“Under 50 percent.”
That is how head coach Tony Reno described the injury status of quarterback Eric Williams ’16 after Williams took the field in Saturday’s game against Brown. Struggling through the pain of a separated non-throwing shoulder, Williams was unable to lead the Elis to victory over the Bears.
Yale (2–6, 1–4 Ivy) was shut out 20–0 by Brown (5–3, 2–3 Ivy) in Providence, R.I. on Saturday afternoon. It was the Bulldogs’ ninth loss in the past 14 meetings between the two teams. Brown held Yale scoreless for the first time since 1949.
With running back Tyler Varga ’15 splitting time under center with the hobbled Williams, the Elis’ passing attack was severely limited, and Brown defensive back A.J. Cruz said that the Bears could focus more on stopping a Yale ground attack that is second in the Ivy League with 195.2 yards per game.
“We didn’t see too much of a threat from the pass so it was easier to be aggressive in that situation,” Cruz said. “But we had to be smart too because they could dump something over the top.”
Yale’s dependence on running the football was evident from its first series onward. Williams ran for nine yards and a first down on the second play from scrimmage and went immediately to the sidelines after being tackled. The Bulldogs still had a chance to score thanks to 32 rushing yards from Varga on the drive, but the field goal attempt of kicker Philippe Panico ’13 from 43 yards fell short.
After Yale’s defense forced a three-and-out by the Bears, Williams returned to the field. Reno said the freshman quarterback and his perseverance are representative of a team that has been plagued by injuries this season.
“[Williams] went from being out for the season to ready to go this week,” Reno said. “I give a lot of credit to a lot of players with injuries who just keep battling.”
The injury clearly affected Williams’ accuracy, however. Cruz intercepted Williams’ first passing attempt of the day but the play was nullified by a pass interference penalty. The next play Williams threw down the right sideline, but again Cruz was there for the takeaway.
Brown quarterback Patrick Donnelly then marched the Bears 80 yards down the field to take a 7–0 lead with 5:00 left in the first quarter. Bears fullback Cody Taulbee slipped out of the backfield and Donnelly found him wide open as he crossed the goal line from three yards out. According to Brown head coach Phil Estes, there has been increased pressure on Donnelly to perform due to the injuries in the Bears’ backfield.
“I think there’s a lot more pressure on Patrick to make plays because our running game … is something that’s in the works right now,” Estes said. “We’ve had to plug in some wide receivers there.”
The Bears tacked on three more points to push the scoring margin to 10 at the 10:32 mark in the second quarter when Alex Norocea’s 37-yard field goal try floated just over the crossbar.
Turnovers — a common problem for the Elis this season — once again reared their ugly head in the first half. The Bulldogs gave up two interceptions and a lost fumble to push their Ancient Eight-leading total to 23 giveaways.
The last of these turnovers was Cruz’s second interception on the afternoon. He jumped into the passing lane at Yale’s 26-yard line, but wide receiver Cameron Sandquist ’14 knocked the ball from his hands and offensive lineman Ben Carbery ’15 dove on top of the loose ball at the 16.
Brown doubled its lead to 20–0 in the third quarter. Norocea put Brown up by 13 with a career-long 46-yard field goal at the 8:52 mark and Donnelly capped off the scoring by rolling to his left and hitting wide receiver Jordan Evans with a 25-yard touchdown with 4:26 remaining. Estes said that Donnelly’s athleticism — he played in seven games for the basketball team last year — makes the signal caller comfortable on the run.
“It’s natural because he can run that he likes to make plays out of the pocket,” Estes said.
The 20—0 defeat could have been even worse if not for the punting of Kyler Cazzetta ’15. The punter averaged 46.1 yards on his seven punts, which included a 72-yarder. Cazzetta pinned the Bears in deep with four punts on the 10-yard line or better. Reno said that a new rugby-style punting package aided Cazzetta.
The Elis gained just 223 total yards on the day compared to Brown’s 396. Varga led all rushers with 104 yards and running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 added 87 more yards for Yale. Williams was just 4-15 passing on the days for 22 yards and two interceptions. Donnelly went 24-38 on the day for 232 yards and two touchdown passes.
Yale returns home next Saturday to host Princeton (4–4, 3–2 Ivy).