Playing its toughest nonconference game since defeating Army in 2014, the Yale football team pummeled the same program that fell victim to the Bulldogs in Yale’s first-ever win at the Yale Bowl in 1915.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the Elis (2–1, 1–0 Ivy) returned to New Haven for first time in the 2018 season, playing host to No. 16 Maine (2–2, 1–0 Colonial). Led by quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20, who finished the day with 306 yards and three touchdowns, Team 146 dominated all four quarters by playing a steady and undeviating game to secure a 35–14 victory over the Black Bears.
“I’m very proud of this team and the culture we have,” head coach Tony Reno said. “We have a team that focuses on playing standards. We deal with guys on a daily basis and talk relationships. That’s who we are … Obviously, Maine is a great football team. We knew coming in that it was going to be a challenge. For us, we are really different. We focus on ourselves. We focus on playing to our standards. The opponent is just someone else that comes out of the other tunnel.”
The Bulldogs, who at times looked shaky against both Holy Cross and Cornell, executed a steady and cohesive march down the field to open the game. Capped off by a touchdown run from Rawlings, Yale hammered out a 75-yard drive in 10 plays, foreshadowing the consistent and unassuming performance that eventually earned them the victory against a jumpy Maine squad.
Maine’s longest offensive series in the first quarter moved the ball just 22 yards following the Elis’ opening touchdown. The Black Bears were stifled by incomplete passes from backup signal-caller Isaiah Robinson. Their second and third series both resulted in three-and-outs, and Yale ended the first period ahead by a touchdown.
Rookie running backs Spencer Alston ’22 and Trent Charles ’22 teamed up to lead the Elis’ ground game in the wake of injuries to tailbacks Alan Lamar ’20 and Zane Dudek ’21. After Alston ran for 17 yards to set Yale up inside the 10-yard line, Rawlings punctuated the drive with a 7-yard pass to Klubnik in the endzone to extend the Elis’ lead to two touchdowns early in the second quarter. Klubnik combined with fellow wideout JP Shohfi ’20 for 16 receptions as the dynamic duo accumulated 209 total yards receiving and three touchdowns.
Although the Black Bears held the Elis scoreless for the remainder of the half, they continued to struggle offensively. Totalling just six first-half passing yards, Maine focused its offensive game plan around establishing a ground game. While running back Joe Fitzpatrick was able to bring his team across midfield on the ensuing series, the drive came to a grinding halt when a wild snap resulted in a massive loss of yardage. In its next offensive possession, Maine failed to cap off a solid drive by firing a field goal attempt well short of the uprights.
After both teams traded punts to open the half and Maine failed to convert a fourth-and-one deep in Bulldog territory, Team 146 extended its advantage on the next drive largely due to the passing proficiency of Rawlings, who tallied 56 all-purpose yards in the series. After a critical 23-yard completion to tight end D. Major Roman ’21 and another eight-yard pass to Shohfi, Charles capped off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run — his first collegiate score — to extend Yale’s lead to 21–0.
The Black Bears responded with a 63-yard scoring drive in just three plays, a stark contrast to their first seven drives which resulted in zero points. At midfield, Robinson threw a 50-yard touchdown that was hauled in by Earnes Edwards to put the Black Bears on the board as Maine still trailed Yale 21–7 late in the third quarter. But the Bulldogs answered the score quickly as Rawlings found Klubnik for a 24-yard touchdown on their next drive with just 22 seconds left in the third quarter.
“The mindset for us is to just go out and dominate every play,” cornerback Marquise Peggs ’19 said. “Regardless of if it’s third-and-one, third-and-long or first down. It’s just our mentality that we’ve been bringing in and starting to form an identity [around].”
The Black Bears continued to find their footing in the final frame and notched another score just 20 seconds into the quarter. Robinson found wideout Jaquan Blair, who broke a tackle and sprinted down the middle of the field for a 63-yard touchdown. With all of the momentum on its side, Maine intercepted Rawlings on the very next drive but was stopped short of a touchdown, turning the ball over on downs in the Yale red zone and effectively sealing the Bulldog victory.
With just over a minute left in the game, Yale continued to find success against the Black Bears’ defense and scored to go up by three touchdowns after Rawlings connected with Klubnik on fourth-and-goal. The duo’s third score of the afternoon put a fitting end to the game — when the clock read zero, the Elis upset of nationally-ranked Maine was cemented 35–14.
“We couldn’t do anything,” Maine head coach Joe Harasymiak said. “Credit to [Yale], they did a great job. They were well-coached, the kids played hard … it felt like we just got beaten one-on-one all day.”
Yale will take on Dartmouth under the lights at 6 p.m. on Friday.
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