Updated: Sunday at 11:37 p.m.
In its first game of the Ivy League season, the Yale football team affirmed its reputation as an offensive power in the Football Championship Subdivision, routing Cornell 51–13 while racking up over three times as many offensive yards as the Big Red.
Quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 led the Bulldogs (3–0, 1–0 Ivy) with 312 passing yards and five touchdowns despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter. His 86.7 percent completion rate — 26 completions on 30 attempts — broke a school record that was set last year by quarterback Hank Furman ’14, also against Cornell (0–3, 0–1).
Three games into the season, Yale’s hurry-up spread offense is performing like no other. The Bulldogs lead both subdivisions of Division-I football — 252 teams in total — with 631 offensive yards per game and 51.3 points per game. Yale is also fourth in the FCS in both rushing and passing yards per game.
“Everyone’s doing their job,” captain and wide receiver Deon Randall ’15 said. “If you look at the offense as a whole, it wouldn’t be what it is if certain guys don’t do their job. [The guys] have the ability to focus and take care of their one-eleventh on the football field.”
After allowing 43 points and over 590 yards to each of its previous two opponents, the Eli defense turned it around in week three, stuffing a Cornell team that has found itself lacking significant weapons after the graduation of quarterback Jeff Mathews. Mathews, a four-year starter for Cornell, finished his career as the all-time passing leader in Ivy League history.
Yale conceded just 69 rushing yards and 120 passing yards to Cornell’s combination of three different quarterbacks. In the first quarter, Cornell produced negative net yardage while failing to achieve a single first down other than by penalty.
One of the only two scores the Big Red did get was not even from its offense. Cornell returned a fumble for a touchdown to first get on the board in the second quarter, and then running back Luke Hagy caught a touchdown reception in the final two minutes of the game.
“Coach [Tony] Reno is a defensive lineman guy, so he takes a lot of pride in how we play,” defensive back Robert Ries ’17 said. “He wanted to make sure we made a statement this week, and I think we did so … The chemistry of the defense is getting better every week.”
The Bulldogs had fallen behind early in their wins over Lehigh and Army, but they took the initial lead in this one, as running back Tyler Varga ’15 picked up where he left off from last week’s five-touchdown performance. On Yale’s fifth offensive play of the game, Roberts pitched the ball to Varga on an outside option for a six-yard score and a quick 7–0 lead.
During the rest of the game, however, Yale scored primarily with the pass, and the running game provided a supporting role in setting up Roberts’ five touchdowns and eating up the clock in the second half.
Roberts said that Yale’s ability to transition from a rushing attack, such as last week’s against Army, to an aerial assault has been a key to success for its dominant offense.
“It’s incredible, all the different weapons that we have,” Roberts said. “We have so many weapons that you can’t really key in on one guy. If you key in on one guy, another guy’s going to beat you.”
Yale continued to force Cornell’s offense off the field in three plays in the first quarter, and each time, the Elis capitalized with a touchdown by one of its senior playmakers, Randall and fellow wideout Grant Wallace ’15.
Randall caught a deep pass over his shoulder from Roberts for a 33-yard score, while Wallace, after converting a third down situation for 20 yards at the beginning of the drive, broke away from his defender eight plays later for a 13-yard touchdown reception.
Each receiver would later add another touchdown to his total and finish with over 100 receiving yards.
Yale led 20–0 after the first quarter, having gone a perfect three-for-three on offense and having stopped Cornell on all four of its offensive possessions.
“We’ve had a lot of success on offense [before this week], but we haven’t really had any success at the start of the game,” Roberts said. “It was huge to get out there and really focus on not killing ourselves with mental errors on the first drive.”
Cornell scored for the first time in the second quarter when wide receiver Robert Clemons ’17 caught a pass on Yale’s 15-yard line but fumbled, allowing Cornell linebacker James White to pick up the ball and run it in for a score.
Yale responded with Wallace’s second touchdown, and Randall tacked on his score one possession later, first making a diving catch to extend the drive on fourth-and-eight and then catching a 16-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
With Yale leading 34–6 in the second half, Reno subbed out many of his starters to give experience to players further down the depth chart and to avoid injuries to the first-string players. Varga and Randall did not get touches in the second half, and quarterback Logan Scott ’16 replaced Roberts in the fourth quarter.
But Yale continued to pound Cornell’s defense, as kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15 put through a 20-yard field goal, and Clemons later avenged his earlier fumble by scoring on a nine-yard reception.
Running backs Deshawn Salter ’18 and Everett Johnson ’15 took over the run game and had significant success in the opportunity, as Salter carried the ball 10 times for 64 yards, and Johnson took credit for Yale’s final score with a 34-yard touchdown rush right through Cornell’s defensive line.
Hagy scored Cornell’s only offensive touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the game, narrowing Yale’s 45-point lead to the final margin of 38.
The Bulldogs will next play a three-game homestand, beginning against Dartmouth on Oct. 11. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.