Rookie Back Nets 120, Game-Winning TD
ITHACA, N.Y. - Sophomore running back Zane Dudek scored two touchdowns, first-year Spencer Alston ran for 120 yards and another score and Alex Galland booted three field goals as the Yale Football Team opened Ivy League play with a 30-24 win at Cornell.
Alston, making his debut in the backfield as a backup to Dudek, averaged 6.7 yards on 18 runs before finding the end zone with 3:14 left in the fourth quarter from four yards out for what turned out to be the game-winning points.
Junior quarterback Kurt Rawlings, whose mobility allowed him to keep many plays alive against a blitzing Big Red defense, completed 18 of 25 throws for 283 yards. His primary targets, juniors JP Shohfi (7-91) and Reed Klubnik (6-100), stepped up with big days to set up teammates for scoring plays.
Outstanding first-quarter plays by Klubnik, rookie receiver Noah Aaron and Shohfi set up Dudek for a pair of short TD runs in the first quarter, and Galland booted a 23-yard field goal as the Elis (1-1, 1-0 Ivy) took a 17-14 lead into halftime.
Yale's senior kicker connected on a career-long, 42-yarder in the third quarter to give the Blue a 23-14 advantage before Cornell (0-2, 0-1) scored on a 23-yard run to cut the margin to 23-21, the closest the home team would get in the second half of its homecoming day.
ROOKIES HAVE BIG DAYS
Alston, who also had a 21-yard reception, wasn't the only first-year Bulldog to make an impact today. DB Dathan Hickey (3-1-4), LB Noah Pope (2 solos), DL Reid Nickerson (1-1-2) and DB Kyle Ellis (1 solo) got significant snaps for the defense, while Noah Aaron had a pair of important catches for 39 yards.
DEFENSE HOLDS RED TO 10 IN 2ND HALF
The Yale defense, which applied regular pressure on Cornell's quarterbacks, came up with big plays when needed. Senior end J. Hunter Roman led the way with seven tackles (4 for losses), a sack and one critical pass breakup on a long pass play.
The Bulldogs started one senior again today, DL Nicholas Crowle… Sophomore DB Rodney Thomas II made a fantastic catch of an onside kick in the fourth quarter that helped clinch the victory… Junior DB Jaelin Alburg grabbed the other Cornell onside attempt earlier in the contest… Galland scored 12 points and had two excellent punts... Yale has its home opener next Saturday against 2-1 Maine, which lost a close game at FBS Central Michigan today.
JP Shohfi: We were just trying to take what they gave us. We were struggling to finish drives at times. We were really trying to emphasize finishing plays and finishing drives this week as an adjustment from last week. Ultimately, we just kept pounding, it was a [goal] to just win your individual plays, fight for those four to six seconds, and just keep grinding. I think our mental attitude and determination to finish plays really got us through the game.
Kurt Rawlings: It was fun. It's awesome to see the guys up front rolling, giving me plenty of time to throw, when you got guys like that it makes it easy on me. It was cool to see Zane do his thing. Spencer Alston, Noah Aaron… a bunch of guys stepped up today. A bunch of young guys got in there for the first time, and that's what you want. You just want to be able to have guys out there making plays. They all played great. It was fun to be a part of that.
Tony Reno: Our team really grew a lot in the week. I think it speaks volumes to the culture we have. We've instilled a culture of standards and relationships and our guys care so deeply about each other that they play for each other. We say all the time "You put yourself 106th on the team", and our guys showed that today in our ability to be resilient, their ability to finish plays, the ability to be what we call "good," and go to the next play when things don't happen well. Cornell is a very good football team. They're a senior-laden team, they've won big games in this league… coming up here is a tough place to win. I'm just really proud of the kids and it speaks volumes of the culture we have.
Micah Awodiran: I think the biggest thing for us is just our ability to respond. They (Cornell) made some plays here and there, but we just really focused on what our game plan was. Everyone stayed positive, we know that when we play all together as one that there wasn't much that we could face that we wouldn't be able to stop. It was a great team effort, everyone just playing as one, believing in each other, believing in the coaching staff that we could do this.
By Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director