Yale football head coach Jack Siedlecki has relied on the Bulldogs’ depth all season, and last Saturday was no different.
With starting quarterback Peter Lee ’02 relegated to the sidelines due to both an ankle injury and the flu, backup T.J. Hyland ’02 got the starting nod. Despite being picked off three times, Hyland executed the offense well, leading Yale to a 36-27 victory.
The afternoon began inauspiciously for the Eli signal-caller, with Fordham’s Dan McGrath intercepting his first pass.
“It was utterly surreal,” Hyland said. “We ran that play all week in practice. It was an inside release play, and I just kept the ball too far inside. I could not believe how that play turned out. I was like, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.'”
The turnover led to a Fordham touchdown, leaving Hyland and the Elis facing an early 7-point deficit. But Hyland responded well after the interception. Following six consecutive rushing plays on Yale’s next drive, Hyland connected with Keith Reams ’02 on a 25-yard touchdown strike.
“The toughest thing to do as a quarterback is — bounce back from an interception,” Lee said. “That he was able to do so speaks a lot about him as a quarterback.”
Bolstered by Hyland and strong running from tailback Jay Schulze ’03, the Elis found themselves ahead 20-14 with 2:08 remaining in the half. Trying to extend their lead, the Bulldogs took to the air in the two-minute offense, and Hyland delivered, completing seven consecutive passes to march Yale from its own 24 to the Fordham 30 in 1:55. After a timeout and an incomplete pass, Hyland found Reams over the middle to set up a Justin Davis ’02 field goal attempt. The kick was good, and Yale went into the locker room with a 23-14 halftime lead.
“After the opening turnover, we took control for much of the first half,” Siedlecki said. “The drive before the half was a great confidence builder for us.”
But Hyland’s first pass of the third quarter was intercepted by McGrath, who returned the pick 29 yards to the Yale 29. Three plays later, the Rams were in the end zone, and Yale’s lead was cut to two points.
On the Bulldogs’ next possession, Hyland and company marched 49 yards on 11 plays to the Ram 8-yard line, setting up a third and goal situation. Hyland took the snap, was flushed from the pocket, and scrambled toward the goal line. He encountered several Ram defenders at the 3-yard line, and made a spectacular dive into the end zone for the touchdown. After Justin Davis’ extra point attempt was blocked, Yale led 29-21. The Bulldogs did not look back.
On the day, Hyland put the ball in the air 28 times, completing 20 passes for 194 yards. And while he was intercepted three times, his performance earned high marks from his coaches and teammates.
“He did a great job,” Schulze said. “He did a good job with his decision making.”
Siedlecki concurred, adding that the performance was a testament to Hyland’s work ethic.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the job he did,” Siedlecki said. “A lot of his success had to do with the preparation he put into it. He has always done everything anybody has ever asked of him.”