One mark of a good team is its ability to bounce back from failure. After blowing a 24–7 lead last week, in a game that would have brought its record to 4–0, the Yale football team had the opportunity to demonstrate its resilience against Holy Cross.
There were few lingering effects from the one-point loss as the Bulldogs (4–1, 1–1 Ivy) dominated today’s contest, winning 32–0. Although the normally-explosive Eli offense got off to a slow start, their defense bottled up the Crusaders (2–5, 1–1 Patriot) and star quarterback Peter Pujals to record its first shutout since 2011. The offense eventually found its rhythm behind quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 and running back Zane Dudek ’21, who recorded two touchdowns each.
“It’s pretty obvious that Yale’s a good football team,” Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore said. “We knew that coming in. I made a statement at the beginning of the week which held out to be true: this might be the best Yale team I’ve seen since 1982. [Yale is] a very talented team… they played extremely well today.”
For the second straight game at home, the Yale offense was slow out of the gates. In continuing an unfortunate trend, holding penalties on two of the Bulldogs’ three first drives hindered Team 145 from moving the ball effectively down the field. However, the Eli defense was on top of its game from the very first play from scrimmage, even without star cornerback and captain Spencer Rymiszewski ’17.
Cornerback Malcolm Dixon ’20 got his hands on opposing quarterback Peter Pujals’ first throw of the day, and although Dixon was unable to come up with the interception, the Yale defense forced a three-and-out. This sequence gave the offense great starting field position from the Crusaders’ 40-yard line, though Yale settled for a 39-yard field goal.
On the next defensive possession for Yale, defensive tackle Josh Keeler ’20 recorded the first sack of his young career, which linebacker Matt Oplinger ’18 followed with another sack two plays later. The Bulldog pressure was not only effective in slowing down Pujals, who was averaging over 300 passing yards per game prior to today, but also in negating the Holy Cross running attack. The Crusaders ended the first half with -3 yards on the ground on 15 attempts.
The Yale offense finally woke up in the closing moments of the first quarter and set up a fourth-and-one try from Holy Cross’ eight-yard line to open the second quarter. Quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 kept the ball on a read-option to gain three yards for a first down, and then found wide receiver Michael Siragusa Jr. ’18 on a screen pass out wide for the receiver’s first touchdown of the season.
Following a 59-yard return by wide receiver Darrius Lacy on the ensuing kickoff, the Crusaders seemed primed to get on the scoreboard for the first time. However, two outstanding pass break-ups by Dixon forced one of the Crusaders’ five three-and-outs in the opening half. A consistent pass rush and lockdown coverage in the secondary continued to minimize the effectiveness of Pujals, before Dudek scored Yale’s first rushing touchdown in two weeks on a 21-yard scamper.
Kicker Alex Galland ’19, who averaged 43.7 yards per punt in the first half, pinned Holy Cross inside its own 10-yard line later in the second quarter. Just two plays later Oplinger wrestled Pujals down in the end zone for a safety, one of three sacks by the senior on the day, to extend the Elis’ advantage to 19 points. The Bulldogs continued to force the issue, scoring again 30 seconds later on a 33-yard reception touchdown by Siragusa. The home squad went into halftime leading 25–0.
The Bulldogs shook off last week’s dreadful second-half performance against the Big Green with an impressive 7-play, 76-yard drive on their first series of the second half, which culminated in a 22-yard rushing touchdown by Dudek to increase their lead to 32–0. The Crusaders finally drove into the Yale red zone later in the third quarter, but Jackson McLarty’s 36-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright and was no good.
The Bulldogs then ran off the majority of the fourth quarter clock on a drive spanning almost ten minutes, before substituting a plethora of second and third-string players in for the remainder of the game to seal a 32–0 victory.
Yale will be back in Ivy League action next Saturday when the Bulldogs head to Philadelphia to take on Penn.