Bulldogs Fall to Raiders in Home Opener
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – On a day where the two teams combined for 954 yards of total offense, Colgate's football team ultimately had more firepower than Yale's. The Raiders got 275 passing yards, 85 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns from quarterback Gavin McCarney en route to a 47-24 win over the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. The Bulldogs' 410 yards of offense included 125 rushing yards, 31 receiving yards and a touchdown from freshman tailback Tyler Varga.
Yale (1-2, 0-1 Ivy League) hurt itself with three turnovers and a three-for-seven performance in the red zone (Colgate was five-for-five).
"We did too many things that lose football games, and not enough things that win them," said senior linebacker Will McHale, who led the defense with eight tackles (six solos).
Varga made an instant impression in his first home game, taking the opening kickoff 43 yards. He then racked up 21 yards on four carries on the ensuing drive, and the Bulldogs finished that one with a 24-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Eric Williams to junior wide receiver Cameron Sandquist.
But the first of five straight touchdown drives for the Colgate offense ensued, capped by McCarney scoring on a five-yard keeper to tie the game 7-7.
Yale answered with help from a 63-yard return by Varga. Williams had a big fourth-and-one conversion run, and Varga's 10-yard touchdown run put the Elis back up, 14-7.
It took Colgate (2-3) all of one play to respond, as McCarney hit wide receiver Chris Looney over the middle and Looney quickly raced to daylight and into the end zone. The 79-yard touchdown pass tied the score at 14.
That play, which could have been just a short completion had the Bulldogs been able to tackle Looney right after the reception, was one of many that would add up over the course of the game to result in the 544-yard offensive outburst by the Raiders. They came in averaging 384 yards per game.
"They've got a talented quarterback, and a talented offensive group," said senior free safety John Powers. "But there were a lot of plays that we left on the field."
After a 28-point first quarter it did not take long for the scoring to resume in the second. Senior placekicker Philippe Panico capped off a 10-play, 56-yard drive by booting a 36-yard field goal on the first play. The drive was highlighted by two long runs by Williams, a 25-yarder and a 32-yarder.
The back-and-forth battle continued with McCarney scoring again on a keeper, this one a 13-yarder, to put Colgate up 21-17 at 10:41 of the second. The difference this time was that the Colgate defense followed up with a stand, allowing the Yale offense just 14 yards on six plays before the Bulldogs had to make the game's first punt at 8:23 of the second.
Despite being pinned at their 25 on a nice punt by sophomore punter Parker Toms, the Raiders' offense kept the touchdowns coming. Tailback Jordan McCord converted a crucial third-and-six on a screen pass from McCarney, breaking tackles to get the ball to the Yale 42. The Raiders were hit with the first penalty of the game on the next play, but they overcame that holding call and got back into the end zone two plays later when McCarney hit tight end C.J. Stempeck over the middle. The Yale defenders tackling Stempeck flung him to the ground just across the goal line to put Colgate up 28-17.
McCarney scored his third touchdown of the day on an eight-yard run 41 seconds before halftime. The Bulldogs drove down to the Colgate 18 but Williams' pass was batted and intercepted to end the threat, leaving Yale down 35-17 at the break.
The Yale defense made its first big statement of the day on Colgate's opening drive of the second half, as senior nose guard Chris Dooley and junior defensive end Beau Palin sacked McCarney on third-and-nine from the Colgate seven. After that forced the Raiders' first punt of the game, the Bulldogs had to drive just 27 yards to score. The last 10 of those yards came on a swing pass from Williams to Varga for a touchdown, pulling Yale within 35-24 at 11:26 of the third.
A big special teams play gave the Bulldogs the chance to continue their comeback, but they could not take advantage of it. After the touchdown Panico placed the kickoff, which was from the 50 because of a Colgate personal foul on the extra point, deep in Raider territory where it hit off a Colgate player and was recovered by senior cornerback Kurt Stottlemyer at the eight. But after getting to the two, a bad snap on a third-down play forced Yale to try a 26-yard field goal that went wide right.
The Yale defense came up with a much-needed stand on the first play of the fourth quarter, with junior defensive end EJ Conway stopping McCord five yards short of a first down on a third-down run. That forced a Colgate punt, and the Bulldog offense took over at the Yale 20. But after a long Varga run was partially wiped out by an illegal block call (turning a 28-yard gain into an 18-yard gain), an interception brought the drive to an end with Colgate defensive back Josh Ford returning the ball to the Yale 19.
That set up another Raiders' score. McCarney used one fake to break off his fourth touchdown run, this one a 14-yarder, two plays into the Colgate drive to put the Raiders up 41-24. The extra point was blocked by senior cornerback Collin Bibb.
After a nice play by defensive back Mike Armiento broke up a potential touchdown pass for junior wide receiver Henry Furman in the end zone, the Bulldogs had to settle for another field goal attempt. This one was wide right, keeping the Raiders' lead at 17 with 8:40 to play.
McCord crossed the 100-yard plateau on the next drive (he finished with 138 yards on 24 carries) as the Raiders continued to take the air out of the ball. He ended this drive with an eight-yard touchdown run with 4:09 to play. The extra point was no good, thus the final score wound up at 47-24.
For Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football, there were some bright spots in the way that the Yale offense was able to move the ball. But ultimately the Bulldogs' inability to stop the Colgate offense proved to be too much to handle.
"We've got some improving to do," Reno said. "We're definitely taking the right steps, and we've got to continue taking the right steps … We let them drive up and down the field. We've got to be able to get off the field on third down."
Yale hosts Dartmouth next Saturday in the season's first Ivy League game at the Bowl.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity
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