With only 10 games on their schedule, the football team knows it can’t afford another slip-up in Ivy League play after falling in its conference opener against Cornell (3-1, 1-1 Ivy) two weeks ago. But if the Bulldogs continue playing like they did on Saturday, a letdown doesn’t seem likely.
On Saturday afternoon, the Elis (3-1, 1-1) went on the road and dominated Dartmouth (0-4, 0-2) in every facet of the game to win their first league game of the season and to put a damper on the Big Green’s homecoming weekend, 34-7.
Yale kicked off to begin the game and the Big Green seemed poised to jump to an early lead after marching 70 yards down the field to the Yale six-yard line before something familiar occurred.
In a play very similar to one last week against Holy Cross, captain Bobby Abare ’09 intercepted Alex Jenny’s pass in the end zone to halt the promising drive on its twelfth play. For last week’s national defensive player of the week, it was his third interception of the season — with all three coming in the past two games.
“I honestly read the quarterbacks eyes and our defensive lineman got some great pressure up front,” the linebacker said. “I’m not sure what the quarterback saw but he literally threw it right to me. I think we just kind of got lucky to be honest.”
Whatever it was, it turned out to be a momentum shifter. The Big Green were unable to sustain another similar drive for the rest of the game and saw six of their next seven series end with three-and-outs.
“We came out hesitant on the first drive and gave up a lot of yards,” defensive end Travis Henry ’10 said. “After settling down, we came out and executed the game plan.”
Turnovers didn’t help the hosts. The Elis were able to force three more Dartmouth turnovers after the Abare interception; all led to Yale touchdowns.
Tom McCarthy ’10 got into the act with an interception on a broken Big Green play. Jenny scrambled out of the pocket on a third-and-six pass play and tried to throw the ball away, only to flip it to the only person in the area — McCarthy.
Three Dartmouth drives later, safety Larry Abare ’09 — who led the squad with eight team and five solo tackles — laid a big hit on running back Milan Williams and forced a fumble, which was recovered by lineman Matt Kelleher ’10.
The last of the turnovers may have been the most impressive of all. Isolated in one-on-one coverage, Paul Rice ’10 wrestled the ball away form the intended receiver and tiptoed his way along the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown return to make it 34-7.
The Big Green could only muster 38 rushing yards and 230 total yards on offense. The Eli defense has yet to allow an individual to rush for 100 yards in a game, and Cornell — which dealt Yale its only loss — is the only team that has rushed for over 100 yards as a team against the Bulldogs.
Offensively, the Elis took the same approach as they did last week — smash the opposition with the run.
Mike McLeod ’09 had his most productive game of the year, rushing for a season-high 135 yards on 27 carries. The five yards–per–carry average was also a season-high for the Payton Award Candidate.
Once again, the rushing attack set up an effective passing game. Ryan Fodor ’09 completed 14 of 26 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. And when the senior went down for a series after a helmet-to-helmet hit, backup Brook Hart ’11 filled in admirably. The southpaw completed all three of his passes for 28 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to h-back John Sheffield ’10 to start the scoring and give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead.
Although he admitted he was surprised to get into the game so early, Hart made sure he was prepared.
“All week everyone must go to meetings and watch film and go about your preparations as if you are the starter, whether that is or isn’t the case,” Hart explained. “Then once game time comes, it’s about keeping your head in it and staying focused. If you take care of those things, it isn’t too difficult.”
Fodor was back under center the next Bulldog drive and he described his absence as a precautionary one.
“I took a hit under the chin and got my bell rung a little bit,” Fodor said. “I’m fine though. I wanted to go in on the next play but they kept me out for the series for precautionary reasons and because Brook was moving the ball and led us on a great touchdown drive.”
When Fodor returned, he didn’t miss a beat and proceeded to throw for two touchdowns. One of those scores needed some more luck than most others.
Fodor threw a deep pass intended for wide receiver Patrick Sedden ’09 but Sedden batted the ball away before a Dartmouth defender could intercept it. The ball ended up in the arms of Reid Lathan ’10 in stride at the 25-yard line, who then took it into the end zone for six. His first career touchdown extended the Yale lead to 13-0.
The Bulldogs lengthened the lead to 20-0 with Fodor’s second touchdown — a beautifully executed 31-yard pass to Sedden. Fodor put just the right touch on the ball and Sedden made a tough over-shoulder-catch to haul it in.
It was evident from the start that the Bulldogs were looking to try some different things on offense to open up their game. The Elis used an array of screens and deep passes to keep the Dartmouth defense on its heels.
In an attempt to get another playmaker on the field, head coach Jack Siedlecki inserted kick and punt returner Gio Christodoulou ’11 into the game as a wide receiver for several plays. The Miami native had two balls thrown his way — catching one for 10 yards — and ran a reverse.
“We felt Gio could help us on offense and that it would give him more playing time if he moved to offense,” the tenth-year head coach said.
Dartmouth got on the board with a 21-yard Jenny touchdown pass to Tim McManus. McLeod then added a two-yard touchdown run with 4:12 remaining in the contest to make it a 27-7 Yale lead before Rice put the finishing touches with his interception return.
The Bulldogs will travel to the Bronx this weekend to play Fordham (2-3) in its non-conference finale. The Rams are coming off their second consecutive defeat, a 45-24 decision against rival Lehigh. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at Jack Coffey Field.