Yale Survives Scare, Tops Dayton 24-17 in Opener
Sept. 18, 2004
Dayton, OH - Yale football's first trip to the state of Ohio was a scary one, but the Bulldogs managed to survive and win the 2004 season opener.
Junior receiver Chandler Henley (7-112) had two TD catches and senior running back Robert Carr rushed for 172 yards and a score as the Elis beat Dayton 24-17 before 6,178 at Welcome Stadium.
The game was not in hand until Dayton QB Brandon Staley fumbled at the Yale 15-yard line and Bulldog DB Fred Jelks recovered it as time expired. But the Flyers never would have had the opportunity if the visitors could have converted a fourth-and-three play deep in Dayton territory. The Carr rushing attempt got one yard and gave the ball back to UD with 40 seconds left and 78 yards to go to send the game to a potential overtime.
Staley moved the home squad down the field with short passes along the sideline until the Flyers turned the ball over for the fourth time.
"We gutted it out today," Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki told his team as they gathered on the field after the game. "We've got to learn to finish people off. We played good defense and played well in the kicking game."
Dayton (2-1), ranked No. 1 in the Sports Network and Football Gazette I-AA non-scholarship rankings, took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in 11 plays to grab the early lead and stun the Elis. Staley broke a tackle and went six yards at the 9:45 mark to make it 7-0.
Yale answered with a score of its own on a spectacular grab by Henley, which capped a 72-yard drive. Quarterback Alvin Cowan, who connected on 14 of 26 attempts for 176 yards and two scores, scrambled out of the pocket and sent the ball towards the end zone where both Henley and tight end Alex Faherty were ready to leap for it. Henley got both hands on it and held on as the two players collided for a 31-yard connection at 7:13 of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs grabbed their first lead on a 27-yard Andrew Sullivan field goal, his first varsity three-pointer, at 8:58 of the second. That lead did not last long as Dayton split end Willy Will went high to haul in a 37-yard pass from Staley at 6:26, which sent the Flyers into halftime with a 14-10 advantage.
The Blue outgained Dayton 208 to 162 in the first 30 minutes but could not take control. Two Cowan interceptions, including one just before intermission in the end zone (which bounced off wide receiver Ralph Plumb's shoulder) as Yale was about to take the lead, did not help.
"We came out a little tight, it was the first-game jitters," said the senior quarterback. "I was clinching the ball a little too tight and we [offense] were not on the same page. The two interceptions did change the momentum of the game. We have to give credit to them, they played hard and turned it into a really good football game."
Yale, which outgained UD 373-300 in total offense, was led on defense by linebackers Ken Estrera (13 total tackles, 1 solo) and Ben Breunig (4-6-10).
The Elis got the lead back again early in the third when Cowan rolled left and hit Henley around the five-yard line before the speedy receiver turned it up field and dove into the end zone. The 21-yard pass play came at 8:30 and was Henley's second score of the day.
UD, which owns an .847 winning percentage at home, tied it up again (17-17) with a Jason Resch 25-yard field goal late in the third, but the fans wearing red did not get into enjoy it for long.
Yale earned its third lead of the day by playing power football. Carr finished off a 90-yard, 13-play drive with a two-yard scamper with 10:45 left. The Bulldogs, using their superior size on the offensive line, attempted just one pass on the series, and Carr and backup Jordan Spence got all the work.
report by Steve Conn, Assistant AD/Sports Publicity Director