These Bulldogs have a flair for the dramatic.
Yale (7–2, 5–1 Ivy) preserved its chances at winning a share of the Ivy League championship by holding on for a narrow victory over Princeton (1–8, 0–6 Ivy) at the Yale Bowl Saturday. The Bulldogs’ 14–13 victory was their third by a field goal or less in their past three games.
After Penn defeated Harvard 34-14 on Saturday to clinch at least a share of the Ivy League title, in order for the Bulldogs to be co-champions, the Elis will need to defeat the Crimson and have Cornell upset the Quakers next week.
Few expected the struggling Tigers to be much of a threat to the second-place Bulldogs, and the game indeed looked lopsided early on. Although the Elis’ promising first drive ended with a fumble by wide receiver and special teams star Chris Smith ’13, the defense wasted no time in responding. Defensive back Geoff Dunham ’12 picked up a fumble forced by Allen Davis ’13 and took it back 57 yards for a Yale touchdown.
Princeton kicker Patrick Jacob missed a 44-yard field goal on the Tiger’s ensuing drive, and the visitors did not threaten again until the second half. But when the Tigers started to move the ball, Yale did not seem to have a response. Quarterback Andrew Dixon took the Tigers 78 yards to the Yale 3 yard-line before Jordan Haynes ’11 came up with another big turnover. This one was an interception in the end zone to save six points for the Elis.
But turnovers hurt Yale too. Just three plays after Haynes’ pick, Deon Randall ’14 dropped the ball, and Princeton recovered at the Yale 23. This time, the Tigers would not be denied. Although the Bulldog defense refused to budge, Princeton was well within field goal range. Jacob narrowed the score to 7–3 with a 33-yard field goal with 7:32 left in the half.
And the Tigers kept coming. After their defense forced a Yale three-and-out, Princeton quarterback Connor Kelly — who split duties with Dixon — capped a drive that started at his own 24 with a 28-yard strike to wide receiver Trey Peacock. Yale double teamed Peacock, the Ivy League’s top receiver, for most of the game, but on this one he beat Yale zone coverage and cornerback Chris Stanley ’11 and reeled in a pass from Kelley as he dove forward into the end zone.
Yale was not content to let the 10–7 Tiger lead stand.
“We knew we didn’t have to go into the phone booth and put an S on our chests,” said head coach Tom Williams. “We just had to execute.”
Execute is exactly what they did. On the next drive, Witt brought the team downfield with a 33-yard pass to a wide open Jordan Forney ’11. The Bulldogs seized the lead for good three plays later when tight end Chris Blohm ’11 caught a screen pass from Witt and rumbled 16 yards for the score.
After Blohm’s catch, the game was all defense. After allowing 272 yards in the first half, Yale allowed only 60 yards in the second. The only points they allowed came after a poor punt from Greg Carlsen ’14 gave Princeton the ball at the Yale 40 and Jacob drilled a 35-yard field goal through the uprights two minutes later. The Princeton defense played equally well. Yale’s offense — despite strong field position on almost every drive thanks to the punt returns of Gio Christodoulou ’11, could not score and earned only 132 yards on the half. Their most promising drive ended at the Princeton 24 when the Tigers recovered a fumbled snap.
But, once again, Yale was able to bleed the clock in the last four minutes and preserve a narrow victory. Princeton decided not to try to convert a 4th and 6 with 3:25 to go, and running back Alex Thomas ’12 made them pay. He rushed four times, Witt converted a crucial third down pass to Forney, and Yale was able to let the clock run out on a 14–13 win.
“There was never any panic on the sidelines,” Witt said. “We all understood what we have to do. This team is just unbelievable the way they manage to pull games out.”
Correction: November 14, 2010
An earlier version of this article misstated Yale’s record.