Five Touchdown Runs for Varga
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The 100th anniversary celebration season of the Yale Bowl now has a victory of historic proportions. Senior tailback Tyler Varga's three-yard touchdown run in overtime -- his fifth of the game -- gave Yale a stunning 49-43 upset of Army Saturday afternoon at the Class of 1954 Field. It was the Bulldogs' first win vs. Army since 1955.
This victory, in which Yale rallied from a 14-point deficit, comes on the heels of a 21-point comeback that gave Yale a 54-43 win vs. Lehigh in week one.
"For the second week in a row, it wasn't pretty, but the perseverance of these guys came through," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We continue to follow the process, taking it one play at a time. This is an incredible group of young men that has limitless potential."
Army's first drive was stymied by a sack from freshman linebacker Matthew Oplinger that helped force a punt, but the Cadets drove 57 yards for a touchdown on their next drive. Two plays after quarterback A. J. Schurr converted a fourth-and-two from the Yale six with a four-yard run, fullback Larry Dixon dashed into the end zone for a three-yard touchdown.
Yale answered with a touchdown drive of its own, with Varga (who finished with 185 yards on 28 carries) getting a critical fourth-and-one conversion with a run to the 50. Junior H-back Sebastian Little drew a pass interference call that converted a third-and-eight, and two plays later junior quarterback Morgan Roberts scooted 13 yards for a touchdown that tied the score 7-7 with seven seconds left in the first.
Roberts would finish the day with 67 yards rushing, and also connected on 23 of 40 passes for 290 yards. He was sacked only once all game.
"Morgan has done a great job of spreading the ball out, getting it to playmakers," said Reno. "And our offensive line has been incredible."
Yale (2-0, 0-0 Ivy League) had a chance to take the lead after a series of big plays -- including an 18-yard pass from Roberts to junior tight end Stephen Buric followed by a 14-yard run by sophomore tailback Candler Rich -- got the ball to the Army 20, but a missed field goal left the score tied.
Army (1-3) re-took the lead early in the second quarter with an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 22-yard pass from Schurr to wide receiver Edgar Poe in the end zone.
The Bulldogs answered again, this time with a 70-yard drive that culminated with a two-yard touchdown run by Varga. Varga had a fourth-and-three conversion earlier in the drive, and his score was set up by a 26-yard pass from Roberts to Buric.
The Black Knights grabbed the lead heading into halftime with a rapid five-play scoring drive, covering 70 yards in just 55 seconds. Schurr took off on a 43-yard touchdown run, his first rushing score of the season, with 72 seconds left on the clock.
A 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Jeremy Timpf on Yale's first drive of the second half extended the Black Knights' lead to 28-14. This was the second week in a row that Timpf has returned an interception for a touchdown.
A roughing the kicker call on the Black Knights kept Yale's next drive alive, and the Bulldogs took advantage to drive for a touchdown six plays later. Varga showcased his elusiveness in taking off for the 14-yard score, and Buric caught a two-point conversion pass from junior quarterback Logan Scott to bring the Elis within 28-22.
Schurr came off the field with an apparent injury on the first play of Army's next drive, leaving with 135 rushing yards and 94 passing yards in slightly more than two quarters of work. But backup quarterback Angel Santiago kept the Black Knights' scoring ability intact, taking off through a wide-open hole on the left side of the line for a 53-yard touchdown that -- combined with a two-point conversion toss to tight end Kelvin White in the back of the end zone -- made the score 36-22 Army with 8:32 left in the third.
A 31-yard completion from Roberts to senior wide receiver Deon Randall at the Army 12 was one of the key plays in Yale's next drive. The Bulldogs were knocked back momentarily by a holding call, but Roberts then fired one to freshman wide receiver Ross Drwal, who fought past one last would-be tackler to notch his first career touchdown. All told, Roberts connected with nine different receivers Saturday.
On Yale's next drive Roberts utilized a keeper for a 13-yard run that converted a fourth-and-three from midfield. Varga then took off for his third touchdown run, this one an 18-yarder. Senior placekicker Kyle Cazzetta tied the score with the extra point, making it 36-36 with 21 seconds left in the third.
Black Knights running back Aaron Kemper broke off a 78-yard run on the first play of Army's next drive, and only a great tackle by sophomore cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski kept Kemper out of the end zone. As the fourth quarter began, Army was at Yale's one-yard line. Santiago scored on a keeper from there to make the score 43-36 on the first play of the final quarter.
A fumble ended Yale's next drive at the Army 13 and negated a golden opportunity for the Bulldogs to tie the game. The Bulldog defense came up with a crucial stand on fourth-and-one from the Eli 15, giving the offense another chance to tie. Senior defensive end Jeff Schmittgens made the tackle.
Sophomore punter Bryan Holmes then pinned Army at its own one-yard line with a punt with 6:34 to play. The Black Knights could not get a first down, and punted from their own 10, setting the Yale offense up at the Army 45 with 4:35 to play.
The Bulldogs' ground game continued to produce on the ensuing drive, as the Elis ran the ball seven times in eight plays. Varga broke through several tackles and dove into the end zone with 1:42 remaining.
Army missed a 42-yard field goal attempt as time expired, sending the game to overtime. The Bulldogs won the coin toss and started on defense. After a completion got the ball to the Eli seven, two runs put the ball on the Yale two. But a bad snap on third down forced Dixon into an ill-fated run up the middle that was stuffed at the Yale three by junior nose guard Carl Kreitzberg and sophomore defensive end Marty Moesta. Another missed Army field goal then gave Yale the chance to drive for the game-winner.
"As soon as they were forced to try that field goal, I felt really good about our chances to win the football game," said Reno.
After three runs by Roberts and two by Varga got the ball to the Army three, Roberts gave the ball to Varga for the culmination of the dramatic win. He dove in and was mobbed by his team and many from the crowd of 34,142 who stormed the field to celebrate the historic victory.
"This was really a team effort," Varga said. "The offensive line blocked incredibly for all the backs … This is a product of a serious team effort. The defense stopped them when it counted."
Yale returns to action next Saturday at Cornell, the Ivy League opener.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity