November 11, 2006

Princeton Drops Yale into Tie for First, 34-31

Nov. 11, 2006

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Princeton outscored Yale 20-3 in the second half to pull out a come-from-behind 34-31 win over Yale Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. With the loss the Bulldogs (7-2, 5-1 Ivy) fall into a tie for first place in the Ivy League with the Tigers (8-1, 5-1 Ivy).

The game was marked by two vastly different halves, as Yale racked up 355 yards of total offense in the first half but only 59 in the second half. A 28-14 halftime lead wound up not being enough as Tigers quarterback Jeff Terrell threw for 445 yards and three touchdowns to lead the comeback.

"You have to give [Princeton] credit -- they did a great job," said Jack Siedlecki, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We thought coming in at halftime we had them worn down, but we had three three-and-outs in a row [on offense] and they took advantage."

On a brilliant fall day 43,406 fans streamed into the Bowl for the 129th meeting between these two rivals. Princeton was looking to avenge a 21-14 loss to the Bulldogs a year ago that denied the Tigers a share of the 2005 title.

The Tigers showed some nerves on the opening drive, including a bizarre opening play in which an apparent Princeton fumble recovered by Yale was instead ruled Tiger ball, recovered by Terrell at the Princeton 43. Then came a false start penalty and an incompletion, leaving the Tigers facing a third-and-19. Terrell evaded junior defensive tackle Jared Hamilton but not senior linebacker Chris Barry, who brought him down for a two-yard loss and forced a punt.

The Bulldogs missed a 36-yard field goal attempt on their opening drive, but the Yale defense delivered several big plays on the ensuing Tiger drive. It started with a crunching hit for a four-yard loss on first down by senior defensive end Brendan Sponheimer on Tigers tailback R.C. Lagomarsino. On a third-and-nine from the Yale 48, sophomore free safety Steven Santoro stopped Lagomarsino five yards short of a first down after a short pass.

The Tigers gained some measure of momentum by downing Connor Louden's punt at the one-yard line, but sophomore tailback Mike McLeod quickly got the Bulldogs breathing room with a pair of runs that got the ball to the 12. Junior quarterback Matt Polhemus then found senior wide receiver Chandler Henley wide open on the left sideline for 21 yards and the Elis were on their way.

Yale needed another big completion when the Bulldogs faced a third-and-10 at the Tiger 47. Out of Yale's four wide receiver set, Polhemus found sophomore wide receiver Jarrett Drake along the left sideline. Drake's clutch grab gave Yale a first down at the Princeton 35.

Yale then turned to senior tailback Matt Murray, who dashed through the left side of the line for a 32-yard gain. Two plays later, with the ball on the one, McLeod took advantage of the left side of Yale's offensive line -- anchored by junior tight end Langston Johnson, senior left tackle Ed McCarthy, junior left guard Jeff Monaco and junior center Nick Wachtler -- to power into the end zone with two seconds left in the quarter and cap the 99-yard drive.

The Yale defense stopped another Tiger drive at the Eli 39 on fourth-and-five, with Terrell tossing an incompletion under heavy pressure from sophomore defensive end Kyle Hawari.

The Yale offense did not need long to take advantage of the improved field position. McLeod dashed untouched toward the right sideline and turned up the field for 46 yards on the first play. Two plays later McLeod found a huge hole on the left side of the line, diving into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

A fortunate bounce enabled the Tigers to get back in the game. Terrell bobbled the snap and took off from the Yale 20 but lost the ball as he was being tackled. Princeton wide receiver Adam Berry was in the right spot to grab the fumble and take it into the end zone through a stunned Yale defense.

Yale immediately responded. In a drive that featured a 15-yard scramble and a 20-yard run by Polhemus, it was another big third-down grab by Drake -- converting a third-and-seven at the Yale 44 -- that kept the Bulldogs going. McLeod had a 21-yard run and finished it with a three-yard romp into the end zone to make it 21-7 Yale 5:03 before halftime.

The Tigers answered 1:20 later with Terrell pump-faking and racing into the end zone from six yards out. But the Bulldog offense once again had little trouble moving down the field. Three runs by Murray for 22 yards and a 27-yard grab by Henley (with downfield blocking by senior wide receiver Ashley Wright) got the ball to the six. McLeod took it in from there for his fourth rushing touchdown of the day and 16th of the season, tying John Pagliaro's thirty-year old school record in that category.

There was one minute left on the clock before halftime and plenty of time for one more Princeton drive. But wide receiver Brian Brigham had a 34-yard pass into the end zone slip through his hands with 11 seconds left. The Tigers then tried a short completion to Brigham on the left sideline but sophomore cornerback Casey Gerald brought him down in bounds and time ran out on Princeton. Yale went into halftime up 28-14.

A holding penalty derailed Yale's first drive of the third quarter and set the tone for the remainder of the game.

"The holding penalty on the first drive of the second half hurt us," Siedlecki said. "We were coming off the best half of offense we'd played all year. We're a running football team. You can't put yourselves behind."

Still, the Bulldogs got a 61-yard punt from freshman Tom Mante that pinned the Tigers at their own 10. Princeton managed to drive to the Yale 21 and opted to go for the first down on fourth and 13. Junior middle guard Brandt Hollander burst through the line to sack Terrell for a 12-yard loss.

The teams traded punts and Princeton got the ball back at the Yale 41. The Tigers used the field position edge to pick up their third touchdown, with Terrell finding wide receiver Brendan Circle in the end zone from 15 yards out. A botched extra point attempt left Yale's lead at 28-20.

The Yale offense once again could not move the ball, but the defense had a big play near the start of the fourth quarter. Hawari batted Terrell's pass from the Princeton 31 in the air, then grabbed it for the interception and set up the offense at the Tiger 21.

A face mask penalty on Princeton got Yale a first down at the 11, but the Bulldogs got only as far as the three before having to settle for a 20-yard field goal by junior place-kicker Alan Kimball.

The 11-point Yale lead was erased in a span of two minutes. On Princeton's drive after the Yale field goal each play was a Terrell completion, including one for 20 yards and one for 23 yards. The last pass was an eight-yarder to Circle with 9:30 remaining. Terrell was unable to get the two point conversion, heaving an incompletion while Hollander had him at the ankles.

The next Yale drive was a three-and-out that took only 80 seconds off the clock, giving Princeton the ball at its own 43 with 8:04 to play. The Tigers took the lead on the first play, as Terrell's pump fake left Brigham wide open on the left sideline for a 57-yard touchdown. Terrell then found Circle in the end zone for the two-point conversion to make it 34-31 with 7:36 left in the game.

The Yale offense had one chance to make a comeback. The Bulldogs got the ball at their own 31 after a 24-yard kickoff return by Santoro. An eight-yard pass to senior wide receiver D.J. Shooter got Yale a first down -- its first first down by means other than a Tiger penalty since the third play of the half. But McLeod got only two yards on what would turn out to be his last carry of the day. He finished the day with 181 yards but only 30 in the second half.

"They were bringing more edge pressure," McLeod said. "You can't run outside with that."

Two incompletions forced another Yale punt with 4:51 to play.

The Tigers picked up two first downs, and with Yale having used all but one of its timeouts earlier in the half that was enough to kill the clock.

"We didn't have the answers in the second half," Siedlecki said.

The loss snaps a seven-game winning streak for the Bulldogs, and a four-game winning streak in the series vs. Princeton. Yale travels to Harvard (7-2, 4-2 Ivy) for The Game next Saturday at Noon while Princeton hosts Dartmouth (2-7, 2-4 Ivy) at 1:00.

The Bulldogs can still clinch a share of the Ivy title with a win over the Crimson.

"We just have to focus on Harvard," said Barry. "There's nothing we can change about this result."

Siedlecki advocated a similar approach.

"We've got to go up there and win a football game and be Ivy League champions."

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

Audio Highlights from WELI 960 AM (Ron Vaccaro '04, play-by-play; Carm Cozza, color):

Video Highlights, with audio from the WELI 960 AM broadcast (Ron Vaccaro '04, play-by-play):

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