Witt TD as Time Expires Caps 40-35 Win Over Georgetown

At the bottom of a pile of players that includes Patrick Witt with the game-winning touchdown, Jake Koury celebrates as time expires. (photo by Kevin McCarthy)
At the bottom of a pile of players that includes Patrick Witt with the game-winning touchdown, Jake Koury celebrates as time expires. (photo by Kevin McCarthy)

Three TDs for Alex Thomas; Elis Total 543 Yards of Offense

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Junior Patrick Witt surged over the goal line on a quarterback sneak as time expired to cap a 40-35 come-from-behind win over Georgetown for Yale Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. Witt's one-yard dive topped off a day that belonged to the offenses, as the two teams combined for 986 total yards. Witt threw for 407 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. Junior tailback Alex Thomas, who caught one of those TDs, added two rushing scores as part of his 161-yard day (90 rushing, 71 receiving).

Thomas set up the game-winner with a nine-yard run to the Georgetown one. He stretched out his arm trying to get the ball over the goal line but came up just short, leaving very little time for Tom Williams, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football, to make the decisive play call. Yale trailed by just one point and had a timeout left as the clock ticked down under 10 seconds, but Williams decided to have Witt try to run the ball in rather than going for the field goal.

"It was so close," Williams said, referring to the ball's location. "I have great confidence in our line. I wanted to make sure they knew that."

Witt and the offensive line made the play work, taking advantage of a brief lull after the officials spotted the ball to get the play called and executed quickly.

"I was a little shocked when we called the quarterback sneak," Witt said. "I knew if we didn't get in it was game over."

En route to becoming the first Yale signal caller to throw for more than 400 yards since Alvin Cowan '04 threw for 419 at Brown in 2004, Witt utilized seven different receivers. Senior wide out Gio Christodoulou led the way with nine catches for 124 yards, followed by Thomas' six grabs for 71.

The game-winning drive might not have happened were it not for the Bulldogs coming up with the defensive stands they needed as the game wore on. After getting to 35 points at the 8:28 mark of the third quarter, the Hoyas did not score again. Three drives ended in punts, and the fourth ended in one of the game's other key plays: an interception by sophomore outside linebacker Will McHale at the Yale three-yard line with 10:20 to play.

"That's something we practice a lot," McHale said. "I did exactly what Coach Williams preaches: just sat underneath on the curl route."

Georgetown (2-1) only turned the ball over twice, but both times it was damaging. The first turnover of the game led directly to the first score. Under pressure, Hoya quarterback Scott Darby pitched the ball quickly to running back Wilburn Logan. Logan was never able to get a handle on the ball, and as he dove to the turf to try to cover it up the Yale defense swarmed. Junior linebacker Jordan Haynes emerged from the pack with the ball and waltzed four yards into the end zone. Senior placekicker/punter Alex Barnes added the extra point to make it 7-0 Yale with 1:39 left in the first quarter.

"We run the turnover circuit once a week in practice," Haynes said. "Honestly, it felt just like the drill. I was in the right place at the right time."

The Hoyas got a 54-yard return by Dalen Claytor on the ensuing kickoff. That set up a 40-yard touchdown pass from Darby to receiver Jamal Davis, who fought off two Yale defenders for the ball.

Thomas had two big plays on a Yale drive that ended with a touchdown early in the second quarter. First, he stayed on his feet just long enough to convert a third-and-two from the Georgetown 41. Four plays after that -- with help from a great block by senior center Jake Koury -- he turned a short screen pass from Witt into a 20-yard touchdown that gave Yale a 14-7 lead at 10:39.

Junior free safety Geoff Dunham then saved a touchdown by arriving just in time to pop receiver Keerome Lawrence as he tried to secure a 17-yard pass in the end zone. But two plays later running back Philip Oladeji ran the ball right up the middle to tie the game at 14 with 7:55 left in the half.

Thomas scored again on a six-yard run 4:57 before halftime. The touchdown was set up by a leaping 35-yard grab by Christodoulou, whose big day made it clear that he is fully recovered from the injury that cost him the majority of the 2009 season. The Bulldogs were unable to get the point after attempt off, but still led 20-14.

Yale extended the lead right before the end of the half with a 70-yard drive where Witt completed five passes, including a 10-yarder to senior tight end Chris Blohm for a touchdown with :37 on the clock. It was Blohm's first career touchdown.

Georgetown got an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jeremy Moore to open the second half. The Hoyas then got a fortunate bounce as a pass from Witt deflected off the intended receiver right into the arms of defensive back Jayah Kaisamba. That set the Hoyas up at the Yale 36, and a 29-yard pass to Lawrence ate up most of that. Lawrence, who had 129 yards receiving on the day, then lined up at quarterback and punched in a three-yard touchdown that gave Georgetown a 28-27 lead at 12:48 of the third.

Lawrence continued to vex the Bulldogs on the next Georgetown drive, darting his way to a 25-yard reception after a short pass on first down. Senior outside linebacker Jesse Reising saved a touchdown by chasing down receiver Jeff Burke at the Yale seven after a 36-yard gain on a screen. Two plays later, though, Darby fired one to receiver John O'Leary for a 35-27 lead.

Yale began re-gaining momentum with a 66-yard drive late in the third. Thomas had a 16-yard reception on a screen pass to get Yale into Georgetown territory, and Witt converted a third-and-12 from the Georgetown 36 by firing one to sophomore receiver Chris Smith. Smith, also showing he is fully recovered from an injury-plagued 2009, had 167 all-purpose yards (101 on kick returns, 66 receiving).

A pair of big plays from the Yale defense helped end the next Georgetown drive after three plays. Junior defensive tackle Reed Spiller dropped Darby for a five-yard sack, and senior defensive end Sean Williams got a piece of Darby's third-down pass.

The next drive was ended by McHale's interception, and on the drive after that Haynes' tackle of Oladeji one yard short of a first down forced a Hoya punt that gave Yale the ball with 1:27 to play at its own 36. After a 17-yard pass to Thomas, a pair of completions to Christodoulou netted 23 yards. Two Thomas runs added eight more yards, and after Christodoulou ran out of bounds at the 10 the clock was stopped with 13 seconds to play. Thomas' run got Yale to the one, and Witt then punched it in to touch off a celebration that Witt was happy to partake in -- once he emerged from the pile.

"I wanted to celebrate, but I was sandwiched under 10 people," Witt said.

Yale (1-0) opens Ivy League play next Saturday at Cornell, which lost to Wagner 41-7 Saturday.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity