Elis Maintain Hold on First Place With 27-24 Win at Brown

Nov. 4, 2006

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Sophomore tailback Mike McLeod's three-yard touchdown run with 3:27 remaining capped the scoring in yet another wild Yale-Brown game, giving the Bulldogs a come-from-behind 27-24 win in Providence. The victory, which included five turnovers from the defense, keeps Yale in sole possession of first place in the Ivy League.

The Elis (7-1, 5-0 Ivy) pulled this one out despite being held to 286 yards of total offense on 65 plays, Yale's lowest gain per play of the year (4.4 yards). The five turnovers, including three interceptions by sophomore linebacker Bobby Abare, proved to be the difference.

"A five-turnover game, you're saying `Hey, we should have gotten more scores than we did.'," said Jack Siedlecki, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We didn't. That' why the game was where it was at. We found a way and that's all that counts."

The game-winner by McLeod was set up by a 71-yard completion from junior quarterback Matt Polhemus to senior wide receiver Ashley Wright two plays prior. Virtually all of those yards came after the catch, as Wright grabbed the ball just past the line of scrimmage, broke one tackle, and raced down the right sideline until finally getting tackled at the five.

"We really needed a big play," Wright said. "Mike's been having such a good season and they've been focusing on him. They were really bailing deep on us. We knew we were going to have to throw those short routes and make somebody miss. That's what happened. [Senior wide receiver] D.J. Shooter made a great block upfield and that's really what sprung it."

Junior place-kicker Alan Kimball booted the extra point to put Yale up 27-24, but the Bulldogs still had to sweat out one last Brown drive. Six of the last nine meetings between these two teams have been decided by seven or fewer points.

Brown (3-5, 2-3 Ivy) managed to recover from an eight-yard sack by sophomore defensive lineman Joe Hathaway on the third play of the drive to get a first down at the Yale 35 with less than two minutes left in the game. But sophomore cornerback Casey Gerald broke up a pass to wide receiver Lonnie Hill at the goal line, and pressure from Abare forced Bears quarterback Joe DiGiacomo to throw the next pass away to avoid a sack.

The Bears tried a draw up the middle on third down but Abare was there to stop tailback Brandon Markey at the 32, forcing Brown to try a 50-yard field goal with 1:04 to play. Kicker Steve Morgan pushed the ball wide right, and the Bulldog offense came out on the field to take a knee twice.

The win marked the third time in the last six games that Yale has won by three points. Three of Yale's last four victories have come with the Bulldogs either trailing or tied at one point in the fourth quarter.

"That's kind of the theme of the season," said senior wide receiver Chandler Henley, Yale's captain. "Adversity happens in the second half and this team just pulls through. I can't say that I wasn't worried or nervous, because that happens. The team stuck together. We made plays when we needed to. Everybody believes this year -- that's the difference. They believe that we're going to win, and it just keeps happening."

For a brief period at the start it looked like this game would be over early, as Yale jumped out to a 10-0 lead 10 minutes in. The Bulldogs got their first turnover two plays into the game when DiGiacomo overthrew his intended receiver and the pass floated to freshman cornerback Paul Rice, who returned the ball 10 yards to the Yale 44. The Bulldogs did not get any points out of that drive, but did gain an early edge in field position thanks to a punt by freshman Tom Mante that went out of bounds at the Brown 10.

After an exchange of punts, that field position edge eventually translated into a 35-yard field goal by Kimball that gave Yale a 3-0 lead with 5:31 left in the first quarter. That lead grew to 10 on the very next play from scrimmage. Abare stepped in front of DiGiacomo's throw from the Brown 14 and had a clear path to the end zone for his second straight game with a touchdown, a 19-yard return. He had a 52-yard return in last week's 21-3 win over Columbia.

The Bears responded immediately with a 95-yard touchdown return by Brandon Markey on the ensuing kickoff, making for a wild stretch of 17 points in 61 seconds by the two teams.

Yale tried taking control of the back-and-forth affair with a 13-play, 70-yard drive that culminated on the third play of the second quarter. On third-and-goal from the Bear eight, Polhemus found Henley in the end zone to extend Yale's lead to 17-7.

It took Brown's offense four plays to get back on the scoreboard. Aided by a 23-yard run by Markey, the Bears drove 65 yards for a touchdown. DiGiacomo lofted a 32-yard touchdown to Hill less than two minutes after Henley's score.

Abare nabbed another interception to snuff out a Bear drive later in the second quarter, but Brown pieced together a 92-yard drive to go ahead 21-17 on an 11-yard Akin Oyalowo touchdown 2:57 before the half. Yale had a last-minute drive end with an interception at the goal line.

A 24-yard field goal by Morgan extended Brown's lead to seven points in the third quarter. Kimball answered with a 23-yarder after yet another Abare interception in the fourth.

Abare now has been involved in five turnovers (four interceptions, one fumble recovery) in the last six games. His three picks are the most by a Bulldog in a game since Nate Boxrucker had three against Princeton Nov. 14, 1998.

"You've got to give credit to the defensive line," Abare said. "They really got pressure on [DiGiacomo] a couple times. On the second one, someone was right in his face when he threw it and it kind of came right to me."

McLeod passed the 100-yard mark for the seventh straight game, extending his own Yale record. He also passed the 1,000 yard mark, finishing the day with 1,096 (seventh all-time at Yale for a single season).

McLeod's accomplishments came despite injuries to some key members of the offensive line. Junior offensive guard Tom Woznicki earned his second start of the year with senior offensive guard Brett Crandall out, and senior offensive tackle Jay Leybourn stepped in when sophomore offensive tackle Darius Dale went to the sideline late in the game.

"Led by [senior offensive tackle] Ed McCarthy, everybody else has just stepped up -- the whole line," McLeod said. "Darius goes down, we've got another offensive lineman right there. Brett Crandall wasn't able to play, we've got another offensive lineman right away. I feel that our offensive line is so deep that they've just given me the ability to run through holes. [Senior fullback] Taylor Craig and the receivers blocking down field help me break runs. I owe it to the whole offense."

Yale returns home to the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field, to host Princeton next Saturday (12:30 p.m.). The Tigers are one game behind the Bulldogs in the Ivy League standings.

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

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