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Strong Second Half Propels Yale Past Maine

Roberts puts game away with TD run in fourth quarter
Roberts puts game away with TD run in fourth quarter

Salter Runs For 139 Yards And Two TDs In Win

ORONO, Me.  – In the first meeting with Maine in 78 years, Leo Haenni's unbelievable one-handed reception on a fourth quarter drive, quickly followed by a DeShawn Salter touchdown run, put the Yale football team ahead for good in an eventual 21-10 win over the Black Bears on Saturday evening.

"I was standing right there. It was like an ESPN Top 10 play," said Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 head coach Tony Reno, with a smile on his face talking about Haenni's catch. "Leo really showed what we call passion persistence on that play with his focus."

On a rainy and cold night at Alfond Stadium, the Bulldogs (4-1, 1-1 Ivy) outmuscled and outhustled Maine in the second half, outscoring the Black Bears, 18-3.

Just two weeks following his 233-yard rushing performance against Lehigh, Salter got 37 carries for 139 yards and two touchdowns, proving to be Yale's offensive centerpiece in the poor weather conditions.

"We were outplayed, we were outcoached, and we didn't make the plays we needed to," said Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove. "When Yale made its big plays, they got a lot of energy off them and they gained a lot of confidence as the game went on."

Sophomore wide receiver Michael Siragusa, Jr. made an acrobatic catch of his own in the second quarter, on his way to a four-reception, 93-yard performance. Sophomore Christopher Williams-Lopez had six grabs for 52 yards in the win.

Defensively, senior captain Cole Champion had four pass break-ups in key spots, while junior defensive back Spencer Rymiszewski had a team-high nine tackles and one interception.

"Coming up here, we knew we had to play our best football in all three phases. Our offense picked up steam as we went along and put together some nice drives," said Reno. "I'm really proud of how the kids prepared and how they played; it's nice to come out with a win."

A stingy Yale defense buckled down on the Black Bears in the second half, allowing just three points on 134 yards in the final two quarters. Of Maine's eight second-half possessions, two ended in turnovers, four in punts, and one in a blocked field goal.

It took three quarters, but the Yale offense exploded in the fourth quarter with two 70-plus yard touchdown drives while outscoring Maine, 12-0, on its way to the 11-point victory.

The game-clinching score came on a 26-yard run by Roberts at 4:07, completing a nine-play, 77-yard drive that made it a two-possession game at 21-10.

The catch of the game, and arguably the catch of the season, came on a 1st-and-10 play from the Maine 38 earlier in the quarter. Quarterback Morgan Roberts threw a lofting ball to the left sideline for Haenni, who backpedaled and lunged backwards for the ball, reeling it in with just his right hand high up in the air.

"Some of the catches Yale had today were inspirational plays and gave them a lot of momentum," said Cosgrove. "They (catches by Haenni and Siragusa) were spectacular plays and spoke to Yale's performance."

The 21-yard completion set-up Salter for his second score of the game, running it in from 17 yards out and giving Yale a 15-10 lead.

Maine retook the lead, 10-9, late in the third quarter with a 35-yard field goal by Sean Decloux, but could have gotten more had it not been for two consecutive pass break-ups in the endzone by Champion. One pass to Maine's John Hardy was in his hands until Champion knocked it free.

Midway through the third, Salter scampered for a one-yard touchdown run to cap-off a nine-play, 58-yard drive and give Yale its first lead at 9-7. Salter's score was set-up by Siragusa's two receptions for 39 yards, including a 29-yard over-the-shoulder snag on a perfectly thrown ball by Roberts.

Yale's scoring drive was preceded by a blocked field goal from defensive tackle Copache Tyler, which was picked up and returned by defensive back Jason Alessi to the Yale 42-yard line.

The Bulldogs heavily relied on Salter in a wet first half, giving him 17 carries for 71 yards. Roberts was 8-of-19 for 114 yards and an interception, while Williams-Lopez and Siragusa, Jr. combined for seven catches and 103 yards in the half.

In a mostly defensive-minded first half, the Yale offense showed signs of life in the final two possessions. Each drive went 50-plus yards, producing two trips into the Maine red zone, yet only three points.

It looked like penalties would spoil the Bulldogs' final drive of the half, with consecutive holding and false start infractions setting up a 1st-and-25 from the Maine 44.

On the following play, Siragusa, Jr. made a miraculous catch on the left sideline after the pass was tipped up by a Maine defender. The sophomore wide-out snagged the ball, while having the presence of mind to tap his feet in-bounds for the 27-yard completion.

"We knew Maine had a very physical secondary and there weren't going to be many clean releases. There would be a lot of contested passes," said Reno. "We worked on it all week in practice and guys were able to finish off plays tonight."

The Eli drive stalled at the Maine 4-yard line after two runs and an incomplete pass, setting up Holmes for a 22-yard field goal to put Yale on the scoreboard. Maine led at the half, 7-3.

Earlier in the second quarter, Yale drove to the Maine 15 after six plays for 53 yards. However, a fumble by Salter and recovery by the Black Bears put a stop to the drive. The second-year back had four carries for 24 yards on that possession.

Maine hit the scoreboard at the 8:22 mark of the second quarter, when running back Nigel Beckford pushed through for a one-yard score. Quarterback Dan Collins led the Black Bears 71 yards on 15 plays, breaking the scoreless tie.

With sloppy weather conditions, including periods of torrential rain, each team struggled to find offensive rhythm at the start of the game. Yale and Maine each had five possessions without a score at the beginning of the contest.

Each defense produced an interception in the first quarter, with Rymiszewski pulling in a pick off an errant throw from Collins at the Yale 35 with 2:12 left in the quarter. Senior defensive back Roger Kilgore III also had an interception, late in the fourth quarter.

"We played physical and we played very well in what I thought were key situations," said Reno. "We preach playing one play at a time, regardless of the situation, and I think our team personified that today."

The Bulldogs have a short week coming up, as they prepare to face Penn on Friday night in Philadelphia. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on the NBC Sports Network.

NOTE: The JV game scheduled for tomorrow with Milford Academy has been cancelled. No make-up date will be arranged.

 

Filed by Steve Lewis, Yale Sports Publicity

Jack Warhola Image of Morgan Roberts