The first team in college football history to 800 wins. 14 Ivy League titles. An NCAA-record 26 national championships.
Despite all of Yale’s illustrious accomplishments on the gridiron, the 2007 Bulldogs are in a class of their own. With Saturday’s 50-10 rout of Dartmouth and a 51-12 blowout over Cornell in the league opener, the Elis became the first team in Ivy League history to score more than 50 points in consecutive conference games.
After putting up more points against the Big Red than any other Bulldog team since 1889, it seemed as if the Elis were bound for at least a small letdown against the Big Green. Instead, the Bulldogs took advantage of a dominant defensive performance and a punishing rushing attack that amassed 300 yards and five TDs.
“The reason we scored 50 today was the turnovers and the field position,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “When we scored 50 against Cornell we rang up a big offensive day. Today, it was the defense, special teams and turnovers.”
With the offense struggling to get things going in the first quarter, the Elis set the tone on special teams. After forcing a three and out on Dartmouth’s first possession, punt returner Reid Lathan ’10 picked up 26 yards on the run back. The Elis began the drive on the Dartmouth 21-yard line after a 15-yard personal foul on the Big Green. Despite the favorable field position, the Bulldog offense was held to a field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Matt Coombs ’08 recovered a fumble by Big Green kick returner Phil Galligan, giving the Elis the ball in Dartmouth territory for the second time in the game’s first seven minutes. On third and five, Matt Polhemus ’08 scampered 21 yards into the end zone for the Bulldogs’ first of five rushing touchdowns on the day.
“Devastating,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said, when asked about the Big Green’s turnovers. “Depriving their offense of snap opportunities was a goal that we had going in and we turned the ball over on two kickoffs. If nothing else, three [plays] and a punt, you lengthen the field.”
On a day in which the Bulldogs recorded five sacks, four turnovers and a safety, the punt may have been one of Darmouth’s most effective offensive weapons. The Elis limited the Big Green to just 140 total yards of offense and allowed only one third-down conversion on 12 attempts. The Bulldogs were led by defensive end Jared Hamilton ’08, who established himself as a disruptive force throughout the whole game. Hamilton finished with five tackles, two sacks, two stops behind the line and one forced fumble. The Eli defense was so dominant that Yale’s backup running back Ricardo Galvez ’10 was only 10 yards away from out-gaining the entire Big Green rushing attack single-handedly.
“We played three great football games in a row, in terms of setting the tone physically,” Siedlecki said. “They did some things defensively that we hadn’t seen and weren’t ready for. We made some mistakes in the run game, but the kids sorted it out.”
Although star tailback Mike McLeod ’09 finished the game with 155 rushing yards and a stellar 5.7 yards per carry average, he struggled to get going early in the game. Before the Elis’ final drive of the first half, McLeod had gained just 40 yards on 14 carries for an uncharacteristic 2.9 average.
Despite the slow start, the junior running back dominated the Big Green in the third quarter. On the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second half — a drive that started in Dartmouth territory — McLeod carried the ball five straight times for 43 yards and a touchdown, giving the Elis a comfortable 29-3 lead.
The Elis dominated the line of scrimmage throughout the entire game, refusing to yield a single sack while also picking up 304 yards on the ground with an impressive 5.0 yards-per-carry average. In a remarkable display of balance and depth, five different Bulldogs recorded a touchdown, including fullback Joe Fuccillo ’08.
“Actually, it was pretty funny,” Fuccillo said about his first career touchdown. “It was a call for Mike, and Mike and Matt talked it over and said ‘Joe, do you want to get this one?’ I nodded my head and said, ‘Give me the ball.’ It was cool — everyone was really happy that I got it.”