Oct. 7, 2006
HANOVER, N.H. - Sophomore tailback Mike McLeod ran for 198 yards, the sixth-highest total for a single game in school history, and two touchdowns to power Yale to a 26-14 win over Dartmouth Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field. McLeod now has eight touchdowns in the last three games -- all road wins for the Elis. The Bulldog defense limited Dartmouth to 98 yards on the ground and generated two big turnovers.
"The offensive line had a great day, and it wasn't just them," McLeod said. "The receivers had a great blocking day also. We're throwing the ball well and running the ball well and that just opens up our offense for everything."
McLeod's day started with one brief setback, a fumble at the Big Green 31 on the fourth play of the game. The Yale defense got the ball right back in McLeod's hands, though. When Dartmouth quarterback Mike Fritz hit wide receiver Brian Evans deep down the field on the play after the fumble the Big Green (0-4, 0-2 Ivy) appeared to have seized momentum - until sophomore free safety Steve Santoro stripped the ball from Evans and sophomore cornerback Casey Gerald scooped it up at the Eli 30.
McLeod and the Yale offense made the most of the second chance, driving 63 yards in 10 plays (nine McLeod runs and an incomplete pass) for a 24-yard field goal by junior place kicker Alan Kimball.
Senior linebacker Chris Barry knocked away a third-down pass to end Dartmouth's next drive, but the Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0 Ivy) missed a field goal on their ensuing possession.
Yale just missed a touchdown on its first drive of the second quarter, as senior wide receiver Ashley Wright came down out of bounds after leaping in the end zone to snare a pass from junior quarterback Matt Polhemus. Kimball nailed a 43-yard field goal to extend the lead to six points.
A series of fourth-down plays then further tilted the balance in Yale's favor. Dartmouth drove to the Bulldog 43. On third down from there Barry and Santoro combined to stop tailback Hudson Smythe inches short of the first down. The Big Green went for it on fourth down, but senior defensive end Brendan Sponheimer was in the backfield to wrap up Smyth right after he got the handoff.
The Bulldogs then faced two fourth downs of their own on offense. On a fourth-and-three at the Big Green 38, Polhemus found senior wide receiver Chandler Henley over the middle for seven yards. On a fourth-and-seven at the Dartmouth 28, Wright drew a pass interference call that gave Yale a first down at the 13. On the next play McLeod took the ball right, made one cut and found an open lane into the end zone 90 seconds before the half. That capped a 141-yard half (22 carries) for him.
The Yale defense limited Dartmouth's star wide receiver, Ryan Fuselier, to three catches for 15 yards. Fuselier entered the day with 22 catches for 286 yards in three games. He did catch the first pass of the second half, but that was negated by a tripping penalty against the Big Green. A big hit by freshman cornerback Paul Rice on Fritz when he tried a scramble on the next play helped force a punt from the Dartmouth 17 that set the offense up at the Yale 47.
Unfazed by a sack on second down, Polhemus fired a pass to Henley over the middle to convert a third-and-11 on Yale's next possession. Henley turned the play into a 31-yard gain to the Dartmouth 23. McLeod then raced through a gaping hole in the left side of the line to get the ball to the one. Senior fullback Taylor Craig punched it in from there for his first career touchdown and a 19-0 lead (the extra point attempt hit the left upright).
Dartmouth began battling back by driving 77 yards in 10 plays for a 17-yard touchdown pass from Fritz to tight end Brett Lowe. When the Bulldogs fumbled away the kickoff after the touchdown, the Big Green took full advantage. Fritz' 23-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Andrew von Kuhn made the score 19-14.
Santoro gave Yale a momentary lift by returning Dartmouth's kickoff for an apparent touchdown, but it was waved off due to a block in the back call against the Bulldogs. McLeod helped Yale make up for the missed opportunity, as he accounted for 42 of Yale's 61 yards on the ensuing touchdown drive that spanned the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. Ironically the back-breaking play was a reception, not a run. On third-and-23 from the Big Green 34, McLeod turned a short screen pass from Polhemus into a 25-yard gain, high-stepping over some would-be tacklers and spinning off another down to the nine-yard line.
"Woz [junior guard Tom Woznicki] and Darius [sophomore tackle Darius Dale] pulled out to take care of the safety," McLeod said. "I just had daylight to run."
McLeod then ran the ball in from the nine with 8:33 to play.
Perhaps the best statement about the efficiency of the Yale offense was that freshman punter Tom Mante was not needed until 4:54 remained in the game and the Bulldogs had a 12-point lead. Mante did his job, booming a punt 51 yards to the Dartmouth four, where it was downed by sophomore strong safety Larry Abare. Two plays later, Barry intercepted a pass to help finalize the win.
"The defense was put in a bad position [to allow the second touchdown]," Henley said. "But then the offense stepped up, and the defense sealed it. That's the sign of a team coming together."
The Bulldogs return to the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field, for the first time in a month next Saturday to host Lehigh at 12:30 p.m.
report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity
- Santoro forces a fumble and Gerald recovers it
- Hawari sacks Dartmouth quarterback Mike Fritz
- Barry sacks Dartmouth quarterback Mike Fritz
- Kimball hits a 43-yard field goal
- Sponheimer makes a stop on fourth-and-one at the Yale 40
- McLeod's 13-yard touchdown run
- Polhemus and Henley combine for a 31-yard reception
- McLeod's 25-yard reception converts a third-and-23
- An interception by Barry ends Dartmouth's final drive