Yale topples Big Red in home opener

By Won Jung and Joey Kamm | Posted on, 9:25 p.m.
Safety Hayden Carlson ’18 converted an interception for a touchdown in Saturday's win over Cornell. (Yale Athletics)

What a difference one year can make.

Following its game against Cornell a year ago, the Yale football team owned an 0–2 record and had scored just 26 points on the season. Today, however, the Bulldogs defeated the Big Red 49–24 to bring their record to 2–0 and their point total to 105 in two games.

After getting off to a rough start offensively, Team 145 found success in the running game en route to a 342-yard rushing performance by the team’s backfield. The defense, on the other hand, struggled with penalties for the second consecutive game. However, they ultimately held Cornell to just 10 points in three quarters, by which point Yale owned a comfortable lead. Although the Bulldogs have yet to play a complete, clean game through two contests, they can take solace in the fact that they are undefeated after two weeks.

“You tell what a football team is made of when they’re not playing well,” head coach Tony Reno said. “It’s easy to be on top, stay on top and be your best, but it’s really hard to come back when you’re not playing your best and make the adjustments you need to be successful in a game. To me, that’s the mark of a good team.”

In their season opener a week ago, the Bulldogs’ offense opened the game firing on all cylinders, as they accumulated a quick 14–0 advantage. In today’s game, the Eli attack took much longer to find its rhythm; Yale’s three drives in the first quarter resulted in a grand total of 22 yards and one first down.

Luckily, Team 145’s defense was able to hold off the Big Red, limiting the visitors to just three points in the quarter. Cornell marched down the field for 13 plays and 76 yards on their first drive, but Yale was able to stop quarterback Dalton Banks shy of the end zone on a third-and-goal attempt.

After Cornell settled for a field goal, the Bulldog defensive unit proceeded to pick off two of Banks’ throws, one of which was returned 19 yards for a touchdown by free safety Hayden Carlson ’18. In spite of their offensive struggles, the Elis managed to hold a 7–3 lead after 15 minutes of play.

Midway through the second quarter, Yale began with the ball deep its own territory. After a false start penalty, wide receiver Christopher Williams-Lopez ’18 fumbled on a 17-yard completion recovered by Cornell linebacker Kurt Frimel. On the very next play, Banks dropped a dime to running back Chris Walker in the end zone to give the Big Red a 10–7 advantage.

Following a three-and-out on its ensuing drive, the Bulldogs’ defense continued to harass Banks in the pocket, and a sack by defensive end Kyle Mullen ’19 on third down forced a Cornell punt. With less than two minutes remaining in the half, quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 orchestrated a three-play, 63-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 14-yard run of his own which gave Yale a 14–10 lead heading into halftime.

Although they had the lead coming out of the break, the Bulldogs knew they were playing short of their potential, according to Reno. Clearly this resounded with the players as well, as they put together their best quarter of the day immediately after halftime.

In the third quarter, Team 145 engineered two scoring drives on a combined 19 plays and over 10 minutes of game time. Running back Deshawn Salter ’18 put the finishing touches of both of these drives, with scores of 3 yards and 1 yard. On the other side, Cornell botched its one scoring opportunity of the quarter, with a field-goal miss from 21 yards out to give Yale a commanding 28–10 lead.

On first-and-goal at the start of the final quarter, Rawlings found tight end Jaeden Graham ’18 in the corner of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown reception on a leaping grab. But the Big Red refused to go away, as Cornell running back Harold Coles rushed for a 90-yard touchdown on his first carry of the afternoon, to make it 35–16 Yale following an unsuccessful extra point.

The Big Red would score again on its next drive, this time off a 57-yard touchdown reception to wide receiver Eric Gallman, who was left wide open due to a coverage breakdown in the Yale secondary. The Bulldogs answered with a pair of touchdowns on their next two drives, courtesy of an 82-yard score by Salter and a 14-yard run by Dudek. These scores dashed any hopes of a Cornell comeback, and sealed a 49–24 victory for the Bulldogs.