Banged-Up Bulldogs Pull Out Another One, 7-6 Over Fordham
Hart Touchdown Pass to Forney Gives Yale Winning Edge
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Some of the names may have changed, but the end result was the same for the Yale football team Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field: another game that came down to the wire, and another win. Yale's offense, which entered the day 11th in the country in total offense, had to make do without its starting quarterback, top two tailbacks, and two starters on the offensive line. The Bulldogs got all the scoring they needed on a 29-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Brook Hart to senior wide receiver Jordan Forney in the fourth quarter, and sophomore defensive lineman Chris Dooley's field goal block in the fourth quarter helped seal the victory.
"I can't be prouder of a group of men, because we had adversity -- a lot of guys hurt," said Tom Williams, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "This is the part of the season where injuries start to creep up."
With junior quarterback Patrick Witt sidelined, Hart stepped in and threw for 227 yards. The chance to contribute was a fitting reward for Hart, who had been Yale's starter for four games last season and remained ready in a backup role this season.
"Our expectations are that the reserves have got to play like starters," Williams said. "Across the board today, they did that, from Brook to [sophomore tailback] Javier [Sosa] to our offensive linemen."
Sosa stepped in with both junior tailback Alex Thomas and sophomore tailback Mordecai Cargill out, and ran for 74 yards behind an offensive line that lost senior center Jake Koury to an injury two weeks ago and was also without junior guard Gabriel Fernandez Saturday.
"We're confident in everyone on this team, even though it was a little different in practice with all those guys out," Forney said.
Hart found out Friday that he was starting, after having had just one pass attempt in Yale's first four games.
"The guys made me feel like I've been out there all year," Hart said. "This year I've tried to stay low-key and even-keeled … The coaches did a great job getting everybody mentally prepared and getting reps in practice."
Both teams battled the windy conditions in a first half dominated by the defenses. Junior safety Geoff Dunham helped end one Fordham drive with his first career interception. A seven-yard sack by junior defensive tackle Jake Stoller left Fordham facing fourth-and-24 on another drive, leading to a Rams punt. Bulldogs junior linebacker Jordan Haynes recovered a Fordham fumble at the Ram 38 in the final minutes of the first half, but Yale was unable to convert that into any points. Fordham led 3-0 at halftime on the strength of a 45-yard Patrick Murray field goal in the first quarter.
The defenses continued to rule the day as the second half began. Senior defensive tackle Tom McCarthy tripped up Fordham quarterback Blake Wayne for a two-yard loss on third-and-14 from the Fordham 35. It was one of eight tackles for loss on the day by the Yale defense.
The Bulldogs got a spark from a special teams play when senior wide receiver Gio Christodoulou returned a punt 28 yards to the Ram 38, but the play was largely negated by an illegal block in the back. Rams defensive lineman Justin Yancey intercepted a Yale pass five plays later, and that set up another field goal by Murray. Despite being forced back to the 21 by a seven-yard sack from junior defensive lineman Reed Spiller on third down, Murray drilled another one through the uprights to give the Rams a 6-0 lead at 2:49 of the third.
Hart then drove Yale 74 yards in six plays, mixing in three completions to three different receivers while Sosa ran three times for 12 yards. Hart completed a 19-yarder to senior fullback Shane Bannon and a 14-yarder to Christodoulou. Forney capped the drive on the first play of the fourth quarter by grabbing a short pass over the middle and racing towards the near left corner of the end zone. While being tackled Forney was able to reach out just far enough to get the ball over the goal line for a touchdown, and sophomore placekicker Philippe Panico added the all-important extra point.
"It was just a crossing pattern," Forney said of the touchdown play. "[Sophomore wide receiver] Chris Smith took the safety out of the picture for me."
The Bulldogs then came up with a big defensive stand, with senior defensive end Sean Williams tackling Wayne at the one-yard line. After a delay of game penalty Fordham tried a 23-yard field goal with 9:31 left. Dooley blocked the kick, and the Eli offense took over at the 20.
"On their first field goal, Tom McCarthy got a hand on it and it still went through," Tom Williams said. "We felt we had a chance to exact some revenge."
Still, the Rams began driving down the field again late in the fourth quarter. Wayne hurt Yale in the air (219 yards) and on the ground (54 yards), and with 1:59 to play he had moved the Rams from their own 24 to the Yale 45. But when he tried to thread the needle to tight end Stephen Skelton, senior strong safety Adam Money made a diving interception at the Yale 34.
"They were getting a little momentum," said Williams. "We needed a play to get us off the field, and Adam Money makes an unbelievable interception."
That enabled Yale to run the clock down under a minute before punting the ball. In line with the theme for the day, freshman backup punter Greg Carlsen came on and made the first punt of his varsity career a big one. His 55-yard kick bounced all the way to the 10, and after that the Rams got no further than their own 28 before time ran out.
Yale (4-1) then celebrated its fourth win of the season, with three of those coming by fewer than five points each. The Bulldogs now have nothing but Ivy League games the rest of the way, and will face one of the other teams with a 2-0 league record when Penn comes to the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field next Saturday.
"We know all five games left are league games," McCarthy said. "We're starting to get focused on the Ivy League stretch run."
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity