In a weekend filled with tercentennial festivities, quarterback Peter Lee ’02 and the rest of the Yale offense set the stage for yet another Yale Bowl celebration.
In the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game against Dartmouth, the Bulldogs had played their roles perfectly as they marched down the field in what promised to be a last-minute, game-winning drive.
“I didn’t think there was any chance they were going to stop us,” Lee said.
But the Big Green thought otherwise, thwarting the Yale offense in the waning minutes of the game en route to a 33-27 victory. With the victory, Dartmouth (1-2, 1-1 Ivy) dealt Yale (2-1, 1-1) its first setback of the season in the first Eli football game contested on a Sunday.
“They came down here, played like hell and won a game” said Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki of Dartmouth’s effort. “We certainly made enough plays [to win].”
With two minutes left in the game and trailing by five points, Yale was one big play away from taking the lead.
On second-and-one from the Dartmouth 12-yard line, the Elis were on the verge of polishing off a textbook two-minute drill. The Bulldogs opted against trying to run for the first down, and instead attempted three straight passes. All three of Lee’s passes were incomplete, and the Bulldogs turned the ball and their hopes for victory over on downs.
“I would have liked to have run the ball with the tailback,” Lee said. But, the senior signal-caller said, Dartmouth would have known exactly what was coming.
Lee’s mobility was limited in the second half because of an ankle injury he suffered earlier in the game, forcing him to go to the shotgun on passing plays.
“[Dartmouth] knew every time I was under the center we were running the ball because I couldn’t drop back [to pass],” Lee said.
If Dartmouth knew when to expect the run, it certainly did not seem that way. Robert Carr ’05 racked up 187 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon while running around, over and through the Big Green front line.
The Elis, however, knew coming into the contest that Dartmouth was going to rely entirely on its passing game, but that did not prevent the Big Green from throwing for over 400 yards.
Yale’s defense, which prides itself on not giving up big plays, was victimized a number of times by Dartmouth quarterback Greg Smith and his receiving corps.
Most of Smith’s 38 completions came on short routes and screens, but those small yardage plays set up the Big Green’s big scores.
“After picking at us and picking at us, they made big plays,” Siedlecki said. “You have to give them credit for doing that.”
Dartmouth’s top playmaker was receiver Matt DeLellis, who plagued the Elis’ secondary all afternoon. DeLellis caught nine passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns in what he called his best game ever.
“I thought Matt was a really good match-up against any of their corners,” Smith said.
DeLellis burned Greg Owens ’04 for a 63-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.
Then, early in the third quarter, safety Ryan LoProto ’02 nearly intercepted a Smith pass in the end zone. The ball bounced off his hands and into the waiting arms of DeLellis for a 43-yard touchdown catch the tied the score at 20.
“We played really well with the exception of two big plays, which happened to be touchdowns,” LoProto said. “I handed one to him.”
DeLellis’ first touchdown of the game tied the score at 13 with five minutes to play in the first half.
The Bulldogs took over the ball and Carr took charge. The undersized Texan ran for 42 yards on seven carries and his second touchdown of the day to give the Elis’ a 20-13 halftime lead.
The Big Green responded with 19 straight points in the second half, capped off by DeLellis’ third touchdown catch of the day. It was Smith’s fifth scoring pass and gave Dartmouth a 32-20 lead with seven minutes remaining.
On the ensuing kickoff, Don Davis ’03 fumbled and the Big Green recovered the ball at the Yale 43-yard line.
Two plays later, Dartmouth went deep for a touchdown that would put the nail in Yale’s coffin. But a leaping Ray Littleton ’02 intercepted Smith’s pass in the end zone and gave the Elis new life.
Despite his ankle injury, Lee orchestrated the hurry-up offense to get Yale back into contention. A number of short and mid-range passes set up Lee to Keith Reams ’02 touchdown to pull the Elis within five, 32-27.
The defense forced Dartmouth to punt after three plays, and Yale took over on its own 39-yard line, where the final, ill-fated drive began.
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