Late Comeback Falls Short vs. Brown, 35-21
Witt Throws for 285 Yards, Two Touchdowns
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - For a moment, it looked as if the Yale football team was about to pull off another fourth-quarter comeback reminiscent of their rally from a 12-point deficit at Columbia the week before. The Bulldogs trailed Brown 35-21, but they had scored on two of their last three drives when they got to the Bear six-yard line with just over three minutes to play Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. But the Bears got the play that they needed -- a leaping interception in the end zone by cornerback AJ Cruz -- and were able to finish off the Bulldogs without any further threats.
"Guys on the sideline were saying the same thing - ‘We've been here before,'" Witt said of Yale's late-game comeback mentality. "It came down to that play in the end zone. It was a jump ball. The guy went up and made the play."
Witt would finish the day with 285 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. After Bears quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero hit flanker Buddy Farnham's for a 10-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, the Yale offense responded by driving 64 yards in four plays. The big one was a screen pass from Witt that freshman tailback Mordecai Cargill turned into a 41-yard touchdown, his first score.
"The screen play just opened up the way we draw it up," Cargill said. "The line did a great job of blocking. We just ran it the way we've been running it all year."
Turnovers then made for a hectic end to the first half. First, senior defensive lineman Tom McCarthy forced a Brown fumble that was recovered by sophomore cornerback Drew Baldwin at the Yale 33. An interception by Cruz on the very next play was negated by a pass interference call, but the Bulldogs were unable to convert a fourth-and-two at the Brown 44 with 5:08 left. Brown then drove to the Yale 27 only to have junior cornerback Adam Money pick off a pass at the Yale 23. Money, who made a pair of huge defensive plays in the comeback win over Columbia, got a well-earned touchdown by taking the pick up the right sideline 77 yards.
The Bulldogs had missed the extra point attempt after their first touchdown, and when they went for two after Money's score the pass fell incomplete. Brown (5-3, 3-2 Ivy League) went ahead with 41 seconds left in the half, driving 72 yards in seven plays. Newhall-Caballero took the ball in from five yards out to make it 14-12 Bears.
Yale's comeback last week was fueled in part by a field goal right before halftime; this week they had a similar shot but could not convert a 51-yarder.
The Bears' first drive of the third quarter had a pair of big plays back-to-back. First, running back Spiro Theodhosi broke a number of tackles for a 21-yard gain on second-and-27 after a holding call. On the next play Farnham was wide open behind the secondary and merely had to wait for Newhall-Caballero's pass to settle into his arms for a 30-yard touchdown.
After a Yale punt the Bears drove 76 yards to extend their lead. Receiver Bobby Sewall had the highlight of the drive by making a one-handed grab of a pass that was tipped by senior outside linebacker Justin Oplinger. Theodhosi ended the drive by outracing an attempted tackle at the line of scrimmage and taking off 16 yards for a touchdown and a 28-12 lead at 4:58 of the third.
Yale converted a crucial fourth-and-four late in the third quarter with a seven-yard pass from Witt to senior H-back John Sheffield that got the ball to the Brown 18. Four plays later junior placekicker Alex Barnes booted a 35-yard field goal to pull Yale within 28-15.
The Bulldogs executed their third successful onside kick of the season to get the ball right back, as junior wide receiver Peter Balsam grabbed a perfectly-placed kick from senior punter/placekicker Tom Mante. But on the second play of the fourth quarter Witt's pass was tipped by the intended receiver and intercepted by defensive back Blaine Grinna. A 45-yard run by Theodhosi set up a two-yard touchdown run by receiver Bobby Sewall that made it 35-15 with 12:59 to play.
"They've got some good linemen up front, and they ran the ball more than we expected," said McCarthy. "They ran more than they passed for the first time all year. I don't think we've ever given up back-to-back touchdown drives in my four years here."
A 24-yard return by Money jump-started Yale's next drive, which also featured a 23-yard pass to senior tight end A.J. Haase to convert a third down. Senior receiver Reid Lathan got past a fallen Brown defender and made an acrobatic catch of a Witt pass, falling backwards into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown with 9:41 left. The Bulldogs missed the extra point and trailed 35-21.
Cruz' interception then thwarted Yale's attempt to get back in the game with 3:23 to play. The Bulldogs had just converted a fourth-and-eight from the Brown 21 with a 15-yard pass to Haase.
The Yale defense forced a Brown punt by stopping a third-and-one run (tackle by junior strong safety Marcus Wallace), but the punt hit off a Yale player and the Bears recovered at the one. Brown (5-3, 3-2 Ivy League) ran the clock out from there.
The loss, coupled with wins by first-place Harvard and Penn, eliminates the Bulldogs from Ivy League title contention. Yale now focuses on the games against its two biggest rivals, starting next Saturday at Princeton (1 p.m.).
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity