The Bulldogs knew the Bears were going to throw the ball. What Yale did not expect, though, was to face an offense that was not just good in the air, but even better on the ground.
Brown backup tailback Spiro Theodhosi exploded for 133 yards in the second half, as the Bears (5–3, 3–2 Ivy) took control of a game that found Yale down by only two at halftime, but that ended with the Elis (4–4, 2–3) losing both the game — 35–21 — and any chance at a share of the Ivy League title.
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Prior to Saturday’s game, the Elis’ offense had averaged fewer than nine points a game in their three losses. This time, however, it was not the offense that was the problem.
The usually-strong Yale defense — which had previously kept its opponents to an average of 275 total yards — allowed a season-worst 494 total yards against the Bears.
“They found some success running the ball and decided to stick with it,” head coach Tom Williams said. “I don’t think that was their game plan coming in, but maybe it was. … When we look at the tape I think we’ll see that we didn’t execute our defense.”
In addition to Theodhosi’s 167 rushing yards, Brown junior quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero threw for 269 yards, including two touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Buddy Farnham.
Yale quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 also had success in the air, going 28-for-41 for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw three interceptions. One of the turnovers was especially damaging as it ended any chance of a comeback, one week after Yale’s 12-point fourth-quarter comeback at Columbia.
The first quarter saw both defenses bend, but not break, as both teams were stopped from getting closer than 35 yards to the goal line.
Toward the end of the first quarter, Witt had completed five passes for 41 yards but under-threw his next pass and was intercepted at Brown’s 18-yard line.
The Bears responded on their subsequent drive by moving the ball 71 yards, and Newhall-Caballero found Farnham for a 10-yard score to take a 7–0 lead less than three minutes into the second quarter.
The Bulldogs kept up as tailback Mordecai Cargill ’13 caught a short screen pass from Witt and ran 41 yards into the end zone, struggling to keep his balance on the last 10 yards. It was Cargill’s first career score and put Yale within one point after kicker Alex Barnes ’11 missed the extra point.
“The play just opened up the way that it was drawn up,” Cargill said. “The line did a great job of blocking, and we just ran it the way we’ve been running it all year.”
As the second quarter neared an end, the Bear offense was once again driving, but cornerback Adam Money ’11 quickly gave Yale the lead by intercepting a deflected Newhall-Caballero pass and returning it 77 yards for the touchdown. The return was the fourth longest in Yale history.
Witt’s pass on the ensuing two-point conversion to fellow quarterback Brook Hart ’11 fell incomplete, so Yale led 12–7 with 2:29 left in the half.
That was more than enough time for Brown to score as they moved the ball 72 yards in less than two minutes. Newhall-Caballero completed the drive with a five-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a 14–12 lead.
The Bulldogs tried a last-second field goal on the final drive of the half, but kicker Tom Mante’s ’10 51-yard attempt was wide left.
The third quarter saw Brown start to run away with the game — literally.
On the first drive of the second half, a Theodhosi 21-yard run was followed by a 30-yard Newhall-Caballero touchdown pass to a wide-open Farnham down the sideline. When the Bears got the ball back, they were at it again, as Theodhosi ran for a 16-yard score to give Brown a 28–12 lead.
But the Elis were not ready to give up.
Barnes’ 35-yard field goal on Yale’s next drive made the score 28–15, and Mante caught Brown by surprise with an onside kick that Peter Balsam ’11 recovered as the third quarter came to an end.
The momentum shifted just as quickly as it had come to the Bulldogs, though, when a hard-thrown pass from Witt bounced off of wide receiver Jordan Forney’s ’11 hands and was intercepted by the Bears.
It was the third time in the half that Brown had the ball, and like the other two drives, it too ended with a touchdown. Theodhosi ran 45 yards to the two-yard line, and senior wideout Bobby Sewall punched it in on a run to make it 35–15 with 12:53 remaining.
“I don’t think we’ve given up back-to-back-to-back touchdowns like that in my four years here,” defensive tackle Tom McCarthy ’10 said.
Although it had become a three-possession game, Yale quickly countered with a 59-yard drive capped off by Witt finding tight end A.J. Haase ’10 for a 23-yard reception and wide receiver Reid Lathan ’10 for a 20-yard touchdown catch later in the drive. Barnes’ extra point attempt once again failed, leaving the score at 35–21 with 9:35 remaining.
After having struggled the entire second half, the Yale defense made a much-needed stop and gave the ball back to the offense with 6:41 left on the clock.
Running a no-huddle offense similar to what had worked so well during the Bulldogs’ fourth quarter comeback at Columbia, Witt completed four of his next five passes to bring the team to the Brown six yard-line.
“The guys on the sideline, before we started that drive, were saying that we’d been here before,” Witt said. “We were confident, and I think you saw that in us moving the ball down the field.”
But on first-and-goal Witt did not find a Bulldog in the end zone — he found Brown cornerback A.J. Cruz, all but ending the game.
Williams took the blame for the turnover.
“Coaching-wise we’ve got to put our guys in a better position to make a play,” he said. “I thought the energy level was where it needed to be for us to have an opportunity to win the game… [but after the interception] the air kind of came out of the balloon.”
The Yale defense forced a punt with 1:35 left to play, but Money — who had averaged 22 yards on his previous six returns — fumbled the ball off of a bounce. Brown recovered it and — one yard away from the end zone — kneeled the ball to seal the Bears’ 35–21 victory.
The loss puts the Bulldogs out of contention for the Ivy League title, as they are now tied for fourth place. Harvard and Penn, both 5–0 in conference play, are tied for the lead with two weeks remaining in the season and will meet at Harvard this weekend.