Courtesy Yale Athletics
After a frustrating season for the Yale football team, the Elis looked to send their seniors off with a win in their final home game at the Yale Bowl. However, their opponent — Princeton, still in need of a win to keep its championship ambitions alive — dominated the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball en route to a 31–3 victory.
The Tigers (7–2, 5–1 Ivy) came to New Haven boasting the best overall offense and defense in the Ivy League, and it showed on Saturday. The Princeton defense held Yale (2–7, 2–4) to just 200 total yards and forced a fumble. Offensively, while Yale held the passing game in check, the Tigers’ diverse run game found holes in the Bulldog defense, as seven players ran the ball on the way to 157 yards and four scores.
“[Princeton] hasn’t let up a lot of points, and they’ve been scoring at a record pace,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Defensively, we played a really good game aside from a couple mistakes, and we held them to 17 points through three quarters. Offensively, we weren’t able to get anything going and we played very young.”
The Bulldog defense struggled early, surrendering an 82-yard scoring drive in the first two and half minutes of play, which was capped off by a 46-yard touchdown run by Tigers’ running back AJ Glass. However, the Elis buckled down for the next 45 minutes, surrendering just 10 points and keeping the contest within two scores for the majority of the game.
Yale’s defense had to contend with several injuries as cornerback Dale Harris ’17 went down early in the game and injured linebacker Victor Egu ’17 did not dress for the game. Yet the group performed well overall, giving up a season-low 175 passing yards and holding the Tigers’ rushing attack to less than its average production of 179.8 yards per game.
Princeton brought its unique two-quarterback system to the Bowl Saturday. Chad Kanoff took the majority of snaps under center, while utility man John Lovett was used all over the formation and extensively in the red zone. Lovett attempted eight passes and 12 rushes, and made two catches during his three rushing-touchdown performance.
Captain and linebacker Darius Manora ’17 acknowledged the difficulties of defending against this hybrid system.
“It messes with your eyes a lot,” Manora said of Princeton’s two-quarterback system. “You have to stay very focussed on the details, on the play action, who has the ball, and which way they’re going to throw.”
The Bulldog offense’s 200 total-yard performance was its least-productive outing since a Week 1 matchup against Colgate. In his second collegiate start, quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 posted 164 passing yards on 18 of 37 passes and a fumble.
While the freshman signal caller was sporadic with his accuracy, he was not given much help — he faced an unrelenting Tigers’ pass rush that recorded five sacks against an offensive line missing Khalid Cannon ’17. The ground game did not take the burden off of him either, with the running backs totaling just 80 yards.
“I thought their quarterback played really well,” Princeton head coach Bob Surace said. “That kid has poise. We were coming at him and he just kept getting up.”
Leading rusher Alan Lamar ’20 managed just 71 total yards through three quarters of play. The freshman standout, who had been dealing with various injuries entering the game, did not play the fourth quarter against Princeton and received treatment from the training staff on the sidelines.
The Yale offense sent out five freshman starters against Princeton, a testament to the injuries it has dealt with this season. In addition to Lamar and Rawlings, offensive linemen Dieter Eiselen ’20 and Sterling Strother ’20 have been forced into starting positions, although Eiselen left the game with an injury in the third quarter.
Freshmen receivers Reed Klubnik ’20 and JP Shohfi ’20 highlighted the Eli receiving core, as veterans Christopher Williams-Lopez ’18 and Myles Gaines ’17 also sat out with injuries. Klubnik has averaged 68 yards per contest in his last three games.
Although Yale could not spoil Princeton’s chances at the Ivy League championship, it now has the chance knock its archrival out of title contention. After losing 27–14 to Penn this past Friday, No. 22 Harvard must beat the Bulldogs next Saturday in The Game to win the Ivy League title.