Columbia’s defense — the third worst in Div. I-AA — was no match for the high octane Yale offense — the third best in Div. I-AA — this weekend as the football team downed the Lions, 29-14 at Wien Stadium.
Yale (5-2, 3-1 Ivy) could score only three touchdowns despite moving the ball for 616 yards, almost 60 yards more than their previous season high. John Troost added three field goals, including a career best 44-yarder, while Columbia (2-5, 1-3) only managed two touchdowns.
Penalties kept Yale from tacking on more points. The Elis amassed 12 penalties for 105 yards this weekend.
“Penalties and lack of execution in the red zone really hurt us in scoring opportunities,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “[This year’s team] has been the least penalized team since I have been here. I hope this was a one game aberration.”
Captain Alvin Cowan ’04, recently added to the Payton Watch — a list of players being considered for the Walter Payton award that is given to the year’s best Div. I-AA player — proved he is worthy of the honor. Cowan racked up over 400 yards of total offense four the third time in the last four contests. The Yale quarterback rushed for 91 yards and completed 22 of 38 passes for 322. He is now third in Div I-AA in total offense at 331 yards per game, and first in the Ivy League in passing efficiency.
Cowan threw an interception — his fifth of the season — in the third quarter. Columbia’s Prosper Nwokocha returned the pick 33 yards to Yale’s 25-yard line before Cowan brought him down. At the time the Lions were only behind 23-14, but the stingy Eli defense minimized the damage from Cowan’s slip-up, forcing the Columbia offense to settle for a 36-yard field goal that Nick Rudd missed.
“I actually didn’t see [Cowan’s] tackle [on the interception return, but] I bet he did it with his eyes closed,” linebacker Ben Breunig ’05 said.
Breunig led the Bulldogs with 12 tackles, including seven solo stops. He had a number of hard hits on Columbia quarterback Jeff Otis.
“Once we had success with our blitzes early, we wanted to continue to frustrate them by bringing pressure throughout the game,” Breunig said.
Yale did not record a sack in the game, but the Elis made Otis work throughout whole afternoon.
“[Otis] is a good athlete,” Siedlecki said. “[He] did a nice job getting out of trouble but our edge pressure was very good all day.”
The Elis continued to have trouble with special teams. Troost’s first extra-point attempt was blocked and Travis Chmelka and Nwokocha burst loose for 39-yard and 62-yard kickoff returns, respectively. But Siedlecki exonerated the kickers in each instance.
“The blocked extra point was not [Troost’s] fault,” Siedlecki said. “It was a breakdown up front. Ryan [Allen ’05] did a good job kicking off and it was the coverage unit’s fault this week. Missed tackles were the primary problem. We had people in position and did not make the play.”
Except for the 39-yard gaffe, Yale succeeded in keeping Chmelka, the Ivy League’s leading punt returner, well under wraps. Chmelka gained only six yards on his only punt return of the day.
Rob Carr ’05 rushed for 129 yards and all three of the Eli scores after being held below 100 in the last three games. With his teammates holding Columbia tailback Ayo Oluwole to 64 yards on the ground, Carr was able to replace Oluwole at fourth on the Ivy League rushing leaders’ list after this weekend.
Though Cowan has not pitched very often to the back while running Yale’s option play since turning the ball over on such a play against Towson, the quarterback was generous with his pitches on Saturday.
“For once this year, someone decided to take me instead of Rob and that left him wide open,” Cowan said. “Unfortunately, the one I didn’t pitch, Rob was wide open for a touchdown.”
Despite the positive outcome of the game, Cowan was not afraid to recognize his team’s failures.
“The only thing I was disappointed with [was] that we didn’t put them away,” he said. “When you have somebody on the ropes like we did at the end of the first half, good teams will put them away. We didn’t do that yesterday.ÊWe’ve got to be able to do that in the future in order to beat some of the teams that we have coming up.”
Tight end Nate Lawrie ’04, now fourth in Div. I-AA in receptions per game, had another banner day with 10 catches for 127 yards. Yale’s second tight end, Derek Caracciola ’04, caught four balls for 88 yards.
“Nate [Lawrie] made a great impression on the TFN [The Football Network] people who said they are going to nominate him for the [Div. I-AA] All-Star Game,” Siedlecki said. TFN is a television network that broadcasted Saturday’s game.
Wide receiver Chandler Henley ’06 made another impressive play this weekend after last week’s leaping catch in the endzone. Henley snared a diving one-handed catch in the back of the endzone, but was ruled out of bounds.
“I caught the replay on the jumbotron and it was definitely one of the most amazing catches I’ve ever seen,” Cowan said. “[But it] wasn’t all that out of the ordinary for Chandler. He makes catches like that all the time in practice.”
On a scary note for the Bulldogs, Yale wide receiver Ron Benigno ’04 went down in the second half after he was hit attempting to catch a ball. Although he did no not return to the game, Benigno has been cleared by medical tests conducted after the game.
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