Throughout most of its first six games of the season, the Yale football team became accustomed to winning high-scoring, fast-paced games with a powerful offense but inconsistent defense.
The Bulldogs used a different strategy today, putting up the fewest points they have scored this season against a winless Columbia team. But Yale managed to win 25–7 thanks to its best defensive performance of the year.
Running back Tyler Varga ’15 scored the Elis’ only two touchdowns, and kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15 took over the rest of Yale’s scoring with four field goals — tied for the most Yale has had in a game since 1884.
Yale used its kicker largely because of its inability to convert in the red zone. The Bulldogs (6–1, 3–1 Ivy) put up 586 total yards of offense and got deep into Columbia (0–7, 0–0) territory several times. But they were either held to a field goal or forced to a turnover on downs in all but two of their red zone attempts.“We kept ourselves out of the end zone,” head coach Tony Reno said. “If you look at each drive that we ended, it was a lack of mental execution, whether it was penalties, or [making] a mistake on a route or [fumbling] the ball.”
The Bulldogs spread the ball around throughout the game, especially in the running game with 17 carries by running back Candler Rich ’17 and seven by running back Kahlil Keys ’15. Rich posted a career high 202 yards in the contest.
The secondary was the highlight defensively with four interceptions on Columbia quarterback Trevor McDonagh. Three of them were by freshmen, including cornerback Jason Alessi ’18, who started in place of the injured Spencer Rymiszewski ’17 and picked off two passes in the second half.
“We’ve got a young secondary, and we got a little younger last week when Spencer went down,” Reno said. “Jason’s a very good player, a highly recruited kid coming out of high school. You saw today the ability that he has.”
The Bulldogs received the opening kickoff and struck quickly with Varga’s first touchdown of the day. The senior brought Yale 26 yards to the one-yard line, and then he punched through the touchdown that he earned right through the middle.
Yale led 6–0 after just two minutes of play, and the score remained that way for a full quarter after that until Varga’s next score. The Lions succeeded in stopping most runs by Varga and Rich, and many passes by quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 were either overthrown or dropped in 48-degree rainy weather.
The Lions, meanwhile, could not approach the Yale end zone despite a few strong rushes by running back Cameron Molina. McDonagh similarly suffered in the cold with just five completions on 15 first-half attempts.Varga opened up the second quarter with a score that mirrored his first. Following a 20-yard pass to Wallace, Varga set himself up at the one-yard line with an 11-yard run and then finished the drive himself on the next play.Those would be the only touchdowns for Yale in the game, as the Bulldogs gained big yards on several drives but could not convert in the red zone. Cazzetta hit his first field goal of the game from 33 yards midway through the second quarter but missed at the end of the half, resulting in a 16–0 Bulldog lead at intermission.The third quarter was more of the same for the Bulldogs as they transitioned into a run-heavy offense. Alessi and safety Foye Oluokun ’17 each had picks on McDonagh, while Cazzetta hit two more field goals on failed Yale red zone attempts.
Columbia scored its first points early in the fourth quarter with a 12-yard connection between McDonagh and receiver Ryan Flannery in the back of the end zone. Cazzetta then succeeded on his fourth and final field goal on the ensuing drive to make the score 25–7.
The Elis went to Cazzetta yet again later in the quarter, but his attempt sailed wide. Another interception by a Yale freshman, this time linebacker Hayden Carlson ’18, brought the Bulldogs to the Columbia 33-yard line.
With most of its starters subbed out at that point, Yale ran down the clock in the red zone to make the 25–7 score final.
Yale will next play in Providence at Brown next Saturday.