October 18, 2008

Fordham Tops Yale on Last-Second Field Goal, 12-10

Oct. 18, 2008

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Adam Danko's 20-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the game gave Fordham a 12-10 victory over Yale Saturday afternoon at Jack Coffey Field, negating a four-turnover performance from the Yale defense that included an 86-yard fumble return for a touchdown by senior linebacker Bobby Abare.

Fordham (3-3) limited Yale to 53 yards rushing on 27 attempts, and the Rams enjoyed a nearly 17-minute edge in time of possession. Still, the Yale defense kept the Bulldogs in the game until the final drive.

"This was a strange football game," said Jack Siedlecki, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "They had the ball for more than 24 minutes in the second half, but the amazing thing is that we went ahead [because of Abare's touchdown]. We did not play well offensively, but our defense almost pulled it out."

Junior punter/placekicker Tom Mante's 22-yard field goal gave Yale a 3-0 lead midway through the first. The key play in the 56-yard drive was a 21-yard screen pass to junior wide receiver Reid Lathan from senior quarterback Ryan Fodor. The Rams then got a 28-yard kickoff return to set up at the Yale 45. Eight plays later, quarterback John Skelton fired the ball to a leaping wide receiver Jason Caldwell in the end zone from 20 yards out for a 7-3 lead.

A touchdown-saving tackle by senior strong safety Larry Abare, who got tailback Xavier Martin by his ankles at the Yale 27 after a 29-yard burst up the middle, took on added importance three plays later when senior defensive lineman Kyle Hawari stripped the ball from Skelton as he was dropping back to pass. Junior defensive lineman Tom McCarthy fell on the ball at the Yale 28, ending the scoring threat.

Another great defensive play ended Fordham's next trip deep into Yale territory. The Rams had fourth-and-goal at the Yale three and went for it, sending Skelton in motion from his quarterback spot to the slot and putting backup Clayton Bush, who had run the ball three times already in the game, back in the shotgun. Bush got the snap and started to dash up the middle before flipping the ball forward towards Skelton in the end zone. But senior free safety Steven Santoro got a piece of it and junior cornerback Paul Rice grabbed the ball for an interception just before it hit the ground. The Fordham lead was 7-3 heading into halftime.

The Bulldogs once again turned the Rams over deep in Yale territory on the first Fordham possession of the second half, and this one was the most productive of all. As fullback Quasand Lewis tried the middle of the Yale defensive line on first-and-goal from the four, senior defensive lineman Eric Vidal ripped the ball loose and it popped into the open field. Bobby Abare had a wide-open field as he scooped up the loose ball and took of 86 yards for the touchdown.

"The ball took a nice hop for me," Abare said. "It bounced right into my hands."

The fourth turnover created by the Yale defense was another interception, this one late in the third quarter. Skelton was under pressure when he launched the ball deep down the field. Santoro grabbed the pass at the Yale 12 and returned it to the Eli 47.

It was the 11th interception of Santoro's career, tying him for third on the Yale career list with Arnie Pinkston '80.

In a game where Mante boomed three 50+ yard punts, including a 57-yarder, it was actually a punt from Fordham's Cameron Dean that dramatically changed the score. After Bobby Abare sacked Skelton for a nine-yard loss on third-and-four from the Yale 34, Dean's punt bounced down at the Eli two. On the first play from there, senior tailback Mike McLeod was swarmed in the end zone and brought down by linebacker James Crockett for the safety with 10:16 to play, cutting Yale's lead to 10-9.

McLeod got up slowly after the tackle, but was back in the game on Yale's next series.

"The trainers said it was my decision," McLeod, a candidate for the Payton Award as the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision, said. "It was a one-point game. I wanted to be out there."

Abare, a candidate for the Buchanan Awards as the top defensive player in the FCS, came up with another big play when he tripped Skelton up for a one-yard loss on third-and-five just when it seemed the big (6-foot-5) signal caller had room to run. That forced another punt, but the Yale offense got only as far as the Yale 34 before punting the ball back to the Rams with 4:40 remaining.

The game-winning drive started at Fordham's 14, and a 30-yard pass play from Skelton to receiver Richard Rayborn got the ball to the 44. Skelton would complete three more passes on the drive, and run for 12 yards as well. Tailback Xavier Martin had 10 of his 109 yards on the drive, the last one getting the ball to the one. Danko then came on for the field goal.

"That last drive, we were just trying to make a play," Bobby Abare said. "We just couldn't come up with one."

Yale got the ball back with 14 seconds left at its own 29, but Fodor's long toss was batted down.

Yale (3-2, 1-1 Ivy League) hosts Penn next Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field.

report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity


Video by Neil Horowitz '09

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