news reporter reported the game, you’d think we played an actual game! That was not a game. I’m a proud Crimson and I’m not afraid to admit that Harvard sucked today (as well as Yale), and won by a sheer miracle and heart. The real point of the Game is to see who has the best band, best t-shirts, etc, and maybe just maybe pay attention to the game. Sure, Yale lost, but there’s next year to play a sucky game and play a horrible game that no one except Harvard and Yale affiliates watch. Come on guys- this isn’t that important! Chill! If anything, I think it’s awesome Williams decided to take a risk and though it may not have been under the best conditions, it shows he’ll push the limit and will show well once he gets his own recruited team and they learn his coaching style. Then Harvard will have something to watch out for. :D

  • CC ’11

    As a sports fanatic and 3 year starter at QB in high school, I’ve been around sports my entire life. NEVER. I repeat, NEVER have I seen a more RET^RDED (excuse my non PC term) play call in football. I won’t even go on a tirade besides this:

    TOM MANTE is a close to PRO LEVEL KICKER. He had the distance on the 60 yard field goal at the end of the half and just hooked it.

    Not only that the Yale defense is the BEST IN THE IVY LEAGUE if memory serves me correct. Your defense gave up 7 points in nearly 4 quarters against a heavily favored Harvard team. Now you’re saying you felt the Harvard offense was too potent?

    I guess giving ANY football team a 30 yard field is so hard. Are you kidding?

    TOM WILLIAMS NEEDS TO BE FIRED. I don’t care how well he does, he will FOREVER be remember for that play call. FOREVER. Every team that he coaches will know of that bonehead call, how would you ever trust your coach again after that?!

  • Billy C

    Yales defence was on the field the whole third quarter!!! Hahvaaards offence was going to unload, even when the first one went over the DBs head ya got that sinking feeling knowing the air was coming out of the Bulldogs fast. A crumbling defence and inconsistant offence lost that game! A perfect sendoff to a mediocre year. If Coach Williams is given a Chance(we will see) Hope he recruits a good offensive line. We could use some help in that department.So stop all the bitching,Any of you slapnuts realize we just didnt have a very good team this season.If you continue to second guess dont you think Beckett deserves legit heat for brining in these Division 3 scrubs really!!

  • ’96

    I think the university should begin enforcing the non-alcohol policy…..on the sidelines!

    Who the hell is advising this poor excuse for a coach, Eric Holder?

  • Charles Bogle

    I’m sorry, there is just no reasonable basis for that fourth down non-punt. The Yale kids played their hearts out and deserved to win-or lose-without their coaches jumping the sofa

  • NH Apizza

    There is only one way that this “coach” can redeem himself on this campus and that is to blame it all on Bush.

  • Goldie ’08

    The problem remains Tom Beckett and his hairstyle from 1962. He is an incompetent AD. Yale’s once proud athletic tradition is pretty much all gone. It really makes me sad.

    Plus I hear they want to change the mascott to the Whooping Crane.

  • old Crimson

    Let’s see – “the coach is an idiot”is the consensus
    Seems to me Harvard got the ball on the Yale 40. With a punt it may have been another 25 yards down the field – or the punt might have been returned, or blocked, or …?
    That play was one missed tackle from working. Williams – former Stanford Cardinal – risk taker, entrepreneur
    Typical Yalie – don’t risk anything, take the easy way out
    The Yale players seem to have bought into the coach’s way of doing things – but not the spectators I think Williams should be congratulated on trying to keep the Harvard offense off the field. You will note that it took the Crimson substantially less than a minute to go 40 yards; another pass could have more than made up the yardage “gained” by a punt
    Monday morning quarterbacks – I thought I might see more maturity and sense of risk taking in this set of Yale undergraduates Wrong I was

  • A Fan

    Decision by Yale coaching staff is no surprise. This is a group of rookies coaches with marginal experience. Let’s see – ineffective OL, pitiful running game (top RB on bench after game 4), QB roulette, pick a kicker (great kicker benched), seniors being sat down on D to grow underclassman. This outcome was predictable.. and NO the seniors WERE thrown under the bus by these coaches.. we got what the coaches earned…. Time to change coaches..

  • Marc

    The fake punt on 4th and 22 was a miserable decision, but so was the choice to rush all 11 players on Harvard’s last punt and to give up a chance of a decent return. A good return there could have set Yale up with a (more) realistic chance at the end.

    All in all, a horrible fourth quarter for Williams with two very poorly conceived decisions.

  • Jasper Wang

    Not that his opinion should mean anything, but Peter King weighs in on SI.com (see 10h): http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/peter_king/11/22/Week11/4.html

  • JJ

    That was an embarrassment to the sport.

  • @ CC ’11

    We have a GREAT defense, but we must admit Penn had the best this year..and maybe of all time in the league. I think they held us and Harvard to 7 points TOTAL.

  • who cares?

    we’ll win next year.
    yay. yale.

  • BOOMER

    C’MON MAN!!!!!!!!!!!

  • BK ’12

    Anyone who knows anything about football know this was a horrendous call – even if it somehow worked it was a horrendous call because it’s a situation where you should play by the odds. Yale’s defense had given up 7 points the entire game, was the best defense in the ivy league this year, and had an incredible goal line stand earlier in the game. Meanwhile you have an incredible punter whom you are equally disrespecting. To think you had a better chance of getting 22 yards on a trick play than holding Harvard’s offense on a single LONG drive with less than 2:30 left – sheer insanity – driving 75 yards is tough – driving 40 is a lot easier. You can’t expect Yale’s players to ever respect him again as a coach after that play, nor should they.

  • Mike

    When your call is so bad it makes the “C’mon, Man!” segment on ESPN, you know this call will live on for years.

  • Allen

    I agree with #46–AND, not to mention, it seemed that he had more confidence in his offense/QB than he did with his punter or his defense. He REALLY needs to re-evaluate his line-up not to mention soul search! How many of the opponents’ scores have been thanks to his QB?

  • An Idle Observer

    In my 40 plus years of watching college football, this was one of the worst-and most inexcusable-decisions I have seen a coach make.

  • ’96

    There’s a solution to all of this. Williams should be named the head coach of Northeastern.

  • angry ’09 alum

    dick jauron is available. think about it…

  • Yale 08

    Bring Back Siedlecki!

    His conservative gameplanning would have avoided this!

  • jd

    The way Williams acts on the side line should be enough to fire him.add how stupid he is and it seems like a no brainer.

  • 29-29 Eyewitness veteran

    This was my second-worst eyewitness experience.
    Headline: Yale beats Yale, 14-10

  • sheepish

    did anyone see this featured on PTI last night? unfortunately they weren’t as impressed by the manly risk-taking as “old crimson”. interesting mix of free verse and prose there old crimson.

  • Duke

    I would have thought the Yale faithful could have avoided such knee jerk negativism.

    Harvard fielded the superior team; thanks to smart game planning and his ability to motivate the team, Williams and his players took a lead with despite the talent gap.

    However, he knew they were wearing down. Harvard had begun to move the ball well, scoring easily on their prior possession. It seemed probable, almost inevitable, that Harvard would score 7 more if they got the ball again, regardless of whether they started from the Yale 40 or their own 30. Coach Williams decided to take the chance that they could win by executing one play- yes they needed 22 yards, but he knew that much of that challenge would be overcome because it would be so unexpected.

    When Coach Williams has had time to recruit and develop in his own players, he will have tremendous success. Coach Williams’ infectious enthusiasm, and expression of emotion to his players on the sidelines, makes him the kind of coach that good players want to play for. And his actions were perfectly appropriate- even in the staid Ivy League.

    Shame on you who fail to take the long view, and do not support Coach Williams and his staff after they came very close to pulling off a huge upset, 10 months into the job.

  • JackS

    Told you so.

  • Encouraged, yes, encouraged

    As a Yale alum and a frequent spectator at The Game and others, I have to say that I am disappointed in many of the comments made here. Our team this year was not very good, and there’s a strong case to be made that they OVERachieved. The players appear to have bought into Coach Williams’ system, and his enthusiasm is something we’ve needed for a long time. To call for his firing because of (a) one call, and (b) unverified “taunting” is silly. I watched The Game, and I watched the coverage and I saw no taunting — I saw a coach that was excited and was believing in his players, and I saw players that were excited right along with him. What’s wrong with that? It’s football, not contract bridge. Don’t mistake sideline enthusiasm for taunting. From all I have seen, from his opening press conference to The Game, this guy has a lot to bring to Yale, a lot that we’ve been missing in past years. If it was a bad call, it was a bad call, but I think the entire Eli Nation would be saying, “Look at the ___ on this guy” if it had worked. He’s from top flight programs with a lot more recruiting experience than any other Ivy League coach. We’d be fools to overreact just because, for once, something about The Game got shown on ESPN. Look out Harvard — I personally think this is about to go 9 out of 10 the other way.

  • HoustonFrog

    I’m disappointed in the negative reaction that I’m reading here. It’s amazing that so many here think one play can define a person or coach.

    Coach Williams was a great hire for Yale. He brought an incredible football pedigree to Yale with him. He has played and coached under some of the best minds out there and has been highly thought of wherever he has gone. He came to Yale and kept long standing tradition. He has kept the emphasis on “student” in student-athlete with his morning practices. You can tell the players love playing for him. His excitement for the game is not contrived. Being excited about stopping a team on the goalline is expected. Standing there like a business exec with no spirit would be abnormal. I have seen no legitimate evidence of taunting.

    Whether you agree with the call or not, Coach Williams made a decision that he thought would win the game. In the end he took responsibilty and is moving on. He will be Yale’s greatest asset with his recruiting, class and what he can teach the kids. When you see how he deals with this adversity you will be proud of your coach.

  • WestSide

    I find it interesting that the negative comments seem to be “Fire him” or “Stupid” or a reaction to ESPN coverage. The positive comments such as from “OldCrimsonAlum”, “Duke”, “Encouraged” and “HoustonFrog” have a lot more substance. After reading everything and thinking about this long and hard, I agree wholeheartedly with the latter group. Who wouldn’t want an enthusiastic coach willing to take risks, and whose players believe in him? And for those of you calling for an apology, if one is owed (and I’m not sure one is owed) it would only be to the team – which after watching this young man, I would think was addressed appropriately. Coach Williams said, “if you’re looking for someone to blame, blame this guy right here.” In the days of Truman, that was lauded: the buck stops here. Nowadays, sadly, that does not seem to be enough. Give ‘em hell, Coach Williams. I’ll play for you.

  • Thrown Under The Bus

    Will someone explain just what the references in Comment #39 to “throwing the seniors under the bus” and “seniors being sat down on D to grow underclassmen” are about?

    If this is about benching better players in order to give game experience to promising younger players in order to “develop the program,” then Yale is really in trouble.

    Whenever “develop the program” jargon crops up, it’s certain that coaches are focusing on their own career interests rather than the interests of “student athletes”.

    I hope this isn’t the case at Yale.

  • @WestSide & Company

    You clearly did not witness the same game that I did. And you clearly do not understand football or why people are upset. First, Coach Williams did NOT take the blame – he did not admit that his call was stupid. He merely admitted that the play call had been his. That’s completely different. Second, people are not claiming that Williams failed to execute during the first three and a half quarters. Harvard was clearly the better team heading into the game and we simply outperformed. That’s good football. What we all find inexcusable is going for a play that has almost no chance in hell of working: a fake punt on 4th and 22 from your own 26! However good Harvard’s offense had been all season, we had held them to just 7 points and stopped them at the goal line on multiple plays. We have a nearly pro-caliber kicker, and yet Williams goes for a fake punt! Williams compounded this terrible mistake by not calling for a timeout with just over a minute remaining after we were tackled inbounds with the clock still running. This led to an interception. Finally, when we managed to get the ball back with 40 seconds left, he didn’t put anyone back to return! That too was inexcusable. I don’t care how well he played the first few quarters – those decisions in the 4th were completely inexcusable and absolutely ridiculous. We have dealt with unimaginative coaching for years now, and we certainly don’t want to deal with insanely stupid coaching for the next ten years. This certainly qualifies. FIRE COACH WILLIAMS

  • fire tom williams

    fire tom williams. immediately. get the heck off our campus and stop ruining our football team which was supposed to get better, not worse, when he was hired. i hate you.

  • We want Dick Jauron

    #51 has an excellent point. Dick Jauron wasn’t available when Williams was hired. Yale should pursue this man now. He was a great Yale running back (graduated in 73), had a fine pro career as a defensive back and has been a head coach in the NFL. Dick would certainly bring back Yale pride.

  • dan bendor, 67

    there was another problem in The game which no one has mentioned. In the 3rd quarter, I said to my son that Yale was snapping the ball with 20-30 seconds on the clock and that if the game was close at the end, that could haunt us. Obviously, one wouldn’t always snap the ball w/1-2 seconds on the play clock because that would be too easily predictable for Harvard’s defense. But there was no reason to snap it so often w/so much time left. Also, some of the play calling was unimaginative. Several times it was run on 1st & 2nd downs, then pass on 3rd. makes it tough on the passing game.

    agree with some of the thoughtful comments re giving a young person time to mature. but also agree that it was the stupidest call I’ve seen in 45+ years of watching football. Harvard was not quarterbacked by Peyton Manning & Yale’s kicker is awesome.

  • footballfan

    I’m with you #58, #59, #60. The call was reckless BUT: everyone in the stands could virtually feel the game slipping away. The defense had played amazingly but they were exhausted. You could make the case that they had played heroically beyond themselves and were now just flat out of gas. Williams felt this; we all did. Sidlecki had been pummeled for not adjusting during games and for lacking creativity. Williams determined not to accept this and to use a play he had set up all year IN REVERSE ((left instead of right) to try to shift the momentum again. He had been waiting to use it. Now he used it. It was a a reckless call, no denying -4 and 22 – no, no, no – but the spirit of it was right. He knew he could not sit there and let the momentum dribble the game away; so he risked big. Too big. But the signs for the future of the program are good because the guy adapts,acts and plays with heart, the players feel this they have bought into Williams, his coaches, and his system. This could be proved wrong,in time,of course, but this is early stages. Naturally everyone who wants clever reporting jumps on this but it’s easy copy and not a way to make a considered judgment that admits the big error but sees the whole with some balance

  • Topher

    What some seem to be forgetting here is despite the 4th down call, Harvard then scored on a 32 yard throw to win it. The defense was gassed. Moving them back wouldn’t have stopped more of the same. That throw and TD proved even more that Williams had the right mindset regarding putting them away.

    As for #62 above, I’ve watched and played more football then you will ever forget. It is amazing that coaches make mistakes every game year in and year out and yet a bright, young minds makes one and people are ready to fire him. Since when are coaches fired for one mistake. Especially while guiding a team that has been overmatched but has played their tails off all year. This isn’t the SEC or Big XII. It’s Yale football. Coach Williams is the right guy for the job. If anyone calling for his firing knew anything about the sport, they wouldn’t have such knee-jerk reactions.

  • Deadfred

    I wonder if Coach Williams has any personal characteristics that would inoculate him from criticism for what has to be the single stupidest decision ever made by a head coach in the history of college football.

  • ralph

    this call seems to be heating up a good debate.however the coach blew the game.the end……………

  • fan of football fan

    I second the comments of #65.

    Regrettable decision.

    Bright future for Yale football

    I’m excited about the next several years. Go Bulldogs!

  • To Deadfred

    Deadfred-
    Your racist comment does little to advance the discussion. If Coach Williams does have “any personal characteristics that would inoculate him from criticism for what has to be the single stupidest decision ever made by a head coach in the history of college football” they don’t seem to be working.

  • Alum

    Take a deep breath, everyone. No one is or should be fired for one play call, regardless of how inexplicable it appears. The overwhelming factor in whether a college football program succeeds these days is recruiting and, other than one transfer student (i.e. Yale’s starting QB, Patrick Witt), Coach Williams hasn’t had a chance to land any recruits yet. Let’s see how the Yale program develops as his first recruiting classes take their places. And let’s hope potential recruits don’t judge Yale by all the knuckleheaded comments in this comment section.

    In retrospect, I understand what Williams was thinking (if he gave the ball back to Harvard his defense was unlikely to keep them from scoring), but I’ve never been so shocked at one play call in my life – jaw dropping shocked not to mention upset. A silver lining in the years ahead: opposing football teams will be guarding against the unorthodox which is a benefit in the 99 out of 100 plays that aren’t unorthodox.

  • George Anderson

    Football?! Who cares about football? You’re at Yale!

  • ’96

    Oh, I get it now. This was just a diversionary tactic. Thanks for clearing things up.

  • recruits?

    Honestly, if you were a recruit, would you pick Yale over another Ivy League program (such as Harvard’s) after hearing about that bonehead move?

  • @71

    And your misunderstanding and misuse of the word “racist” does little to advance human society. Please, spare us.

  • BILLY C

    Why do you guys print BS comments like #73s. Just complete crap. Guess By George never heard of Yales storied Football past.

  • robert99

    The problem, billy c, is that it is a storied past. Not much in the present to brag about.

  • BILLY C

    WORST THING EVER, GOING DIVISION 1AA. My friend Spirit of 75 have gone over this subject with me since the early eighties! Dont believe us just ask the legend Carm Cozza. A direct low blow to the entire program.

  • puzzled

    When I was a little boy, I played little boys’ games (such as football), but now that I am a bit more grown up, I have put aside childish pasttimes, so I was puzzled to hear that, apparently, the coach of the Yale team is the one who really plays the game… the Yale students on the field simply being the robots who execute the moves. I guess it is naive to think the quarterback or some other actual member of the team is involved in playing the game, i.e., determining what plays will be employed, and deciding on the strategy, etc. One more example of the (supposed) adults taking over the kids play, I guess.

  • Gatsby Old Sport (PK)

    Eighty comments in eight hours!

    You outdid the “Mr. Yale” gender puckersnatch which ended after a week at 68 comments.

    What are sports FOR?

    To soak up all this mindless energy?

    What is Yale FOR?

    Sports?

    Ohhh.

    http;//theantiyale.blogspot.com

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