Record-Setting Day for McLeod as No. 20/22 Elis Roll Past Holy Cross, 38-17

Sept. 29, 2007

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WORCESTER, Mass. - Junior tailback Mike McLeod ran for a school record-breaking 256 yards and record-tying five touchdowns -- breaking the school career rushing touchdown mark in the process -- as No. 20/22 Yale beat Holy Cross 38-17 at Fitton Field Saturday afternoon. McLeod's effort was part of a dominant 412-yard rushing day for the Yale offense, and the Yale defense limited the Crusaders to 45 rushing yards while picking off three passes.

"We really dominated this game physically," said Jack Siedlecki, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "We got to the quarterback and made a couple plays with the turnovers. Offensively, we ran the ball as well as we've ever run it."

The defense generated the first big play of the game. On the Crusaders' second possession, quarterback Dominic Randolph was under heavy pressure from junior defensive end Kyle Hawari when he tried a pass out to the right flat that Hawari got a piece of. Junior linebacker Jay Pilkerton was right there to intercept the floater, setting the Yale offense up at the Holy Cross 21. Senior place-kicker Alan Kimball's 36-yard field goal gave Yale a 3-0 lead.

The Yale offense, limited to 24 total yards on its first two possessions, broke through with an 11-play, 66-yard drive late in the first quarter. The Bulldogs did not face a third-down conversion until they got to the Holy Cross 10 for a third-and-six, which McLeod converted with a six-yard run. Two plays later McLeod was in the end zone with a three-yard run for his eighth touchdown of the year and 33rd of his career, one behind John Pagliaro's 30 year-old school record.

Holy Cross (2-2) took advantage of an interception by cornerback Casey Gough that set the Crusader offense up at the Yale 17 early in the second quarter. The Bulldog defense limited the damage, pressuring Randolph into a short flip pass on third down that junior defensive end Brady Hart batted down incomplete. Matt Partain's 40-yard field goal made the score 10-3 Yale.

The Bulldogs responded to the Crusader tally immediately. On the first play of Yale's next possession, senior quarterback Matt Polhemus started the drive with a 15-yard run behind a bone-jarring block from senior fullback Joe Fuccillo. On the next play McLeod took the ball left and had so much open space that the next block he needed was all the way down the field from senior wide receiver Chris Denny-Brown. The 32-yard run brought the ball to the 23.

Later in the drive the Holy Cross defense hurt itself on a third-down run where McLeod was stopped behind the line of scrimmage. A helmet-to-helmet hit penalty on Kyle Mushaweh as the play was ending gave Yale a first down at the Crusader 11. Three plays later McLeod's one-yard touchdown run gave Yale a 17-3 lead and tied Pagliaro's mark.

McLeod broke the career touchdown record in dramatic fashion. Yale (3-0) drove to the Holy Cross 23 with time winding down in the second half and faced a fourth-and-two there. After a timeout, the Bulldogs elected to go for it. McLeod burst through a wide-open hole on the left side of the line and outraced the defense into the end zone for the historic touchdown.

A 45-yard return of the ensuing kickoff gave Holy Cross the chance to start the next drive at the Yale 43, but the defense quickly eliminated any momentum from that play. Sophomore defensive lineman Tom McCarthy got to Randolph just as he threw, and the pass to the middle of the field landed in Pilkerton's hands again. The interception gave the Yale offense the ball at the Eli 45.

To give McLeod a breather sophomore tailback Ricardo Galvez got the next carry, which he promptly took down the left sideline for 48 yards. Three plays later, McLeod delivered a one-yard touchdown for a 31-3 lead 55 seconds before halftime.

The still left enough time for a Holy Cross drive, and the Crusaders went 65 yards in 51 seconds to put a touchdown on the board four seconds before the intermission. Randolph scrambled to buy enough time for wide receiver Brett McDermott to free himself up in the end zone for a 14-yard scoring pass that made the score 31-10.

Though the Yale defensive line had been dominating up front, its first sack did not come until the second Holy Cross play of the second half. Senior defensive lineman Kirk Porter wrapped up Randolph and tossed him to the ground for an eight-yard loss, ensuring that the Crusader drive went nowhere.

The Crusader defense shut down the first two Yale drives, and appeared to have a third one stopped as well late in the third quarter. But on fourth and two from the Yale 43 the Bulldogs went with a fake punt, as senior snapper Dan Sica sent the ball directly to sophomore defensive back Paul Rice. Rice took off for 34 yards to the Holy Cross 23, energizing the Bulldog sideline. With the Crusaders reeling, McLeod delivered the knockout blow by taking the ball in on the next play for his fifth rushing score of the day (tying the school mark set by Joe Crowley in 1931) and 37th of his career.

"That really swung the momentum," Siedlecki said. "They were about to get the ball, and they had been stopping us. Getting back in the end zone in one play was huge."

McLeod now has 19 touchdowns in his last five games. He also broke a tie with Calvin Hill for the longest streak of consecutive games with a touchdown by a Yale player, as Saturday marked the 12th straight game with a TD for him.

Holy Cross' last realistic chance at a comeback ended with a fourth-and-two at the Yale 42 at the end of the third quarter. Randolph was flushed from the pocket, and with Porter and fellow senior defensive linemen Brandt Hollander and Jared Hamilton surrounding him he forced an incomplete pass over the middle.

"We played well as a whole defensively," Hollander said. "It was a total defensive effort today."

After recovering a Yale fumble the Crusaders managed an eight-play, 41-yard drive for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the score 38-17. A blocked punt set up Holy Cross at the Yale 11 with 7:19 to play, but Randolph's jump pass into the end zone on fourth-and-one from the two was batted into the hands of junior linebacker Bobby Abare for Yale's third interception.

That gave McLeod a chance at the school single-game rushing record: 235 yards, set by Robert Carr against Cornell in 2002. McLeod surpassed that figure with a 17-yard run, then added a 14-yarder before giving way to Galvez.

"[Carr] was a great running back, and he was a great guy," McLeod said. "I know some day somebody is going to break my records. That's just what happens with records."

Yale hosts Dartmouth at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field next Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

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

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