A new quarterback and a retooled attack provided the wake-up call the Elis needed to end their offensive hibernation.
But it was not enough to end their losing streak.
Yale’s 34-point output Saturday, engineered by back-up quarterback T.J. Hyland ’02 and running back Jay Schulze ’03 — who became the first Eli running back to score four touchdowns in a game since Clint Frank ’38 did it in 1937 — was insufficient to overcome the high-octane Brown offense, which brushed aside the Eli defense en route to a 37-34 victory.
The Bears (4-3, 3-2 Ivy) added a bit of trickery to the old standbys of a speedy wide receiver and a hard-nosed running back to hand Yale (3-4, 1-4) its third straight loss and guarantee the Elis’ first losing season in Ancient Eight play since 1997.
“We just gave up too many big plays,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “They had five plays over 40 yards. You can’t do that defensively and expect to win.”
Saturday’s game had a different script than the team’s last two losses, to Penn and Columbia. The defense played well enough to win those games, but the offense was sterile, scoring only 10 points total.
“That bit of disparity has been symptomatic of our slump,” captain and defensive lineman Tim Penna ’02 said. “We haven’t been able to have that full game with great execution and minimal mistakes.”
Key mistakes this week came on the defensive side of the ball, as the Elis’ yielded three touchdowns of 28-yards or more. The Bulldogs had only given up four touchdowns longer than that in the season’s previous six games.
Brown’s longest score of the day came on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Brown quarterback Kyle Rowley to Chas Gessner. The Eli secondary left Gessner wide-open, and he glided into the end zone untouched to pull his team to within 27-24 with just under three minutes left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs took over the ball and faced fourth-and-inches at their own 37-yard line. Yale went for it, but Brown linebacker Bobby Parisien Schulze to force a turnover on downs.
On the very next play, Brown coach Phil Estes, known for his aggressive and crafty play-calling, went for the jugular. Rowley handed the ball off to running back Michael Malan who pitched the ball back to the senior quarterback — the classic “flee-flicker” play. Rowley then heaved the ball downfield to his brother Travis, who made a spectacular diving catch in the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown.
In the span of less than two minutes, the Bears’ offense ran two plays for a total of 95-yards and 14-points, turning a 27-17 Yale lead into a 31-27 Brown advantage with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
Brown tacked on two field goals in the fourth quarter to give them a 10-point cushion. Schulze’s 1-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds left in the game was too little, too late for the Bulldogs.
Brown’s two big guns led the Bears’ offense. Gessner, who came into the contest best in Division I-AA in receptions and yards per game, caught eight passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Malan, who had been hampered by a back injury in recent weeks, returned to form, carrying the ball 18 times for 139 yards. The surprise of the day was that Hyland ran for the same total.
In the first half, the Elis were able to take advantage of a baffled Brown defense. With quarterback Peter Lee ’02 sidelined by the ankle injury that has hindered his performance in the last couple of games, the speedy Hyland took the Brown defense by surprise.
Utilizing the quarterback draw, an option the Elis do not have with the less mobile Lee, Hyland rushed for nearly as many yards as he threw for (139 yards on the ground, 146 in the air).
“We prepared as if Peter Lee was going to be there,” Estes said. “I fear the backup quarterback sometimes even more.”
Hyland’s presence in the starting lineup provided the spark the Elis’ offense had been lacking. On Yale’s second drive of the game, Hyland ran the draw in a passing situation and burned the Brown defense for a 44-yard gain to the Brown 1-yard line. Schulze finished the job on the next play, giving Yale a 7-0 lead 10 minutes into the game.
The Bears came right back to tie it on a drive that culminated in a 28-yard touchdown grab by Gessner, who took advantage of a mismatch against Jeff White ’02. White was supposed to have coverage help from one of the safeties on the play, but it never arrived.
“We had a couple of mental breakdowns that allowed them to score,” Penna said. “[That play] is a good example of those mental lapses.”
Despite quickly giving up their lead, the Elis struck back. On the last play from scrimmage in the first quarter, Hyland threw a 44-yard strike to wide receiver Ralph Plumb ’05 for a touchdown and a 13-7 Yale lead. The Rhode Island native’s first career score capped a 5:45 stretch that featured three touchdowns, serving notice to the 17,184 fans on hand at the Yale Bowl that an offensive shootout was in store.
Schulze increased the Yale lead to 20-7 with a 5-yard touchdown run six minutes into the second quarter.
Brown responded with 10 straight points to close out the half — a 26-yard field goal and a 2-yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Malan (18 carries, 139 yards) that made the score 20-17 Yale at the half.
On their second possession of the third quarter, Schulze found the end zone again from 2-yards out to give Yale 27-17.
That would be the last time the offense would threaten, however, until Schulze’s last minute touchdown. The Bears successfully adjusted their defense at the half to stop the Hyland-run offense.
“They made some adjustments and we got bogged down,” Siedlecki said. “It was pretty makeshift what we were doing out there — we didn’t have some of the normal things to go to we usually have.”
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