WASHINGTON — The Bulldogs powered past initial first half struggles to come away with the 31–10 victory at Georgetown on Saturday, giving new head coach Tom Williams his first victory at Yale.
Led by two first-time starters — running back Jordan Farrell ’10, who ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns, and Nebraska transfer quarterback Patrick Witt ’12, who threw for two touchdowns and completed 22 of 27 passes — the Elis (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) showcased their strong offense on the road at Georgetown (0–3).
At first, though, it was the Yale defense that was responsible for the first points of the game, as cornerback Drew Baldwin ’12 made his first career interception, giving the Bulldogs the ball at the Hoyas’ 27-yard line. After a false start and an intentional grounding penalty, the Elis were forced to settle for a 50-yard field goal — a booming kick by Tom Mante ’10 that seemed as if it could have gone another five yards.
It was the longest kick Mante had made in his career, and it was the first time since 1990 that Yale had made a kick of at least 50 yards.
At the end of the first quarter the Bulldog offense really got started. Witt completed all five of the drive’s passes, including a 28-yard touchdown pass down the middle to tight end A.J. Haase ’10 to give Yale a 10–0 lead.
The score marked both Haase’s first career touchdown and Witt’s first touchdown as a Bulldog.
In what was a day full of debuts for the Bulldogs, all did not go smoothly at first for the Yale side.
“There’s a solid difference between a team that’s playing their third game and a team that’s playing their first game,” Williams said.
Farrell — who sat out all of last year with a shoulder injury — only ran for six yards off of four carries in the first quarter, and Witt fumbled four times in the first three quarters, two of which were recovered by the Georgetown defense.
Leading 17–3 with about a minute left in the half, Witt scrambled from pressure and tried to throw the ball out of bounds. Instead, he was tackled, lost the ball, and watched as Hoya junior linebacker Paul Sant’Ambrogio picked it up and ran 38 yards for the touchdown.
“He was trying to do too much,” Williams said of Witt. “At that point he just needs to eat it and live to fight another day.”
Witt was able to keep his composure, though, and with the help of Farrell, lead two consecutive touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to end the game — which at the time was out of reach, 17–10.
First came a 19-yard touchdown pass to H-back John Sheffield ’10, who reached over his head to make a two-handed grab at the front of the end zone with 12:13 left to play.
After a quick defensive stop by the Bulldogs, Yale received the ball on their 25-yard line and proceeded to march up the field, a possession that lasted 12 plays, took key time off of the clock, and ended with Farrell running three yards for a touchdown.
“What made the game was that last drive,” Farrell said. “[To go 75] yards, and take off seven minutes [from the clock] — that’s something that good teams do.
While there may not have been enough time for a Georgetown comeback, there was enough time for the Bulldogs to reward Williams with an inaugural Gatorade shower.
“[Captain Paul Rice ’10] says he wasn’t part of it, but he gave me a congratulatory hug, and as soon as he let go of me I got doused with the Gatorade,” Williams said. “I’m not exactly buying that, but I’ll take it.”
Rice had extra reason to be happy.
In his first game since being named captain and since switching from cornerback to middle linebacker over the off-season, Rice had three unassisted tackles and four assists.
“As soon as the season ended last year, I knew that I wanted to be a linebacker, and Coach Williams definitely agreed with me,” Rice said. “You’re the center of the defense and get a chance to make some really big plays.”
Rice also had to face the challenge of helping the defense adjust to Georgetown freshman quarterback Isaiah Kempf, who was substituting for sophomore signal-caller James Brady. The defense had studied film on Brady, only to find out at game-time that he was injured and would not play.
Although Kempf was able to throw for 332 yards, the Bulldog defense only allowed three points and had two red-zone stops.
“That’s how we’ve been in my career here, and I was very happy to see that we were able to respond the same way [in the red-zone],” Rice said.
The game also featured impressive debuts from running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 and wide receiver Chris Smith ’13. Cargill carried the ball for 36 yards, including a 10-yard run, and Smith made two key catches for 29 yards during Yale’s final drive.
Notably absent from the offense, however, was running back Alex Thomas ’12, who sat out after suffering a twisted ankle during practice last week. Thomas is expected to play next week and offer a change of pace to the hard-nosed styles of both Farrell and Cargill.
The Bulldogs will hold their home opener on Saturday as they play Cornell at noon. The Big Red (1–0) opened their season on Saturday with a 33–9 victory over Bucknell (1–2).