Courtesy of Jack Warhola
In its first contest without league-leading quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20, the Yale football team was crippled offensively, losing to Columbia in a game that saw just three touchdowns.
Coming off a convincing victory over Penn, the Bulldogs (4–3, 2–2 Ivy) might have expected to travel to New York and make quick work of the Lions (4–3, 1–3), who had yet to taste victory in Ivy play this year. But with Rawlings sidelined, Team 146 effectively lost its chance of repeating as league champion. With less than a minute to play, Yale drove the length of the field, set itself up in enemy territory and tried to succeed in a last-ditch effort to force overtime. In an agonizing sequence, quarterback Jimmy Check ’21 lofted a ball into the end zone, looking to tie the game in its final seconds, but the Lions intercepted the pass to cement their 17–10 victory.
“We didn’t make the plays we needed to make,” head coach Tony Reno said. “We really didn’t get on track offensively for awhile. Once we finally did, we were moving the ball, but we weren’t finishing drives. We had a couple turnover opportunities. We didn’t get them. We dropped a couple picks. All those things matter. You have to be able to make those plays in a game like this. We had a chance to put the game away, and we didn’t. We have a good football team, but we didn’t play well today.”
With Check making his first career start, the Elis looked unconvincing. While Team 146 tried to find its offensive footing in the first quarter, the defense adequately held off the Lions — keeping the game well within reach and allowing just a single field goal.
But the Bulldogs, who dominated the stat sheet, could not convert sustained drives into points. Despite tallying 428 total offensive yards while holding Columbia to just 157, Yale’s show was marred by turnovers and a slew of penalties in the poor conditions at Wien Stadium. The Elis ultimately produced their lowest offensive output of the season.
“We have a lot of weapons on offense, and we’re not coming up with points,” running back Alan Lamar ’20 said. “We need to figure out how to score, and I think we’re going to be good. We’re very good at moving the ball on people. We just need to finish.”
After Lamar set off a scoring drive with a 44-yard run to notch the day’s first touchdown, Team 146 seemed poised to turn the tide late in the second quarter. A 93-yard drive in the half’s final two minutes produced a Bulldog field goal and a 10–3 lead heading into the second half. But the Elis could not carry over the momentum to the third quarter. Columbia then proceeded to take advantage of momentary lapses in Yale’s steady defensive performance to put two scores on the board and take a seven-point lead, despite the third-quarter exit of its starting quarterback.
The Bulldog defense pounded out another opportunity for Team 146 to rally from its touchdown deficit by forcing the Lions to punt with roughly two minutes left in the game. Though the Elis had a chance to tie the game after moving into Columbia’s side of the field following a series of clutch receptions and runs, Check could not complete a pass to Klubnik, who ran up the middle toward the end zone. The Lions, who sent two defenders to cover Klubnik, picked off the pass and allowed their offense to line up in the victory formation. The interception was Check’s second of the afternoon as the clock ticked down on a realistic chance of Yale defending its 2017 Ivy League title.
Although the Elis could technically still claim at least a share of the crown by winning the rest of their conference games, Princeton and Dartmouth are each undefeated in conference play through four contests. Yale, Penn and Cornell now sit in a three-way knot behind the Tigers and the Big Green with two wins and two losses each.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the outcome we wanted today,” Check said. “We talked a lot about the adversity during the week. That’s always the focus and the process during the week. The end result of a game is never determined today. It’s always determined Monday through Friday. We just need to be better in our preparation.”
The Elis will host Brown at the Yale Bowl next weekend.
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