Bulldogs Win Ivy League Opener
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – It had been nearly two years since senior wide receiver Deon Randall played at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. But after being sidelined all of last season with an injury, Randall started making up for lost time on Saturday against Cornell in Yale football's Ivy League opener. He hauled in three touchdowns (part of an 11-catch, 148-yard day) and ran in a fourth to lead the Bulldogs to a 38-23 win. The Bulldogs intercepted Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews twice, limiting him to a 19-for-37 performance until he completed his final six passes on a Big Red touchdown drive with the game out of reach in the final seconds.
"The year off helped," said Randall, whose last game in the Yale Bowl had been a seven-catch, 43-yard performance vs. Harvard on Nov. 19, 2011. "It allowed our offense to get stronger, become a more cohesive unit."
Senior wide receiver Chris Smith -- another player who missed all of last season for the Elis -- got the Youth Day crowd of 18,600 at the Bowl excited right from the get-go, returning the opening kick 46 yards to start the offense at the Cornell 49. A 35-yard completion from senior quarterback Henry Furman to junior wide receiver Grant Wallace got the ball to the Big Red five, and three plays later Furman ran the ball in from three yards out -- his fourth first-half touchdown run of the year.
Yale missed a chance to extend the lead when a field goal was blocked later in the quarter, but Cornell had a pair of missed opportunities of its own. After Mathews misfired on a pair of passes into the end zone from the 14-yard line, the Big Red settled for a 31-yard field goal from John Wells at 4:31 of the first.
The Bulldogs kept Mathews -- a former Bushnell Cup winner as Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year – off-balance on a drive later in the half. Under heavy pressure from junior linebacker William Vaughan, Mathews threw his first interception on the first play of the second quarter. Junior defensive lineman Jeff Schmittgens nabbed it at the Yale 40.
A fumbled snap on a Cornell punt -- after Randall made an appearance on defense and broke up a third-down pass -- set Yale's offense up at the Cornell 31 with 4:24 left in the first half. But the Elis fumbled on the next play, and that enabled Cornell to drive for the lead. The key play of the Big Red's possession came when Mathews scrambled, then passed to running back Dustin Dillard for a 33-yard gain to get the ball to the Yale four-yard line with less than two minutes to play. Two plays later Mathews fired one to wide receiver Lucas Shapiro in the end zone to make it 10-7 Cornell 51 seconds before halftime.
The Yale offense responded on the next drive thanks to another big play from the elusive Smith, who broke a series of tackles and took off for a 33-yard gain.
After two games, Smith and Randall are Yale's top two receivers with a combined total of 30 catches. They are both on pace to finish with single-season reception totals that would place them among the top 10 in school history -- Randall, in fact, is on pace to break the school receptions record (86, Eric Johnson '01 in 2000).
"That Yale offense is night-and-day from what it was last year," said Cornell head coach David Archer, whose team beat the Bulldogs 45-6 a year ago. "That's a credit to those kids."
Furman hit freshman wide receiver Myles Gaines for a 24-yard gain to the 10 with 21 seconds left. Junior placekicker Kyle Cazzetta then tied the score with a 25-yard field goal with six seconds remaining, and the teams went into halftime 10-10.
After Cornell came up empty on its first drive of the second half, the Bulldogs drove 56 yard for the go-ahead touchdown, an eight-yard strike from Furman to Randall at 11:13.
Senior defensive lineman Kyle White got the first sack of the game on Cornell's next drive, dropping Mathews for a nine-yard loss on second down. The Big Red punted two plays later.
That started a clock-monopolizing drive for the Bulldogs, who controlled the ball for more than five minutes with a 13-play, 86-yard drive that ended with Randall dashing 23 yards into the end zone on a screen pass. That put Yale up 24-10.
Four plays into Cornell's next drive, freshman defensive back Robert Ries intercepted a tipped ball at midfield. The Bulldogs had the ball and a 24-10 lead as the final quarter began.
Two plays into the fourth, Furman hit Randall over the middle. Randall broke one tackle just inside the Cornell 40, and by the time the Cornell defense got another shot at him he was crossing the goal line with a 44-yard touchdown on his 10th catch of the day. Furman would wind up 29-for-36, throwing for 353 yards.
Mathews executed a spectacular play early in the fourth, scrambling before tossing the ball 37 yards to wide receiver Ben Rogers at the Yale 22. But on the very next play freshman defensive end Victor Egu sacked Mathews and forced a fumble, and Schmittgens recovered at the Yale 24.
That drive ended with another Randall touchdown, this one on a 10-yard run. The Bulldogs held a commanding 38-10 lead with 9:44 to play.
Cornell tacked on a 22-yard touchdown from Mathews to wide receiver Chris Lenz with 6:20 to play, and a 21-yard touchdown from Mathews to running back Luke Hagy with eight seconds left. That did little to dim the impressive nature of the performance by the Yale defense, which -- in addition to containing Mathews -- limited Cornell's run game to an average of 2.3 yards per carry.
"Our No. 1 goal was to stop the run and make them one-dimensional," said senior defensive end Beau Palin, Yale's captain. "We did not do that right away, but we eventually did."
Yale travels to California to play Cal Poly next Saturday at 2:05 p.m. Pacific.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity