On his second snap as the Yale football team’s feature back, Zane Dudek ’21 exploded 68 yards for Friday night’s opening score, leaving the entire Brown defense in the rearview mirror. The play was representative of a wire-to-wire rout of the Bears, as the Bulldogs claimed sole possession of first place in the Ivy League.
After an injury to his backfield counterpart, Deshawn Salter ’18, Dudek sparked Team 145 (7–1, 4–1 Ivy) with three touchdowns en route to a 34–7 win over the last-place Bears (2–6, 0–5). Quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 also did his part after a subpar performance a week ago against Columbia, throwing for two touchdowns and 294 yards against a weak secondary.
Defensively, the Elis continued to play up to their lofty standards, forcing 10 punts from a hapless Bears’ attack and intercepting two passes. When the final whistle blew, Team 145 looked very much the part of the best team in the Ivy League in a nationally-televised, nighttime fixture at the Yale Bowl.
“All the credit to our offensive line, as always,” Rawlings said. “Once they get rolling, I think the whole O-Train gets rolling. They’re the drivers of that, so just being able to watch little Zane [Dudek] run behind all of our big guys up front is pretty fun. It starts to open up things in the passing game, too. We had stuff clicking, but as always, we’re not satisfied.”
Behind an elite offensive line, Dudek showed why he was included on the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award Watch List which recognizes the Football Championship Subdivision’s top rookies. In just 13 carries, the first year accumulated 165 yards on the ground and displayed his dynamic repertoire. On the aforementioned 68-yard score and another 36-yard touchdown later in the first quarter, Dudek’s track speed — which previously helped him win a Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League crown in the 100 meters — left the back his jersey ingrained in the memory of Brown defenders.
However, Dudek’s most impressive score undoubtedly came on a 7-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The rookie took a handoff from Rawlings and used his patented jump-cut to get out to the left before shifting back inside in the blink of an eye, eluding three pursuers; he then burst right up the gut and carried a linebacker into the end zone. With the electrifying run, the running back recorded his 11th rushing touchdown, a total that ranks fourth in the FCS.
Dudek’s outstanding performance was complemented by a two-touchdown game from wide receiver J.P. Shohfi ’20. The sophomore wideout connected with Rawlings on a back-shoulder throw in the first quarter for his second touchdown of the season before taking a bubble screen 83 yards to the house in the following quarter. Shohfi’s second score stands as the fifth-longest passing play in school history.
“I got two great blocks on the outside … and basically just saw open grass, and I was able to take off,” Shohfi said. “As far as how the offense was moving, we really emphasize winning one play a time. I think all the receivers did a really good job today blocking and just getting open.”
Kicker Alex Galland ’19 had outkicked the opposing punter in six of seven games heading into Friday and excelled once again versus Brown’s Ryan Kopec, who ranks third in the Ivy League in punting average. Galland dropped four punts inside Brown’s own 20-yard line, including three kicks downed inside the five-yard mark. His performance significantly hindered the Bears’ ability to generate scoring drives following defensive stops, as Brown’s offense crossed midfield only twice in the game.
Quarterback T.J. Linta faced constant pressure all game from the Bulldogs talented pass rush in his first start since a 53–0 defeat to Princeton three weeks ago. The Connecticut native completed just 12 of 39 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown. While Yale wrestled down Linta just twice — its lowest sack total of the season — the Elis’ perpetual pass rush resulted in two interceptions by cornerback and captain Spencer Rymiszewski ’18 as well as strong safety Jason Alessi ’18.
The Bulldogs’ rushing defense held its opponent under 100 yards on the ground for the fifth-straight game. Aside from a long run of 46 yards by David Moodie, the Bears managed just 45 yards on 24 carries and trailed in time of possession by nearly nine minutes. Yale’s 563 yards of offense were also the team’s highest single-game output since the season opener against Lehigh when the team racked up 566 yards.
“The offensive line just put it to them tonight,” Dudek said. “That’s what they’ve done all year, and they continue to do it, week in and week out. It’s so impressive and so much fun to run behind people who are just giving their all every single play, and moving people every single play. It’s awesome.”
While Yale’s offensive line has been spectacular all season, it may have to proceed without starting right tackle Jon Bezney ’18, who went down with a lower body injury in the first frame.
Following Columbia’s 21–14 defeat to Harvard and Cornell’s 10–0 loss to Dartmouth on Saturday, Yale finds itself in sole possession of first place in the Ivy League. The Bulldogs currently enjoy a one-game advantage over four teams in a tie for second. The Elis only need one victory in their final two games against Harvard and Princeton to secure the program’s first Ancient Eight championship since 2006. Yale has a 7–13 record against its two rivals in the past decade.
Yale will head south to take on Princeton next Saturday in a 1 p.m. kickoff.
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