In a game that pitted its underperforming offense against an unsteady Fordham defense, the Yale football team completely dominated every facet of the game for two quarters, resulting in a first-half lead that the Bulldogs never looked back from en route to a 48–24 victory.
Already two games into the season, the Elis (3–0, 1–0 Ivy) came into Saturday’s matchup against Fordham (2–4, 0–0 Patriot League) with some unanswered questions as to when the offense would live up to lofty preseason projections. On Saturday, those questions were answered in emphatic fashion. The scoring barrage began on Yale’s very first drive of the game, when a quarterback pitch from Kurt Rawlings ’20 to captain and receiver JP Shohfi ’20 put seven on the board. Not only would the Elis score on their first drive of the game, but the offense continued to put points on the board for six consecutive drives.
In just the opening quarter alone, Yale scored 17 points — nearly twice as much as the team had scored in its first halves against Holy Cross and Cornell combined. In the second, Team 147 picked up right where it had left off in the first, scoring a touchdown within the opening seven seconds of the quarter, which sparked a cascade of touchdowns in ensuing drives, spotting the Eli defense a 35-point lead over Fordham entering halftime. While the Rams showed admirable grit and determination to close out the second half, it would not be enough, as Yale went on to secure a 48–24 victory to stay undefeated on the season.
“We did what we needed to do in the first half and we were able to effectively move the ball up and down the field when we needed to,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Our defense played well and had some good stops as the game went on. However, in the fourth quarter, we didn’t finish as well as I would have wanted us to — it’s not something to take lightly. We play to a standard; we don’t play to a score. Nevertheless, our guys worked their tails off all week, so they deserved this win, but we’ve got a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be.”
Yale’s first drive of the day began in a similar fashion to its first drive of the season against Holy Cross, with the offense marching down the field with a combination of running and passing — ultimately resulting in a touchdown. While Yale made its running game early, rushing for 43 yards on this opening drive, Rawlings had great success with his play-action passes against the Rams’ secondary. After the Bulldog defense came away with the ball on a blocked field goal, Rawlings took advantage of what the Fordham defense was giving him with a run-pass option style of offense, driving his team into the red zone and allowing kicker Sam Tuckerman ’20 to extend Yale’s lead to 10-0.
The Rams, however, immediately responded with a quick 70-yard touchdown of their own, cutting the Bulldog lead to three. On arguably the Elis’ most important drive of the day, Rawlings led an immaculate drive down the field that saw him connect with Shohfi for a 38-yard gain. Deep into Ram territory, Rawlings rushed into the end zone himself for the touchdown to make it 17–7.
“We came out with a good rhythm,” Rawlings said. “Everyone on this team trusts the guys around them to make plays, so my job is as easy as just spreading the ball around. It goes to show that we have a ton of guys on offense who will make plays with the ball in their hands. We’ve got five great guys up front to give me the time I need to do my job. However, as coach Reno said, we’re not quite where we need to be in order to continue to go where we want to go — there are always things to work on, but it was a fun afternoon.”
Yale came out in the second quarter firing, with Rawlings hitting wideout Mason Tipton ’23 in stride for a 48-yard touchdown. Fordham held its ground and countered with a field goal, but Yale’s offense was heating up. The ensuing drive saw Rawlings launch a 69-yard strike to Shohfi, who turned on the burners and left the Ram’s secondary in the dust for the score. Fordham then continued to struggle, punting the ball to Shohfi who in turn ran it back to the two-yard line. Rawlings barrelled in for his second rushing touchdown, extending the Bulldog lead to 38–10. The half ended 45–10 after defensive back Kyle Ellis ’22 returned an interception for a score and Tuckerman boomed in a field goal.
Both teams had to catch their breath after the offensive explosion in the first half, so the third quarter saw much less action. Yale was knocking on the door early in the period, but Rawlings was intercepted in the end zone to end the Eli scoring opportunity. This was followed by three straight punts by both sides and the uneventful third quarter came to a close.
“We trust the defensive technique that coach Reno preaches to us day in and day out,” defensive back Rodney Thomas II ’21 said. “He’s really passionate about what he does and what he teaches, and if we just line up and do what he says, it produces results. So, a big shout out to Reno for coaching us the right way.”
The fourth quarter saw an upswing in scoring once more, as Yale looked to close out the win convincingly. Fordham, however, struck first with a 33-yard touchdown from quarterback Tim DeMorat to his wideout Jeff Ciccio. Quarterback Griffin O’Connor ’22 relieved Rawlings under center, leading Yale on a short drive that ended in a punt. Fordham again scored on the ensuing drive when DeMorat lofted the ball up to wideout Dequece Carter for the score. Yale refused to truly let the Rams back into the game and O’Connor led an efficient drive, which was capped off by a field goal from Tuckerman. The Bulldogs ran out the clock after a failed Fordham offensive series and the dominant 48–24 victory was theirs.
Yale next plays away against Dartmouth on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
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