35-31 Win at Princeton Clinches Share
PRINCETON, N.J. – A new banner will hang from the walls of the Yale Bowl, one celebrating a 2017 Ivy League Championship. The only remaining accomplishment is making it an outright title with a victory over the Elis' archrival.
In one of the most impressive comeback victories in the long history of Yale Football, Team 145 erased a 17-point, first-half deficit by scoring three touchdowns over the last 30 minutes to clinch at least a share of the Ancient Eight crown with a 35-31 win at Princeton Stadium.
The Bulldogs, 8-1 overall and 5-1 Ivy, host Harvard next Saturday at 12:30 with an opportunity to claim its first outright championship in 37 years.
Today's win included four lead changes and came down to a final Yale defensive stand. The Tigers, down by four with just over a minute to play, had a 4th and 8 on the Eli 43. The Bulldogs were in their dime package and sent Matthew Oplinger (10 tackles) after Princeton's prolific quarterback, Chad Kanoff. The senior linebacker who closed out the win at Harvard last November on a similar blitz, wrapped up the Tiger as he got rid of the ball. The pass ended up in the hands of senior Foyesade Oluokun, who ran around for 20 yards before realizing he and the Bulldogs had clinched the win.
"We put in so much work this whole season, and it finally comes down to a couple of drives and the last play," said Oluokun. "That's everything you ask for right there. Everybody's electric, everybody's excited. We still have one more game so hopefully we can cap it off with a win."
Seniors made huge plays on defense, youngsters initiated some big moments on offense for the visitors.
Zane Dudek, who proved not only to be the league's top rookie by running for 180 yards and three touchdowns, might be the Ivy League's offensive MVP after this 35-carry afternoon that will go down as one of the program's greatest offensive performances. ClickHERE for Video of Dudek after the game.
He found the end zone from 47, 1 and 4 yards out, the latter turning into the game-winning points with 12:14 left in the fourth quarter. The longer one was a multiple-tackle breaking jaunt that had him tip-toeing down the left sideline for Yale's first TD.
"We just wanted to win plays, our goal is to win plays, and take each play one at a time," said Dudek, who also had six catches and 212 all-purpose yards. "We shut the scoreboard off, didn't look at it, we just wanted to win each play one by one. That's what good teams have to do, you have to just focus on winning plays and that's what we did."
Princeton, which fired up its league-best offense, jumped out to leads of 14-0, 17-7 and 24-7 before taking a 24-14 advantage into halftime. The Elis had not seen deficits that large in 2017.
Yale sophomore QB Kurt Rawlings continued to rack up milestone outings with a 26-for-34, 304-yard afternoon that included TD tosses of 58 and 33 yards. Senior tight end Jaden Graham had the first one, while classmate Ross Drwal hauled in the other.
"I am so proud of this team," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach. "I think it speaks volumes to the culture this team has created, their ability to focus on winning plays. We talk about how your response to any event is twice as important as the actual event itself, and that's going to affect the outcome. When we went in at halftime, I said to them, 'I don't think we're playing to our standards. I don't care what the scoreboard says, that's not us out there."
RESPONDING TO SCORES
The teams combined for 31 second-quarter points, while Yale's first two scores came within a minute of Princeton scores.
Senior WR Christopher Williams-Lopez had 11 grabs for 73 yards.
The Yale-Princeton game 36 years ago was similar to this contest. It pitted the Elis' star RB Rich Diana (No. 33 like Dudek) against an outstanding Princeton QB in Bob Holly in a contest that ended in the same score with a different winner.
Yale's last Ivy title was shared in 2006 with Princeton… Both squads had more than 500 yards of offense… Rookie Melvin Rouse, the WR-RB combination, had two carries for 26 yards and returned three kickoffs… Dartmouth beat Brown on Friday and Columbia knocked off Cornell today, so both the Green and the Lions are 4-2 in Ivy play.
Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director - firstname.lastname@example.org