Thanks to the unstoppable legs of running back Tyler Varga ’15, the Yale football team kept alive its hope for an Ivy League championship with a 45–42 win at Brown today.
Varga rushed for 204 yards on 35 carries, scoring two touchdowns while also setting up a pair of touchdown passes by quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16. In total, the Elis racked up 520 offensive yards, and their 45 points were by far the most that the Bears have allowed all season.
“It was one heck of a football game,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Everyone who paid to come watch the game today really got their money’s worth … A win here means a lot to us.”
Turnovers and the combination of Brown quarterbacks Marcus Fuller and Seth Rosenbauer threatened the Elis early on with a 20–7 Brown lead. Yale rallied back by forcing turnovers of its own and resparking its hurry-up spread offense.
Rosenbauer started this season as the backup for Fuller, who piled up 393 passing yards in the contest. But he has since become a threat as a running back, receiver and wildcat quarterback.
The Bears’ wildcat offense was effective from the start, as both Fuller and Rosenbauer pushed through Yale’s defense over seven straight positive plays to the 13-yard line. But Yale tightened up in the red zone and forced a field goal to start the game.
The Elis (7–1, 4–1 Ivy) then responded with a strong drive of their own. Ten plays, six of which went to Varga, eventually set up a 19-yard touchdown reception for captain and wide receiver Deon Randall ’15 in the corner of the end zone.
As has been the case all season, Varga was key to the passing game both by creating short-field situations and forcing defenses to prepare up front.
“The most incredible thing about Tyler … is not only him keeping his feet moving and punishing defenders, but his balance,” Roberts said. “He’s an unbelievable athlete.”
Brown (4–4, 2–3) finished the first quarter with a drive that mirrored its first. The Bears marched downfield in a long, extended possession, but Yale again held them to a field goal.
Following a Yale punt, Brown continued its momentum with a 77-yard touchdown run by running back Andrew Coke on the first play of its next drive to take the lead 13–7.
The Bears then attacked again just three minutes later, capitalizing on a muffed handoff between Roberts and running back Candler Rich ’17. The ball was fumbled toward the sideline, and Brown linebacker Ryan MacDonald pulled off a 53-yard scoop-and-score.
An interception by Roberts followed — Yale’s second consecutive turnover, the first time that has happened all season — but the Elis then forced a punt, and Rich made up for the previous error with a 33-yard touchdown rush midway through the second quarter.
That touchdown brought the score to 20–14 in Brown’s favor, and Yale had a chance to take the lead before the first half expired after safety Cole Champion ’16 picked off a pass during a threatening Brown possession.
With only about a minute remaining, and 84 yards to go, Roberts transitioned to the pass and brought his team almost all the way downfield with consecutive sideline completions. Yale narrowly ran out of time, though, and ended the half with a 39-yard field goal by kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15 to make it 20–17.
The Bulldogs roared back after halftime to take the lead thanks to Varga. A 35-yard reception by wide receiver Grant Wallace ’15 brought the Elis downfield, and Varga eventually capitalized with four consecutive positive rushes, the final one being a five-yard touchdown.
While Varga’s touchdown was not unusual for Yale this season, the ensuing score was far from the norm. Brown attempted a flea flicker on the next drive, and linebacker Darius Manora ’17 appeared to read it from the start. He jumped right in front of the pitch back to the quarterback, snagging what was technically a fumble and effortlessly running to the end zone for 34 yards.
After the defensive touchdown pushed the score to 31–20, Yale and Brown exchanged touchdowns. Rosenbauer scored on a short rush through the middle for the Bears, and then Wallace responded with an 18-yard touchdown grab.
Brown wide receiver Alex Jette then scored with a 28-yard touchdown reception, and Varga followed up by padding the lead with a 23-yard touchdown rush on fourth down.
The score by Varga was his 18th of the season. The senior currently stands third on Yale’s single-season rushing touchdown list, just five behind Mike McLeod’s ’09 record of 23.
The Bears escaped fourth down midway through their next possession and eventually brought the score to within three again after another touchdown by Jette.
Yale retrieved the ball with just under four minutes remaining and the score at 45–42. Several first downs by Varga allowed the Elis to run out the clock and narrowly secure the victory.
Yale continues its hunt for the Ivy title next Saturday at the Yale Bowl against Princeton.