Bulldogs Triumph in Defensive Struggle with Columbia, 21-14

Oct. 30, 2004

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New Haven, CT - Safety Matt Handlon broke up a potential game-tying six-yard pass in the end zone in the final minute to cap a huge day for the Yale defense that gave the Bulldogs a 21-14 victory over Columbia Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl. The two teams combined for 35 points before the half and none after it on a dark, foggy day.

The Bulldogs (4-3, 2-2 Ivy) took the ball to start the game and drove 76 yards for a touchdown, twice converting third downs to keep the drive alive. TB Robert Carr had 36 yards rushing, 16 coming on a third-and-one at the Eli 44. The big play was a fortunate bounce, however, as Cowan's third-and-seven pass at the Lion 37 was tipped by WR Ralph Plumb, then two would-be interceptors, and wound up in the hands of TB Jordan Spence for an 11-yard gain. Three plays later, Cowan found TE Alex Faherty down the middle from 13 yards out for the score.

Yale's defense was ready from the start, with DE Don Smith breaking up a pass on first down and the defensive line finishing off the three-and-out two plays later. On third-and-four, DL Andrew Ralph broke through to delay Lion TB Ayo Oluwole in the backfield, and DE Brandon Dyches came along to finish him off for a five-yard loss. The Bulldogs continued their strong play up front on the next Columbia possession, with Dyches and then DE Brandon Etheridge swatting passes at the line on back-to-back plays.

The Lions (1-6, 1-3 Ivy) got the ball right back when Cowan's first-down overthrow from the Yale 38 sailed to CB Aaron Percival, who returned it all the way to the Bulldog 20. But the Yale defense sent Columbia backward from there, with Dyches and Ralph combining for a 10-yard sack on second and 17 that pushed Columbia out to the 37. Under pressure on third down from there, Lion QB Jeff Otis threw one that was almost picked off by CB Andrew Butler, and the Lions punted.

Yale could not move the ball on offense, and the ensuing punt - with a 15-yard personal foul penalty tacked on - set the Lions up at the Yale 21 as the first quarter drew to a close. On the second play of the second quarter, Otis tossed one to TE Wade Fletcher in the end zone from eight yards out to tie the score.

Another Columbia interception, this one by CB Jason Auguste, stopped a Yale drive at the Lion 18, but the Eli defense would not allow Columbia to swing the momentum. LB Lee Driftmier chased down TB Ayo Oluwole for a loss on second down, and pressure forced Otis to scramble out of bounds for no gain on third down. The punt got the Yale offense back on the field 38 yards away from the end zone. The Elis faced a third-and-nine there, and gave the ball to Carr on a draw. He smashed into a Columbia defender 10 yards down the field, kept his footing, and raced to the one before the Lions caught him. On the next play, he took a toss in for the score and a 14-7 lead.

The Lions responded with another scoring toss from Otis to Fletcher, this one a four-yarder three minutes before the half. That was more than enough time for the Yale offense, however, as Cowan completed all five passes on a 69-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard TD reception for WR Chandler Henley. Etheridge ended Columbia's next drive by batting a pass, then intercepting it at the Columbia 47. K Andrew Sullivan's 45-yard field goal attempt at the end of the half was short but Yale still led 21-14.

The Bulldogs had their first drive of the second half stymied by an illegal shift penalty that negated a 22-yard completion to Faherty, and their second drive was derailed by a holding call that erased a good run by Carr. The Bulldogs came up with a defensive stand deep in their own territory, with DL Tim Barrett stopping TB Rashad Biggers one yard short of a first down on third down. Nick Rudd then missed a field goal attempt.

Some key defensive plays kept Columbia off the board on the next Lion drive. Otis sent a pass from the Yale 25 towards WR John Reuter in the end zone on second down, but Handlon got over just in time to tip the ball away. LB Ben Breunig batted the next pass down, and when Columbia went for it on fourth down Otis had to toss one incomplete as the Yale defense surrounded him.

The Columbia offense had to resort to some trickery to try to get past the Bulldogs as the game headed towards the finish. On second-and-four from the Yale 45, Biggers got the ball and pulled up to heave a pass that wound up being a jump ball. Several Yale defenders surrounded the intended receiver, and Handlon came down with it at the 33 with under six minutes to play. The Columbia defense forced Yale off the field, setting up the dramatic final drive. Starting from their own 20, the Lions got down to the Yale six with 47 seconds to play for a third-and-four. DL Brandt Hollander collared Biggers for no gain on that play. On fourth down, Otis tried tossing it to Fletcher again but Handlon was there all the way.

The Bulldogs travel to Brown next weekend.

report by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity Department