For running back Robert Carr ’05, the only thing easier to break than his opponents’ tackles are Yale football records.
During the Elis’ (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) 28-19 win over Holy Cross (2-3) Saturday, Carr became the first back in Yale history to have two 200-yard rushing games in a career.
“I didn’t even realize that I’d broken the record at the time,” Carr said. “Most of the credit today goes to the offensive line.”
Carr’s 219-yard rushing performance came just one week after he broke the Yale record for the most rushing yards in a single game with 235 yards against Cornell. He also won the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week Award last week and could repeat this week.
Coming into the game on Saturday, Carr was ranked third in Division I-AA in all-purpose yards per game, trailing Holy Cross wide receiver Ari Confesor who held the number-one spot. But by the time the dust settled, Carr’s 231.33 yards per game was number one, while Confesor had fallen to fifth with just under 200 yards per game.
Besides being the all-purpose leader, Carr also currently ranks second nationally for Division I-AA in rushing with an average of 6.80 yards per carry.
“Last year, [Carr] was young; he’s not young anymore,” Holy Cross head coach Dan Allen said. “The combination of his low center of gravity and his strength makes him so hard to tackle. He must have broken 20 tackles today.”
Saturday’s win also marked a personal milestone for head coach Jack Siedlecki, who got his first 3-0 start since he became the Yale head coach in 1996.
“Like I told [the players], we’re in uncharted territory now. We’re 3-0, but hey, we’ve got seven more games to play.”
Siedlecki almost did not get his third consecutive win. Although the Bulldogs never trailed, they were never able to finish off the Crusaders. Time and time again, just when the Bulldogs thought they could put the game away, mistakes by Yale special teams gave Holy Cross additional chances.
Yale got on the board first with a 13-play, 82-yard drive that culminated in a Carr touchdown, his only score of the game.
But when the Bulldogs were forced to punt on the next drive, the snap sailed high over Yale punter Ryan Allen’s ’05 head for a 28-yard loss, setting Holy Cross up at the Yale 22-yard line. The Crusaders scored a touchdown just 1:24 later.
Two minutes before the end of the half, the Yale punt team faltered again when Allen’s punt was blocked and recovered by Holy Cross, setting up the Crusaders on the Yale 41. Fortunately, the half ended before Holy Cross could capitalize.
With about 1:22 left in the third quarter and the Bulldogs leading by 14, the field goal team had a chance to create some buffer room on the scoreboard. Unfortunately, another missed snap led placekicker John Troost’s kick to sail wide left of the goalpost, once again giving the Crusaders a chance to crawl back.
Just four minutes later, the Yale kickoff return team fumbled a 35-yard kickoff by Holy Cross kicker Chris Vella, setting up the Crusaders at the Elis’ 30-yard line. Thanks to the tenacious defense, Holy Cross only managed a field goal to pull them within four at 21-17.
“It looked like we were killing ourselves out there, especially with special teams,” quarterback Jeff Mroz ’05 said. “Every time we got the momentum, we’d throw it away. We should’ve put them away, and it seemed almost like we were giving them a chance to come back.”
The one bright spot of the day for Yale special teams was their success in containing Confesor, who came into Saturday first in Division I-AA in average punt return yardage and third in Division I-AA in average kickoff returns. Against Yale, the star returner had no punt returns and only one kickoff return for 19 yards.
“The special teams play must be improved dramatically this week in practice,” Siedlecki said. “We did a great job containing Confesor but did little else right in the kick game.”
One of the main reasons Yale survived Holy Cross despite the terrible special team play was the stellar Bulldog defense. The Eli defense sacked Holy Cross quarterback Brian Hall four times for a total loss of 26 yards. Yale’s unproven and oft-doubted secondary also proved themselves, holding Hall to only 123 yards passing from a dismal 14 of 29 attempts, including three interceptions.
The first interception took place with approximately three minutes left in the third quarter when Hall’s pass was picked off by Yale safety Don Davis ’03 at the Yale 35 and returned 48 yards to the Holy Cross 17. This interception set up Troost’s failed 27-yard field goal attempt.
The second interception occurred 10 minutes into the fourth quarter after two back-to-back scoring drives by Holy Cross that pulled the Crusaders within three. Captain defensive tackle Jason Lange ’03 stopped the bleeding when he intercepted Hall’s pass at the Yale 39, setting the Bulldogs up for a 61-yard drive that put them up for good.
With the clock winding down, the Crusaders made their final bid with an aptly named Hail Mary toss that ended up in the hands of Yale cornerback Greg Owen ’04.
“Our secondary showed a lot of talent in practice,” Davis said. “[The Holy Cross game] was a real test for us. I think yesterday was definitely the first step to making a name for ourselves.”
Although the game was at times not pretty for Yale, the Bulldogs’ performance nevertheless allowed them to hold on to their standing atop the Division I-AA rankings. Yale currently ranks second nationally in rushing offense, total offense, and scoring offense and fourth in total defense.
“We’ve got a big game in Big Green land next weekend and we haven’t had a lot of success up there,” said Siedlecki, referring to next week’s game at Dartmouth. “All our focus has to be on this game and this opponent.”
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