October 29, 2005

Dominant 37-3 Win at Columbia Propels Yale into First-Place Tie

Oct. 29, 2005

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Yale got 570 total yards from its offense and five turnovers from its defense to beat Columbia 37-3 Saturday afternoon in New York. The Bulldogs had their best day running the football this season with 228 yards from seven different players, including 72 yards and two touchdowns from TB Mike McLeod. LB Lee Driftmier and SS Matt Handlon both had two interceptions to help Yale move into a four-way tie for first place in the Ivy League at 3-1.

"This was a total team win," said QB Jeff Mroz, whose Bulldogs rebounded nicely from a 38-21 loss at Penn last week. "It was a game we had to win."

The first drive of the game wound up being Columbia's only good shot at a touchdown all day long. The Lions (2-5, 0-4 Ivy) drove from their 26 to the Yale three, but DL Andrew Ralph stopped QB Craig Hormann on a quarterback draw there on third down. Columbia settled for a 20-yard field goal from Jon Rocholl, which would be far from enough against the Bulldogs on this day.

The Yale offense began clicking on its third drive of the day, starting at the Yale 20. After driving to the Lion 36 without any play going for more than eight yards, Yale connected on a deep ball when faced with a third-and-10 there. Off a play action fake, Mroz (22-33, 329 yards, 2 TDs) found WR Todd Feiereisen down the middle of the field for 29 yards. On the next play, TB Mike McLeod took the ball left, dodged a would-be tackler, and headed into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 13:36 to play before halftime.

It would end up being a busy 13:36 for the Bulldogs (3-4, 3-1). First, Driftmier made a diving interception at the Yale 41 on Columbia's third play after the touchdown. The offense then drove to the 30 for another big play, a 19-yarder to Feiereisen. Three plays later, WR Ashley Wright (seven catches, 93 yards, two touchdowns) made a nifty grab in the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.

Next it was Handlon's turn to intercept a pass, though this time it took four Lion plays - and almost came right back to Columbia when Handlon fumbled during the return. Fortunately for Yale, CB Andrew Butler was on the spot to cover the ball up at the Eli 32. The offense, more specifically Wright, did the rest. On the first play of the Yale drive, Mroz tossed one to Wright at the line of scrimmage. He avoided a tackle there and then it was off to the races. Sixty-eight yards later it was 21-3 Bulldogs.

The defense kept the pressure on with the next Lion drive, as Ralph broke through on first down to tackle RB James Cobb for a three-yard loss. After the teams traded punts, Ralph got a sack on the next Columbia drive and the ensuing punt set Yale up at its 37 with 2:28 left before the half. A swing pass to TB Jordan Spence got 13 yards, then Mroz found WR Chris Denny-Brown for 11 more. Play action then opened up Denny-Brown for a deeper ball, a 36-yarder that got the ball to the three. Two McLeod runs got the ball in for Yale's second rushing touchdown of the day - equaling the Bulldogs' season total entering the game.

With one minute left on the clock Columbia had time to try to stop the bleeding, but only made things worse. Backup quarterback Joe Winters came in and, scrambling from his own 41 while his offensive line was getting flagged for holding, tried to fire one towards the right sideline. Driftmier made a spectacular play, leaping up and stopping the ball with his right hand, then controlling it and tacking on a four-yard return to the Columbia 42. That enabled Yale to add a 41-yard Alan Kimball field goal as time expired, finishing off a 31-point outburst in the second quarter.

"Our D-line just got up there and got great pressure," Driftmier said. "He was running on every one of his passes, and when you're running you're going to make some bad decisions."

Kimball added a 23-yarder in the third quarter, and by midway through the fourth the Bulldogs had the luxury of inserting some of their younger players. Even that worked out well, as TB Matt Murray's first varsity carry went for 27 yards, and he would wind up as Yale's second-leading rusher on the day (66 yards). That was part of a drive that ended with another Kimball field goal, a 20-yarder with 5:04 remaining.

Senior backup RB Tyler Wells took the final handoff on this day where much went right for Yale, including Brown's win over Penn that dropped the Quakers into that tie for first with Yale, Brown and Princeton.

Yale hosts Brown next Saturday for a Noon kickoff. The game will be televised on YES.

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

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