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Record-Tying Five TDs for Varga as Yale Beats Colgate 45-31

Tyler Varga. (photo by Jack Warhola)
Tyler Varga. (photo by Jack Warhola)

Senior Runs for 184 Yards

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Senior tailback Tyler Varga had 184 yards rushing and five touchdowns, including four rushing TDs, to lead the Yale football team to a 45-31 win over Colgate Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. This was the second game this season that Varga has tied the school record by scoring five touchdowns; he also accomplished that feat in the 49-43 overtime win vs. Army. The Yale wins snaps a four-game winning streak for Colgate.

"This is just a huge testament to how well our offensive line is blocking," said Varga, who entered play Saturday leading the FCS in scoring average. "I think we're a very dynamic offense that can hurt you in a lot of different ways."

Junior quarterback Morgan Roberts also had a big day for the Bulldogs, completing 23 of 33 passes for 379 yards and two touchdowns. Three different Yale receivers had at least 98 receiving yards, led by 114 yards (on seven catches) by senior wide receiver Deon Randall.

In the first half, the game showed no sign of becoming a shootout. Four of the first five drives ended in punts; the other ended in a missed Colgate field goal thanks in part to a three-yard tackle for a loss by freshman linebacker Matthew Oplinger. The Yale offense got its first big play on the first play of the second quarter, as Randall hauled in a pass on the right side of the field and evaded several would-be tacklers as he took off down the sideline for a 53-yard completion. Four plays later, a one-yard touchdown run by Varga and an extra point by senior placekicker Kyle Cazzetta put the Elis up 7-0.

Colgate (4-3, 2-0 Patriot League) got as close as the Yale eight on the next drive, but a seven-yard sack by sophomore defensive tackle Jack Rushin pushed the Raiders back and forced them to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Jonah Bowman.

The Raiders took the lead with an eight-play, 83-yard drive late in the second quarter, capping it with a nine-yard touchdown run by tailback John Wilkins. Yale answered by driving for a 24-yard field goal by Cazzetta as time expired in the first half, tying the score 10-10.

Yale re-took the lead on a seven-yard touchdown run by Varga on the first drive of the third quarter, but a botched snap on the extra point attempt kept the Bulldogs from getting a seven-point lead. Colgate then marched down the field to score a touchdown of its own, a two-yarder by Wilkins. Jonah Bowman's extra point put the Raiders ahead 17-16 at 7:50 of the third.

A 74-yard drive near the end of the third put Yale back in front. Roberts capped it with an eight-yard touchdown toss to Varga, and junior quarterback Logan Scott threw a pass to Oplinger for the two-point conversion.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Colgate defensive back Chris Morgan returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to knot  the score 24-24.

A 53-yard completion from Roberts to senior wide receiver Grant Wallace highlighted Yale's first drive of the fourth quarter. Two plays later, a five-yard touchdown run by Varga made it 31-24 Elis with 12:51 left in the game.

A sack by sophomore linebacker Darius Manora ended Colgate's attempt to convert a third-and-20 on its next drive. The Raiders punted the ball back to the Bulldogs, but Yale fumbled two plays into the next drive. The Raiders took over at the Yale 18 and scored on a five-yard touchdown run by tailback James Travellin three plays later.

Yale (4-1, 1-1 Ivy League) answered quickly, with Roberts hitting sophomore wide receiver Robert Clemons III in stride for a 68-yard touchdown pass three plays into the Bulldogs' drive. Just 63 seconds after Colgate's score, Yale had a 38-31 lead. That was Roberts' 13th passing touchdown of the season.

A sack by freshman defensive end Earl Chism helped derail Colgate's next drive. The punt set Yale up at its own 31, and on the first play Varga burst through the line and took off down the middle of the field. A Colgate defender tried in vain to tackle him as he crossed the 10, with Varga continuing unabated into the end zone for the 69-yard run.

"I think if you pound a defense with the run, they can start to get worn out," said Varga. "We've got a stable of running backs that can keep the pressure on."

That was Varga's 14th touchdown of the season (12 rushing, two receiving). He is more than halfway towards the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season (23, set by Mike McLeod '09 in 2007).

Colgate had one final threat, as the Raiders drove to the Yale five with less than three minutes to play. Facing fourth and goal from there, Bret Mooney's pass into the end zone was broken up by sophomore cornerback Dale Harris to help seal the win.

"You look at both teams, and they are evenly matched," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "It came down to the fourth quarter, when we had to make some plays, and we did."

This was the fourth time this season Yale has scored 45 or more points in a game. The Bulldogs return to the Bowl next Saturday to host Penn.

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