November 5, 2011

Late Comeback Falls Short in 34-28 Loss to Brown

Witt Throws for 370 Yards in Loss

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Hurt by a career-high 192 yards and two touchdowns from Brown running back Mark Kachmer, combined with 224 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero, the Yale football team saw its chance to maintain control of its destiny in the race for the Ivy League title slip away with a 34-28 loss to Brown Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. The Bulldogs also hurt themselves with three interceptions, one lost fumble, a blocked punt and a missed field goal.

"We didn't play well enough to win," said Tom Williams, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We turned the ball over; we didn't take advantage of field position; we had a punt blocked. When you do things like that in a game of this magnitude you're probably going to lose."

Kachmer set the tone for the day when he broke off a 95-yard run for a touchdown on the Bears' third play from scrimmage to put Brown up 7-0 at 8:03 of the first. After a burst through the line Kachmer picked up some blocks and then headed for the right sideline, where he was able to outrun the Yale defense into the end zone. It was the longest run in Brown history.

"That's not necessarily where I was supposed to go on that play," Kachmer said. "I just followed my fullback."

Yale (4-4, 3-2 Ivy League) answered with a six-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown that culminated with senior quarterback Patrick Witt keeping the ball for a one-yard scoring dive. Witt had four big pass plays on the drive, including a 15-yarder to junior tailback Mordecai Cargill, a nine-yarder and a 15-yarder to sophomore receiver Deon Randall and a 31-yarder to junior wide receiver Chris Smith.

Junior placekicker Philippe Panico tied the game with the extra point, but that would wind up being Yale's last point for more than two quarters' worth of action. The Bears went back ahead on a 19-yard pass from Newhall-Caballero to receiver Jimmy Saros at 11:44 of the second, then tacked on a six-yard scoring toss from Newhall-Caballero to receiver Jonah Fay right before halftime to take a 20-7 lead (the extra point after Saros' score was blocked).

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, struggled to get their offense going. After having produced two different 200-yard rushers in each of the past two weeks -- Cargill last week and senior tailback Alex Thomas two weeks ago at Penn -- the Bulldogs were limited to seven yards on the ground Saturday. The offense had four straight three-and-outs at one point in the first half, and the next possession ended with an interception.

"Early on Brown did a nice job controlling the line of scrimmage," said Williams. "When it became a two-score [deficit], we became a little more one-dimensional."

The Bulldogs were pinned at their own two-yard line by a punt early in the third quarter, and when they failed to get a first down the punt was blocked and Brown set up 21 yards from the Eli end zone. Five plays later -- including four runs by Kachmer -- the Bears were in the end zone again, this time on a one-yarder by Kachmer.

That was just one example of the impact Brown's kicking game had Saturday, as punter Nate Lovett pinned the Bulldogs inside their own 20 three times and had a pair of 50+ yard boots. Yale was also limited to an 18-yard average on kickoff returns after Smith burned the Bears for a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns last year.

"Those were big momentum plays," Williams said. "It reminded me of last year's game (a 27-24 Yale win), where we were able to pin them inside the five-yard line. That certainly put us in a tough spot offensively."

The Bulldogs were also in a tough spot because Smith, who missed last week's game with an injury, was hurt once again and finished with only two catches. Thomas also was out, leaving Yale thin at the skill positions.

But the Bulldogs were still dangerous enough to make things interesting. Witt hit sophomore receiver Jackson Liguori for a three-yard touchdown at 4:26 of the third to pull Yale within 27-14.

"With the kind of skill they have, they have the opportunity to come back," said Brown head coach Phil Estes. "The story was we capitalized on turnovers and made some big plays."

The Bulldogs would regret a missed opportunity at the start of the fourth quarter, when sophomore wide receiver Brandis Yarrington recovered a punt that was fumbled by the Bears at the Brown 12. After a short completion and then a run for a loss, an incompletion on third down left Yale to settle for a field goal attempt that went wide left. The next two Yale drives ended with interceptions.

A punt that the Bulldogs fumbled away at their own 10 gave Brown the chance to go up 34-14 on a two-yard pass from Newhall-Caballero to Kachmer with 8:55 to play.

Yale showed some life with a 69-yard drive for a touchdown (a two-yard run by Witt) in which Witt made a crucial fourth-and-three conversion at the Brown 27 with a pass to sophomore H-back Beau Palin. Panico's extra point pulled Yale within 34-21 with 5:42 to play.

When Brown was unable to kill the clock -- senior outside linebacker Matt Battaglia stopped Kachmer on fourth-and-eight from the Yale 26 with 3:07 to play -- things got even more interesting. The Bulldogs drove 77 yard in 100 seconds for an 18-yard touchdown from Witt to Cargill. Witt completed six of seven passes on the drive, including a 27-yarder to sophomore receiver Cameron Sandquist and a 23-yarder to Cargill. Witt finished the day with 370 yards, completing 34 of 46 attempts.

But Brown recovered the onside kick, and Yale's frustrating day came to a conclusion when the Bears fumbled their attempt at taking a knee but still managed to recover.

"I know we had our hands on it," said Williams. "I was told [the official] ruled simultaneous possession."

Brown (7-1, 4-1 Ivy League) remains in the thick of the Ivy title race, tied for second with Penn a game behind first-place Harvard (5-0 in the league). Yale now turns its attention to winning the "Big Three" championship with the Crimson and Princeton. The Bulldogs visit the Tigers next Saturday.

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