Leopards Overcome Early Yale Touchdown for Win
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Yale got the start it wanted Saturday afternoon against Lafayette, forcing a Leopard fumble on the opening kickoff that set up a Bulldog touchdown 3:22 into the game. But Lafayette responded by reeling off 24 straight points between the start of the second quarter and the start of the fourth, eventually coming away with a 31-14 win on a rainy day at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field.
Junior wide receiver Peter Balsam started and finished Yale's first scoring drive, recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff (forced by strong safety Larry Abare) at the Lafayette 26 and then catching a three-yard bullet in the end zone from sophomore quarterback Patrick Witt six plays later.
But after that Lafayette began taking control of the clock and the game. A roughing the punter call against the Bulldogs gave Lafayette (3-1, 1-0 Patriot League) a first down on fourth-and-14 early in the second quarter. The Leopards eventually came away with a 31-yard field goal from Davis Rodriguez. That scoring drive lasted 7:06 and included 18 plays, one of three drives on the day for Lafayette that lasted longer than five minutes.
"That was very frustrating," said senior linebacker Tim Handlon, who finished the day with 10 tackles (second only to Abare's 11). "After the two games before this we were not used to that. We try to get off the field quickly."
The Bulldogs' defense did get off the field quickly on one drive late in the second quarter. After Lafayette strong safety Eric McGovern intercepted a tipped ball at the Lafayette 47, the Leopards tried going deep on first down. But junior cornerback Adam Money nabbed the pass from Rob Curley at the Yale 10 and returned it to the 17.
The Bulldogs were unable to take advantage of the turnover, and even though senior placekicker/punter Tom Mante pinned Lafayette at its own 18 with 2:29 to play the Leopards were able to score just before halftime. The big play was a 46-yard over-the-shoulder catch down the right sideline by receiver Mark Layton. That got the ball to the Yale 17, and on the next play Curley hit Layton on a slant pattern into the end zone for a 10-7 lead.
Yale did get the ball back at the 50 with 1:01 to play thanks to a 37-yard kickoff return by freshman receiver Chris Smith, but the Bulldogs could not get a first down and had to punt.
"I thought the turning point of the game was their ability to score before halftime, and our inability to do the same," said Tom Williams, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "Then, in the second half, they wore us down running the football."
Lafayette extended its lead at 6:13 of the third when, after a fake handoff, receiver Greg Stripe grabbed the ball from Curley and took it into the end zone from six yards out. The Leopards added another touchdown catch by Layton, this one a four-yarder, on the first play of the fourth quarter to go up 24-7.
Junior quarterback Brook Hart, who has been battling with Witt for the starting job, came on for his third drive of the day midway through the fourth and got Yale back on the scoreboard. He completed eight of nine passes, utilizing five different receivers, to drive the Bulldogs 90 yards. The last play was a nicely thrown ball to junior wide receiver Jordan Forney for a sliding catch in the end zone with 4:30 left in the game.
Lafayette recovered the onside kick, however, and drove 40 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach. Tailback Maurice White's six-yard run made it 31-14 with 3:13 to play.
The Bulldogs had held their previous nine opponents to 14 or fewer points, but the combination of Curley (20-for-28, 241 yards, 2 TDs) and Layton (seven catches, 116 yards) proved tough to stop.
"[Layton] is really good right off the line of scrimmage," said Money. "He's tough to press. He's quick, and he's also a good possession receiver with solid hands."
Yale (1-2, 0-1 Ivy League) hosts Dartmouth next Saturday; the Bulldogs are looking for their defense to return to form and for their offense to build off the late 90-yard touchdown drive.
"I feel it's a good little spark for our team," Hart said of the touchdown drive. "But we've got to put it together for four quarters."
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity