Nov. 15, 2003
Yale needed two 90+ yard drives in the second half, and two overtimes, but the Bulldogs finally got past Princeton 27-24 in a thriller at Princeton Stadium. The Elis trailed 17-3 at halftime before the end-of-the-game heroics got them their sixth win of the year.
Princeton opened with the ball and drove 73 yards for a touchdown, a 20-yard run by TB Jon Veach. That was the only score of the first quarter, but as the quarter was ending Yale was in the midst of a 15-play, 65-yard drive that eventually netted a 23-yard field goal by K John Troost at 11:45 of the second quarter. The Tigers answered with a 15-play drive of their own, and had a 16-yard touchdown run by Veach called back due to a clipping penalty before settling for a 25-yard field goal by Derek Javarone. The Tiger defense then came up with a big play, stopping Yale on fourth-and-three at the Princeton 43, and the offense responded. A 30-yard pass from QB Matt Verbit to TE Jon Dekker quickly got Princeton into Yale territory, and from the Eli 29 Verbit found WR B.J. Szymanski for a touchdown and a 17-3 halftime lead. The Tigers had a shot to increase that lead, but Yale DB James Beck tipped a 42-yard field goal attempt with two seconds to go before halftime.
Yale's offensive struggles continued as the third quarter began, as the Elis' first drive ended with back-to-back sacks. But the Bulldogs came up with a big drive when they needed it. After LB Ben Breunig and DE Don Smith combined on a sack to end Princeton's first drive of the half after three plays, Tigers punter Colin McDonough pinned Yale back at its own three with a 42-yard punt. The Elis put together an 18-play drive, consuming 7:37 to get back in the game. Captain QB Alvin Cowan proved cool under pressure, converting four crucial third downs on passes -- a 16-yarder to WR Ron Benigno, a seven-yarder to WR Ralph Plumb, a 22-yarder to WR Chandler Henley, and a 15-yarder to Plumb - to help get the ball to the eight. From there, Cowan converted another third down by tossing one for Benigno, who make a sliding catch on a corner pattern in the endzone to bring Yale within seven.
The defense made another big stand as the third quarter came to an end, as CB Andrew Butler popped the ball loose from Veach. It flew up high in the air and came down in the hands of Yale DL Bryant Dieffenbacher at the Eli 37. But Cowan's string of third down conversions was broken when his pass for Lawrie on third-and-12 at the Princeton 44 fell incomplete. Lawrie's punt pinned Princeton at its own 10, and the defense did its job from there. The Tigers got one first down, but then DL Andrew Ralph dropped Verbit for a four-yard loss on a sack. Next, Breunig came around the end to chase down TB Branden Benson for no gain. Verbit tried scrambling on third down but was dragged down by DE Brandon Dyches after a two-yard gain and the Tigers had to punt.
The Tigers stopped Yale at the Princeton 32, however, and took over with 7:49 to play. They converted a fourth-and-inches at their own 41 with a quarterback sneak, and had a fourth-and-one at the Yale 23 all but converted as Verbit took off to his right on a naked bootleg. But the Tigers were flagged for holding, and thus had to punt. Yale started at its own eight with 1:03 on the clock. Cowan completed eight of nine passes on the drive, including a 14-yarder to Lawrie that converted a third-and-four at the Eli 45. His last two completions were his biggest, however. A 19-yarder to Benigno got Yale to the 22 with just seven seconds left. Cowan then lobbed one for the endzone, where Henley had just a half-step on his man. Henley made a spectacular leaping grab, coming down in the endzone as time expired. Troost's extra point tied things up at 17.
Princeton scored on the first play of overtime, with Verbit scrambling long enough for Veach to get wide open for a 25-yard touchdown. Yale responded with a three-yard touchdown pass from Cowan to FB Alex Faherty. As the game moved into twilight, the lights came on at Princeton Stadium and the second overtime began. It was then Yale's turn to go first, driving to the Princeton nine before Cowan's third-down pass for Benigno in the endzone sailed wide. Troost came on to boot a 26-yard field goal. The Tigers appeared to have a big play going when Verbit then hit Szymanski on a slant and he headed down towards the Yale 10, but DB James Beck popped the ball loose. It bounced around for a few seconds before Dieffenbacher grabbed it and sealed the Eli victory.
Yale hosts Harvard in The Game next Saturday to end the season.