Down to its fourth-string quarterback, and with just one more completion than interception in the second half, the Yale football team seemed to be out of hope as its contest against Brown wound down.
But one last drive led by Logan Scott ’16 brought the Bulldogs to the edge of field goal range, and Deon Randall ’15 took a third-and-10 handoff 32 yards to the house with just 19 seconds remaining. The scamper electrified the crowd at the Yale Bowl and delievered a stunning 24–17 win for the Elis (5–3, 3–2 Ivy).
“It was a great win for our guys,” head coach Tony Reno said. “We haven’t won a game in the fourth quarter while I’ve been here. It’s a testament to the guys beside me and the guys in the locker room.”
The win was greatly helped by the Bears’ self-inflicted mistakes. Brown quarterback Patrick Donnelly missed multiple receivers wide-open downfield, including on a flea flicker pass on the first play from scrimmage.
Yale’s opening possession went just as the coaches drew it up. Two third-down conversions from quarterback Hank Furman ’14 kept the Bulldogs’ drive going, and halfback Candler Rich ’17 took a screen pass from Furman 35 yards to the house.
The Bears (5–3, 2–3) responded by marching right down the field. Donnelly found his tight end for two straight first downs, and a pass interference penalty set Brown up at the Yale 23. But after a crucial drop on third down, Brown kicker Alex Norocea missed a 33-yard field goal, his first miss of the season, and Yale took over at the 20.
A quick three-and-out for the Bulldogs allowed the Bears to take over at the Yale 46, and five plays later, Brown struck. Donnelly threw a rollout pass on the money to Tellef Lundevall and, after the extra point, the game was knotted at seven.
Furman quickly led the Yale offense on another scoring drive. He ran twice for 13 yards and completed four passes for 49 yards, including a third-down strike to receiver Myles Gaines ’17, who dragged his feet in the end zone for a touchdown.
After the touchdown, Yale’s bend-but-don’t-break defense came through again. This time, the defense stopped the Bears on fourth down inside the Yale 30 after stuffing reigning Ivy 100-meter dash champion John Spooney on third down.
“In order to get three and outs, you have to stop them on first and second down,” captain Beau Palin ’14 said.
The Bulldogs and the Bears then traded punts on three consecutive drives before the Elis caught a break. Brown converted a third and 14 early on its drive and steadily moved to the Yale 21, but Spooney dropped a handoff and Yale recovered the loose ball.
Furman, however, had suffered an injury to his throwing arm on the previous drive, returning to the sidelines in a sling, and the Bulldogs brought in backup Morgan Roberts ’16. The offense got nothing going and punted to Brown with 17 seconds left. But on the drive, Roberts sustained a leg injury, only exacerbating the Elis’ troubles at quarterback.
On the punt, Bears return man Alex Jette fumbled the fair catch, and Yale pounced on it. After Eric Williams ’16, who replaced Roberts at quarterback, hit Rich for 12 yards, kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15 nailed a career-long 46-yard field goal to give the Elis a 10-point lead at the half.
Williams came back out to start at quarterback for Yale in the second half, but after a first down, the Bulldogs’ drive stalled. Brown’s subsequent drive also failed after a sack from defensive end Marty Moesta ’17.
“Morgan and Eric were splitting reps this week,” Reno said. “Morgan got hurt, Eric came in and did a solid job.”
Though Roberts returned at quarterback, he promptly turned over the ball on an ill-advised third-down pass that was intercepted. Brown quickly responded with a methodical 12-play drive that culminated in a touchdown pass from Donnelly to Jordan Evans.
With the extra point, Brown cut the Yale lead to 17-14 with 3:15 left in the third quarter.
Yale switched quarterbacks yet again, with Williams starting the drive at the 50 following a solid return. But an underthrown pass was intercepted, and it took a great stand from the Bulldogs’ defense inside the Yale 10-yard line to force a 26-yard Brown field goal. The three points tied the game at 17 all with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs’ defense stepped up and held the Bears. With the offense sputtering, Palin said the defense knew they needed to perform.
“We had a meeting the other week about offense and defense picking each other up,” Palin said. “That’s what good defenses do — when the offense needs a stop, we go out and do it. I’m just inspired to be out there and playing.”
Yale caught a break on a key fourth-quarter drive when an interception was called back by a roughing the passer penalty. After the penalty, Scott replaced Williams as signal caller and moved the team into Brown territory, only to be undone by a false start and an incomplete pass.
“I didn’t have any reservations at all when we put Logan in the game,” Reno said. “I can’t say how proud I am.”
Spooney again carried to the brink of a first down, but the Elis held, dropping him for a loss of two on third and one and ultimately taking over at their 35-yard line. Another false-start penalty negated the four yards picked up on first down, and Scott proved unable to move the chains.
Brown, assuming control at the 18-yard line, again failed to pick up a first down. After converting 20 first downs in the first three quarters, the Bears mustered just two in the fourth.
“We were relentless,” Palin said of the defense. “We executed and did our jobs. I can’t say how proud I am of this defense.”
After a Brown three-and-out, the Bulldogs started their drive with 1:43 left at their 41-yard line. Scott completed a pass to Randall for nine yards on second down, and Rich charged ahead for five yards and a first down.
Randall finished with nine catches for 55 yards and six carries for 59 on the ground, making him both the Elis’ leading receiver and leading rusher.
“We said, let’s get the ball in the best player on the field’s hands,” Reno said of the thinking going into the final drive. “We design things to get Deon the ball. That’s what coaches do.”
After two passes from Scott made it third and one, Khalil Keys ’15 took the carry and converted. A spike and an incomplete pass downfield ensued, bringing up third and 10 from the Brown 32.
Then came the play that may have saved the Bulldogs’ season. Randall took the ball from Scott on a handoff and burst up the middle for 32 yards and a touchdown to take the lead 24–17 with 19 seconds left.
“The offensive line did a tremendous job blocking all game,” Randall said. “I saw a hole and I hit it, and I just bulled my way into the end zone.”
After a last-ditch Brown Hail Mary attempt was batted down in the end zone, Yale officially walked away with the victory and maintained its ability to contend for the Ivy League championship.
Donnelly finished with 262 passing yards and a pair of touchdown passes, while Spooney rushed for 125 yards on 27 carries.
Next Saturday, Yale travels to face Princeton, who is undefeated in Ivy play. With a win, the Tigers would clinch at least a share of the Ivy championship. The game is at 1:00 p.m.