Varga Adds 236 Yards, TD as Bulldog Running Game Excels
HAMILTON, N.Y. – The Yale football team opened the 2013 season with a decisive 39-22 win over Colgate Saturday afternoon at Andy Kerr Stadium, outrushing the Raiders 327-200. That was the most points in a game for the Bulldogs since they opened the 2008 season with a 47-7 win at Georgetown. Senior quarterback Henry Furman ran for three touchdowns and 60 yards, and junior tailback Tyler Varga ran for 236 yards -- the third-best total in Yale history -- and a touchdown on 39 carries.
Yale (1-0, 0-0 Ivy League) got off to a quick start and never looked back, despite the fact that Colgate (0-4, 0-0 Patriot League) had three games of experience while the Bulldogs were playing their opener. The Yale defense almost ended Colgate's first drive with a takeaway, as a third-down pass hit off freshman defensive back Robert Ries and fell incomplete.
The ensuing Raider punt pinned the Bulldogs back at their own four, but they quickly got out of trouble with Furman completing a 16-yard pass to senior wide receiver Deon Randall. Furman also converted a third-and-nine from the Yale 43 to sophomore wide receiver Sebastian Little. Varga contributed 35 yards on six carries that drive, and served as a decoy on the crucial run of the possession. Furman faked a handoff to Varga, then dashed through a wide-open hole in the line and went into the end zone untouched for a 25-yard score.
The next Yale possession ended with a one-yard touchdown dive by Furman, capping a drive in which Varga ran the ball six more times for 49 yards. The Elis led 14-0 after the first quarter.
The Yale defense, meanwhile, kept Colgate quarterback Gavin McCarney -- the preseason Patriot League Offensive MVP -- contained in the early going. He was knocked out of the game momentarily by a sack from senior defensive lineman Dylan Drake midway through the first quarter. McCarney finally broke off a big run in the second quarter, a 26-yarder that helped the Raiders drive to the Yale 19, but junior linebacker William Vaughan stopped McCarney after a one-yard gain on fourth-and-three from there.
The next Yale drive ended with another Furman run for a touchdown, this one similar to the first -- untouched, and for distance. Furman took the ball right and turned up field for a 33-yard dash this time. It was the first time since 2010 (Alex Thomas '12 vs. Harvard) that a Yale player scored three touchdowns in a game. The Bulldogs missed the extra point but still led 20-0.
A 27-yard McCarney scramble got the ball to Yale's four-yard line late in the first half. Two plays later, Raiders tailback Demetrius Russell took the ball in for a four-yard touchdown that got Colgate on the board.
Furman then led Yale on a two-minute drill that tacked on seven more points before halftime. When it appeared that the Bulldogs were lining up for a field goal on fourth-and-two from the Colgate 15, senior holder Derek Russell -- a former quarterback now playing defensive back -- took the snap and tossed the ball down the middle of the field to a wide-open Drake in the end zone to make it 27-7 at halftime.
The Bulldogs finished the half with 350 yards of total offense, on their way to 537 for the game.
"Our offense was clicking really well in the first half," said Furman. "We played at the fast pace that we want to."
Junior kicker/punter Kyle Cazzetta kept the scoring going on Yale's first drive of the second half, nailing a 46-yard field goal. Yale's special teams came up with another big contribution when the Bulldogs forced a fumble on a Colgate punt return midway through the third quarter. Sophomore defensive back Cole Champion knocked the ball loose and recovered it at the Colgate 49.
A Yale fumble helped Colgate post its second touchdown, as the Raiders recovered the ball at the Colgate 38. Three plays later McCarney lofted one to wide receiver Dan Cason deep down the middle of the field, hitting him in stride for a 44-yard touchdown that made it 30-14 Yale with 6:33 left in the third quarter.
Cazzetta hit a 3o-yard field goal with 2:18 left in the third to extend Yale's lead. But McCarney drove the Raiders down the field for another touchdown five plays into the fourth quarter, taking the ball in to the end zone from a yard out and then hitting wide receiver Jimmy DeCicco for a two-point conversion that pulled Colgate within 33-22 with 13:01 remaining.
Looking to get within one score, Colgate got the ball back at its own 11 with 10:42 to play. But junior defensive back Charles Cook ruined that possession by tipping a first-down pass and then stuffing Russell on a third-and-three run. The Raiders were forced to punt.
Yale's next drive consisted entirely of Varga runs -- six, for a total of 60 yards, including a one-yard touchdown stroll. The Bulldogs missed the extra point but led 39-22 with 6:20 to play, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Varga's 236 yards trailed only two efforts by Mike McLeod '09 (276 yards vs. Lehigh in 2007, 256 yards vs. Holy Cross in 2007).
A fumble recovery at the Yale four-yard line by senior defensive end Beau Palin, the Elis' captain, ended Colgate's final drive.
"I was just playing my position," Palin said. "It was a mishandled mesh handoff and I was in the right place. The ball just came to me."
One of the few negatives on the day for Yale was the fact that Furman was sidelined by an injury for most of the second half. But the Bulldogs had already planned to work in sophomore quarterback Morgan Roberts -- who led two series in the second quarter before taking over for the rest of the game after Furman's injury.
"It was only fair to both guys," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football in reference to the planned quarterback platoon. "We said yesterday that if the first guy puts two [drives] in the end zone, we're still going to give the other guy an opportunity."
Yale hosts Cornell in the Ivy League opener next Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity