October 29, 2011

Yale Runs Past Columbia in the Snow, 16-13

Cargill Rushes for 230 yards, Two Touchdowns

NEW YORK – In a game where weather conditions were a major factor in eliminating both teams' ability to throw the ball, Yale's ground game produced the two touchdowns that the Bulldogs needed -- combined with a 38-yard field goal from junior placekicker Philippe Panico -- to edge Columbia 16-13. Junior tailback Mordecai Cargill, starting for injured senior Alex Thomas, ran for 230 yards and a pair of scores in the snowstorm that blanketed Columbia's Kraft field at Wien Stadium on a cold and windy day.

The snow began falling shortly before game time, but it had been predicted well in advance of the game and the Bulldogs were as prepared as they could be. Since Thomas left last Saturday's game at Penn with an injury, Cargill knew all week that he would be called upon to step up.

"I was just looking at [the weather] as a great opportunity, because I knew the offense was going to be more focused on the run," Cargill said. "We were just ready to pound the rock today. I was ready for it. I had to just pick up the slack after Alex went down. The offensive line did a great job of opening up holes today."

Just holding on to the ball was an accomplishment on Saturday, as the teams combined for nine fumbles (five lost). Throwing and catching the ball were practically out of the question, and the Bulldogs did not attempt a pass in the second half after completing just two of 10 tries in the first.

With the game scoreless, Columbia's offense did get a big pass play right as the first quarter ended -- quarterback Sean Brackett connected with receiver Louis DiNovo for a 32-yard gain. But on the first play of the second quarter, Eli defensive back Collin Bibb sacked Brackett, knocking the ball loose as Brackett attempted to throw. Columbia recovered at its own 40, but two plays later, senior free safety Geoff Dunham intercepted Brackett at the Yale five.

Junior linebacker Will McHale created the field position edge Yale needed later in the second when he tipped Brackett's pass, which was then caught by a Lion lineman who fumbled thanks to a hit from senior defensive end Cliff Foreman. McHale recovered the fumble at the Columbia 19. That enabled Panico to drill a 38-yard field goal at 10:38 to put Yale up 3-0.

"I didn't get all of it," Panico said. "It was a little low, but I think that kept it out of the wind."

The Bulldogs tried to take advantage of another Columbia miscue when a high snap on a Lion punt attempt forced punter Paul Delaney to kick the ball from deep in his own territory after he chased the ball down. The Bulldogs took over at the Columbia 24, but a fumbled snap on fourth-and-seven was recovered by Columbia at the Lion 34. Yale headed into the half with a 3-0 lead.

"We were very confident," said Tom Williams, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We felt like a three-point lead would be enough to hold up if we could just possess the ball. That was our plan going into the game."

After Brackett had to fall on a fumbled snap on the first play of the third quarter, the Bulldog defense kept the Lions contained. First, senior defensive lineman Jake Stoller tackled running back Griffin Lowry for no gain. Then, Bibb tackled running back Alec Fisher on a screen pass for a three-yard loss to force a punt.

The Bulldog offense then executed eight straight running plays for a total of 41 yards, the last 19 coming on a touchdown run by Cargill. He also converted a third-and-two and a fourth-and-two earlier in the drive.

A fumble ended Yale's next drive, but the Bulldogs got the ball right back when senior linebacker Jordan Haynes recovered a Lion fumble at the Yale 47.

"We capitalized on a lot of the mistakes they made because of the bad weather," Haynes said. "That's just something we practice. It's kind of an everyday thing for us."

Cargill added another touchdown on a four-yard run early in the fourth, capping a 51-yard drive in which he rushed for 43 yards and the rest came from sophomore receiver/running back Deon Randall. The Bulldogs missed the extra point but still led 16-0.

Columbia (0-7, 0-4 Ivy League) scored on a 26-yard play-action pass from Brackett to tight end Zack McKown with 8:54 to play. But Brackett's toss into the end zone for the attempted two-point conversion fell incomplete. That became even more important when a fumbled punt gave the Lions the ball at the Yale five with 5:24 to play, and they got another touchdown pass from Brackett. His four-yard toss to receiver Mike Stephens made it 16-13 with 4:04 to play.

The Lions stopped Yale at the Columbia 16 on a fourth-and-one, setting up one last chance for the Columbia offense. The Lions got one first down, and got as far as their own 31 before sophomore strong safety Nick Okano's interception at the Columbia 45 with 58 seconds left enabled the Yale offense to come out on the field to take a knee three times to run out the clock.

Right around that same time, Yale (4-3, 3-1 Ivy League) found out that Brown had knocked off first-place Penn 6-0 in Providence. That dropped the Quakers to 3-1 in the league, tied with the Bulldogs and the Bears. It also gave Yale control of a chance for at least a share of the Ivy League title. Winning the next three games would guarantee Yale at least a piece of the Ancient Eight crown. That stretch begins with a game against the Bears next Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field.

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

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