The Yale football team matched a record for futility on Saturday.
After fighting to a 7–7 stalemate in the opening quarter, an overwhelmed Yale squad watched Harvard (9–1, 7–0 Ivy) blow past it for the rest of the game en route to a 45–7 win. It was Yale’s worst loss to its archrival in 29 years and the second-most lopsided defeat at the Crimson’s hands in school history. The Elis have not beaten the Crimson in five consecutive meetings, matching the longest losing streak in Yale history set from 2001 to 2005.
“We got beat by a better football team today,” head coach Tom Williams said. “They looked really good on video, and they looked even better in person.”
Harvard’s offense steamrolled the Bulldogs, piling up 506 total yards — 355 through the air and another 151 on the ground. By comparison, the Elis managed just 302 total yards and turned over the ball four times, including an interception late in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown.
Against the toughest run defense in the Ancient Eight, the Bulldogs managed just 76 yards on 30 carries, their second lowest output this season.
“We saw the same things [on defense] that we saw on film,” captain and linebacker Jordan Haynes ’12 said. “It’s just a case of us not making plays the first half. In the second half, we … just got a little worn down, and they capitalized on that.”
After driving the Crimson 65 yards downfield, quarterback Collier Winters ended the game’s opening drive prematurely with a lost fumble. Linebacker Will McHale ’13 knocked the ball loose from Winters’ hands at the Yale three-yard line. The football rolled into the end zone and out of bounds, giving the Bulldogs possession at their own 20.
The Elis struck the first blow of the game three minutes after the forced fumble. Quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 found wide receiver Jackson Liguori ’14 open across the middle. Liguori broke a tackle and strode into the end zone for the 24-yard touchdown reception, his second of the year.
But Yale did not score again, and the Crimson offense did not stay silent for long. Winters evened the score with a dive into the endzone from four yards out. He gave his team the lead for good on the next drive with a 20-yard touchdown strike to an undefended Alex Sarkisian, who finished the game with seven receptions for 97 yards.
“The credit for our passing game goes to the offensive line,” Sarkisian said. “When they give [Winters] time, he makes great decisions.”
Yale had the chance to narrow the margin on the next drive, but a field goal attempt by Philippe Panico ’13 was blocked, allowing Harvard to recover the ball at its 13-yard line.
Special teams went the other way on the ensuing possession as the Crimson executed a flawless fake field goal attempt. Junior quarterback Colton Chapple took the snap at Yale’s five-yard line and immediately pitched the ball to kicker David Mothander, who ran down the left side and dove into the end zone.
“We were expecting something in that situation,” Williams said. “They had done it to us two years ago. Our [defender] was trying to make a play, he was just unable to do it with a guy hanging on him.”
Mothander added a 21-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to give the Crimson a 24–7 lead heading into halftime.
“Even at halftime, down 17, we still felt we had a shot,” Witt told Yale Athletics after the game.
But the Crimson also intercepted Witt three times in the second half and never allowed the Elis to move past their own 30-yard line.
“In the third quarter we had some chances to punch it in, and we didn’t,” Williams said. “That was a big deal in terms of momentum.”
As Yale sputtered, Winters picked apart its defense. He finished the game with 27 completions on 42 attempts for 355 passing yards. He also ran for 62 yards, best among all Crimson players, and scored three total touchdowns.
“He was the difference in terms of making those plays,” Williams said about Winters. “They converted a lot of third downs. He was able to do a lot of that with his legs. He’s a really good football player, one of the best in our league.”
Winters threw his last touchdown of the game to tight end Kyle Juszczyk, who broke off a tackle and raced 60 yards into the end zone. Juszczyk led all Crimson receivers with seven catches for 107 yards.
The Crimson struck the coup de grace with less than three minutes left in the game.
Linebacker Alex Gedeon intercepted Witt at Yale’s 32-yard line and sprinted untouched downfield into the end zone.
“That’s perfection,” Harvard head coach Tim Murphy said about the pick-six. “Alex Gedeon is a really special guy, as humble as they come, selfless, a great player. He is, in my humble opinion, the best linebacker in this league.”
For the Bulldogs, who began the season with aspiration for the Ivy title, Saturday’s thrashing marked the end to a disappointing season that included losses to Penn and Brown.
The Elis will now go into their offseason, hoping that next year will finally bring the them an Ancient Eight crown and a win over the Crimson.
“It came down to us not executing against a good football team,” Haynes said. “Ending my career this way, it is definitely a low point for me in my 12 years of playing football. All I can hope for is … that the guy in the coming years can make things happen.”
The Bulldogs finished the season in a four-way tie for second place in the Ivy League. Brown, Penn and Dartmouth also finished with 4–3 league record.
The worst Yale loss to the Crimson came in 1915, when the Bulldogs were blanked 41–0.