This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Nov. 9.
Returning to form after two straight Ivy League losses, the Yale football team dominated Brown on Saturday, combining season-high scoring with tight defense en route to a decisive 41–14 win at the Yale Bowl.
The running game, which scored four times, paced the Eli offense while the defense held the league’s leading passer, Brown’s Marcus Fuller, to just 165 yards through the air. A Yale team that has struggled to put points on the board in the past few weeks scored, it seemed, at will, particularly during a 24-point third quarter that saw the Bulldogs (5–3, 2–3 Ivy) score on offense and defense 11 seconds apart.
“The potential of this team is there,” head coach Tony Reno said. “I think you’ve seen there are a lot of different games we can go out there and play.”
Saturday’s game, which Reno said followed the best week of practice the team had this season, was also the best performance Yale fans have seen in several weeks. Forcing and then recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff, the Elis went on to score touchdowns on their first two drives. Running back Deshawn Salter ’18, back after missing last week’s game against Columbia due to injury, saw limited time as a short-yardage back but managed to run both scores in. Kicker Bryan Holmes ’17 added a field goal while Brown (4–4, 2–3) picked up two scores.
After halftime, Yale came out strong, rattling off 24 unanswered points to put the game out of reach and post its largest margin of victory since last season’s 38-point win over Cornell. Brown held the ball for just over one-third of the game and netted just 257 total yards while turning the ball over four times.
On a day in which the offense played without six Week 1 starters, Reno truly put his “110-man strong” claim to the test and demonstrated the fluidity of his personnel. Of the four running backs who took snaps yesterday, only one — Salter — was listed as a running back last season. Salter scored three of the team’s four touchdowns on the ground.
Austin Reuland ’16, a former wide receiver, and Jamal Locke ’18, a former cornerback, combined for 38 yards on 12 carries, while the game’s leading rusher started on Yale’s defense just a week earlier. Starting cornerback Dale Harris ’17 moved to running back, a position he said he played in high school. Showing off impressive acceleration through the offensive line, Harris tallied 71 yards on just 12 carries while also picking up a touchdown, his first career score, despite having limited time to learn the offensive side of the playbook.
“I was in the office quite a bit,” Harris said. “The coaches were there and were a tremendous help. They basically said go out there and told me to play, not think too much.”
Reno explained that he knew Harris was a two-way player when recruiting him. The coaching staff wanted to switch Harris to running back for the Columbia game last week but could not because of an injury.
Harris’ explosive running provided just one highlight for an offense that racked up 443 total yards. Quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 completed 68.3 percent of his passes, the second-best completion percentage of his season, and for the first time since Week 2’s matchup against Cornell, did not throw an interception.
The recently maligned quarterback stressed that the team’s poor performance in its 17–7 loss to Columbia meant players had to return to film and make adjustments.
“If you try to think about yourself, [doubts] come into your mind,” Roberts said. “It’s not about me, it’s about Team 143. Not one time this week was I worried about something I could do. There were no what-ifs.”
Roberts completed passes to eight different receivers in the first half, a statistic indicative of the team’s depth, he pointed out, en route to a 28-for-41 and 267-yard performance.
His favorite target was slot receiver Christopher Williams-Lopez ’18, who had 13 receptions for 154 yards. Both numbers are career-highs for the sophomore, who made a return from injury just three weeks prior.
“I wasn’t able to play the first four games, and coaches were really behind me when I came back,” Williams-Lopez said. “Morgan worked with me, and I think, progressively, I’ve done whatever I can do to get better.”
The defense, a unit that has shown significant improvement over the last year, took a further step up against Brown, intercepting a season-high three passes and holding Brown’s two quarterbacks, who entered the game averaging 355.1 combined passing yards per game, to 207 yards through the air.
The defense’s aggressive press coverage also limited the Bears’ three top wideouts, all of whom ranked in the top five in the conference in yards per game, to a combined 17 catches for 186 yards.
“I challenged the defense before the game to go from good to great,” Reno said. “What we did when we’re successful is we don’t give up big plays … Our defense is predicated on not giving up big plays and being a very physical, punishing defense.”
All three Yale interceptions came in the second half, including a 24-yard pick-six from cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski ’17 just 11 seconds after Harris’ score. His touchdown marked Yale’s first interception returned for a touchdown since 2009.
Though the Bulldogs will not be winning the Ivy League this year, as they were eliminated from title contention on Saturday by No. 13 Harvard’s 22nd consecutive victory, they still have two games on the docket. The victory over Brown gives Yale momentum to take into its final away game next week at Princeton.
Kickoff in Princeton, New Jersey, is slated for 1 p.m. next Saturday.