Defense, Special Teams Shine in 21-7 Win Over Cornell
Sept. 27, 2003
With a handful of explosive plays from the offense and a standout effort on defense and special teams, Yale picked up a 21-7 win over Cornell at the Yale Bowl in the Ivy opener. Protecting a 7-0 lead after quarterback Alvin Cowan ran in a one-yard touchdown on the opening drive, the Bulldog defense did not allow Cornell any drives longer than 29 yards in the first half. Punter Nate Lawrie averaged nearly 40 yards per punt for the half, and Cornell's only two returns went for a combined one yard. The Bulldogs got their running game going in the second half to the tune of 183 yards - including a 48-yard touchdown run by tailback Robert Carr. A 12-yard scoring toss from Cowan to Lawrie increased Yale's lead to 21-0, and an interception by linebacker Ben Breunig with 8:29 to play helped seal the game.
Yale's opening drive turned on a third-and-two from the Big Red 33, with Cowan threading the needle with a pass to tight end Derek Caracciola for 23 yards. Two runs by Carr got the ball to the one, but Carr was stopped at the goalline on third down. The Bulldogs elected to go for it on fourth down, and the offensive line made that decision look good by allowing Cowan to go untouched into the endzone on an option to the right. John Troost's extra point gave Yale the early 7-0 lead.
The game then settled into a defensive battle, with some key special teams plays mixed in. Early in the second quarter, Cornell punter Mike Baumgartel pinned Yale at its own one with a 51-yard punt. A 12-yard scramble by Cowan on third down got Yale out of that predicament, but when the offense stalled at the Eli 28 it took a 49-yarder by Lawrie to keep the Big Red at bay. The seesaw battle between Lawrie and Baumgartel continued for the rest of the half, with some help from others. Lawrie punted from his own 16 to the Cornell 47 late in the second quarter. Steve Ehikian was the lone Bulldog with a shot at Big Red return man John Kellner as he caught the ball, and Ehikian shed his blocker just in time to stop Kellner for no gain. Ehikian made a similarly spectacular tackle on the next punt, which Lawrie booted from the Eli 11 to the Cornell 47. The field position edge proved particularly important on that possession, as Cornell put together its lone sustained drive of the quarter to go 29 yards in seven plays with time winding down. The drive ended with a missed 41-yard field goal by Trevor MacMeekin 10.5 seconds before halftime.
Yale's first drive of the second half was just as successful as its opening drive of the game. Cowan converted a third-and-one at the Eli 32 with a 20-yard dash, and Carr then came up with a bigger play. Taking the ball right through a huge hole opened by fullback Alex Faherty and the offensive line, Carr darted down the right sideline with only one man to beat. As cornerback Sean Nassoiy closed in on him near the 15 yard line, Carr cut back towards the middle of the field just enough to evade the Big Red defender and cruise into the endzone.
Cornell's best chance to score in the third quarter came to an end in dramatic fashion. Facing fourth-and-nine from the Eli 29, the Big Red went for it. Before quarterback Mick Razzano even had a chance to drop back, though, he was drilled to the ground by Bulldog linebacker Cole Harris for a five-yard loss that got the Yale Bowl crowd going. The Eli offense then drove right back down the field, as Cowan dodged his way past Cornell defenders for runs of of 14 and 11 yards and tailback David Knox added three runs for 17 yards. A 12-yard pass from Cowan to Lawrie got Yale to the 12, and on second down from there Cowan found Lawrie in the endzone for Yale's third touchdown of the day.
The Big Red did put together an effective drive from its own 24 at the end of the third, leading to a 28-yard touchdown run by Joshua Johnston on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Big Red looked to be moving into scoring territory on its next drive, but that was cut short by Breunig's interception on first-and-10 at the Eli 22. A 23-yard return by Breunig was called back due to an illegal block, and on Yale's next play a 70-yard touchdown run by David Knox was called back due to holding. While the offense was not able to get back into the endzone, the Eli defense stopped Cornell on fourth-and-four at the Big Red 43 with 5:16 to play and the Bulldogs ran the clock out from there.
Yale improved to 2-0 with the win, while Cornell fell to 1-1. The Elis travel to Worcester, Mass., to take on Holy Cross next Saturday.