Bulldogs Air it Out to Beat Georgetown 37-27 in Opener
Witt Throws for 280 Yards and Three Scores
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A year ago, the Yale-Georgetown game came down to a one-yard touchdown dive by senior quarterback Patrick Witt on the final play that gave the Bulldogs a 40-35 win. On Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field, the game between the Elis and the Hoyas was decided in less dramatic fashion thanks in part to Witt's 280-yard passing day. He threw for three touchdowns, including two to junior receiver Chris Smith, as the Elis came away with a 37-27 win in the season opener. Junior tailback Mordecai Cargill, who caught Witt's other TD pass, added 92 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
The start to Saturday's game was proof that Yale fans might want to plan on getting to games on time, because Smith and the Bulldog return team make every kickoff worth watching. He burst through a huge hole up the middle on the opening kickoff and then cut to the right sideline, where only a diving effort by Georgetown kicker Brett Weiss was able to knock him off balance and send him out of bounds short of the end zone. The 82-yard dash set the tone for a day in which Smith re-affirmed his role as one of Yale's premier playmakers.
"The blocking was great," Smith said. "To be honest I just follow Wes [senior linebacker Wes Moyer]. He's my up-back. Wes, Patty Mo [senior defensive lineman Pat Moran] and the wedge did a great job."
The return set the Yale offense up at the Georgetown 17, and after three touches by Cargill the Bulldogs had a touchdown. He took the ball in from four yards out for his first career rushing touchdown, and junior kicker Philippe Panico's extra point made it 7-0 a mere 87 seconds into the game.
The Hoyas reached into their bag of tricks to tie the game at 9:42, as a pass to receiver Jeff Burke wide right was actually a lateral, and Burke heaved the ball to the opposite sideline where quarterback Scott Darby grabbed it as he was diving into the end zone.
Six minutes later, Georgetown took the lead when quarterback Isaiah Kempf hit receiver Brandon Floyd in the end zone from five yards out.
Yale (1-0) answered that score immediately thanks to the Smith-Cargill combo. After a 49-yard kickoff return, Smith tacked on a 15-yard reception that got the ball to the Hoya 20. Following a two-yard run, Cargill hauled in a short pass from Witt and followed his blocks down the sideline for another touchdown. Panico's extra point tied the score 14-14 with 2:13 left in the second quarter.
Georgetown (2-1) went back ahead on a 44-yard field goal by Weiss at 7:31 of the second quarter. But the Bulldogs responded on the arm of Witt, who completed three straight passes for a total of 69 yards on a Yale drive that started at the Bulldog 14 and ended with a 31-yard scoring toss to Smith with 3:14 left in the second quarter. The Hoyas added a 26-yard field goal by Weiss to cut Yale's lead to 21-20 heading into halftime.
After the Yale defense forced a three-and-out on Georgetown's first possession thanks in part to a deep pass broken up by senior cornerback Dawson Halliday, the Bulldogs extended their lead. Witt completed three straight passes and senior tailback Alex Thomas converted a crucial third-and-one in a drive that ended with Smith getting another scoring toss, this one a 10-yarder. The extra point was blocked but the Bulldogs still led by seven, 27-20.
The Yale defense had gotten a first-quarter turnover to start the scoring in last year's game -- a fumble recovery that senior linebacker Jordan Haynes returned four yards for a touchdown. This year it took the Elis a little longer to get their first turnover, but when they did it was a big one. Senior cornerback Drew Baldwin picked off a pass at the Hoya 40, and that led to another scoring drive by the offense. Panico drilled a 39-yard field goal to make it 30-20 with 8:44 left in the third quarter.
After allowing 21 points in the third quarter of last season's game vs. the Hoyas, the Bulldogs made a point of coming out of halftime differently this time around. As a result, they allowed Georgetown just two first downs and no points in the third quarter Saturday.
"The adjustments we made at halftime were very key for us," Baldwin said. "[On the interception] we were able to get some pressure on the quarterback, and the quarterback overthrew his man. I was in the right place at the right time."
Special teams play set up another Yale score early in the fourth, as senior receiver Gio Christodoulou's 30-yard punt return brought the ball to the Hoya 31. Sophomore tight end Kyle Wittenauer then made his first career catch a big one, a 22-yarder. Two plays later Witt took the ball in on a four-yard keeper.
Georgetown finally broke a string of five straight scoreless drives by going 70 yards in six plays to get the score to 37-27 with 8:47 to play. Darby capped the drive by lofting a 27-yard pass to receiver Kevin Macari in the end zone.
Yale then took the air out of the ball, running six times for 33 yards on its next drive and taking more than four minutes off the clock before punting the ball back to the Hoyas.
When Weiss missed a 45-yard field goal with 1:11 to play it enabled the Bulldog offense to come on the field and run out the clock.
While most teams would have been thrilled with a day that was highlighted by 399 total yards of offense, Witt noted that the Bulldogs hold themselves to a high standard.
"Our goal is 40 [points] a game and that's baseline," Witt said. "We're not content with 37 points."
Yale starts Ivy League play by hosting Cornell next Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field at Noon.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity
Yale's win over Georgetown is available to watch in its entirety on demand via Yale All-Access at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/yale.portal