Harvard Claims The Game

Grant Wallace. (photo by Ron Waite, Photosportacular)

Randall Scores Bulldogs' Touchdown

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – After allowing touchdowns on Harvard's first four drives of The Game on Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field, the Yale football team's young defense settled down and limited the Crimson to just six points the rest of the way. Unfortunately, by that time Harvard already had the points that it needed for a win; a touchdown run by junior wide receiver Deon Randall in the third quarter wound up being Yale's only points in the 34-7 loss.

"We got ourselves in a big hole," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We're a very young football team. At halftime I told them 'This can go two ways'. We came out in the second half and it was 7-6 Yale [from that point on]."

With the win -- and Princeton's loss at Dartmouth -- Harvard (9-1, 6-1 Ivy League) claimed a share of the Ivy League championship with the Tigers. The Bulldogs (5-5) finished tied for fourth with a 3-4 mark in league games, but could still point to a marked improvement over the previous season (when they went 1-6 in the league and 2-8 overall).

Tailback Paul Stanton, Jr. started the scoring for Harvard with a 25-yard touchdown run on the Crimson's first drive. Stanton increased the lead to 14-0 with a 21-yard touchdown reception with three minutes left in the first quarter.

A 13-yard touchdown run by Harvard quarterback Conner Hempel was negated by an illegal formation penalty on the Crimson two plays into the second quarter. But on the very next play Hempel hit Stanton with a short screen pass that Stanton and his blockers turned into an 18-yard touchdown. Harvard led 21-0 at 14:10 of the second.

Yale engineered its first drive into Harvard territory on the next possession, but missed a field goal. Harvard then drove for another Stanton touchdown, this one on a two-yard run, to go ahead 28-0 at 4:20 of the second. That tied the record for most touchdowns in The Game by a Harvard player.

"He's been a good back all year long," said Reno of Stanton. "He accelerates well, and gets through the holes fast."

Harvard's first drive of the third quarter hinged on a fourth-and-one at the Eli 20, which Hempel converted with a 14-yard run on a keeper.  David Mothander booted a 19-yard field goal to end the drive, putting the Crimson up 31-0.

Yale then got deep into Harvard territory with a drive that featured plenty of Randall. The versatile junior made a pair of appearances at quarterback, the last of which was a three-yard keeper for a touchdown that pulled Yale within 31-7 at 5:04 of the third. During the drive Randall also had a pair of catches for 28 yards, including an acrobatic grab along the sideline. His seven catches in The Game gave him 85 for the season, one shy of Yale's single-season record (set by former NFLer Eric Johnson '01 in 2000).

The Yale defense followed up the Eli scoring drive by forcing a three-and-out from the Crimson offense for the first time. But Yale's offense was unable to get a first down either, and the Bulldogs punted from their own 45.

A Crimson fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, caused and recovered by senior defensive lineman Dylan Drake, gave the Bulldogs the ball at their own 47. But four plays later an interception by Harvard defensive back Chris Splinter ended the Eli drive, and Splinter returned the ball 33 yards to the Eli 36. That enabled Mothander to tuck a 49-yard field goal just over the crossbar, making the score 34-7 with 11:38 remaining.

Yale's next drive ended on an incompletion on fourth-and-17 from the Eli 41, giving the ball back to the Crimson with 9:08 to play. The Crimson ran two and a half minutes off the clock before punting. The Bulldogs could not convert their next fourth down attempt, and Harvard took over at the Yale 23 with 5:12 to play and ran out the clock.

In addition to Randall's impressive final numbers, the Bulldogs got 58 yards' worth of kickoff return yardage from freshman wide receiver Robert Clemons III Saturday. That gave him the school single-season record in that category with 578.

Ironically, the man whose record Clemons broke was senior wide receiver Chris Smith (who had 573 kickoff return yards in 2010). Smith, one of 20 senior players (and three managers) saluted before The Game, tried to make a comeback from the injury that had sidelined him since Oct. 12. But he got re-injured on the opening kickoff Saturday and was out for the rest of The Game.

Junior tailback Tyler Varga, who got injured the week after Smith and had not played since, tried a similar comeback on Saturday. But he too was forced to the sideline early, after carrying the ball five times for 20 yards.

Still, the Bulldogs persevered and managed to find some bright spots in the loss. Senior quarterback Henry Furman came back from an injury to complete 21 of 34 passes for 179 yards.

Reno pointed to the heavy presence of freshmen on the defense -- eight regulars -- and acknowledged the growing pains that the season as a whole entailed.

"This was a tough day for Yale football," Reno said. "But we've grown a ton."

A crowd of 50,934 was on hand for The 130th Game.

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