Bull­dogs clinch share of Ivy League ti­tle

Yale ral­lies past Prince­ton to earn first ti­tle since 2006

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Chip Malafronte

PRINCE­TON, N.J. — They lit a hand­ful of vic­tory cigars on the field at Prince­ton Sta­dium not long af­ter the fi­nal sec­onds on the clock ex­pired Sat­ur­day. When you’ve waited 11 years for an Ivy League cham­pi­onship, the long­est drought in pro­gram his­tory, a few puffs of a cel­e­bra­tory sto­gie are in or­der.

The fact is that Yale, a year af­ter los­ing seven of 10 games, pushed it­self hard to­ward this end, the school’s 15th Ivy League ti­tle. And the Bull­dogs worked tire­lessly just to pull out this game, a 35-31 slugfest over Prince­ton, in which Yale trailed by 17 points late in the sec­ond quar­ter.

But when se­nior line­backer Foye Olu­okun in­ter­cepted Prince­ton quar­ter­back Chad Kanoff’s pass on fourth down with 1 minute, seven sec­onds left and the Tigers’ lethal of­fense driv­ing, Yale had clinched at least a share of first place for the first time since 2006.

“That’s when it kicked in and I started cry­ing on the side­line a lit­tle bit,” Olu­okun said. “We didn’t know what to ex­pect this year. We came a long way from be­ing 3-7 last sea­son. All we did was work and work and work. We’re happy now, but we have

one more game and want to cap it off with a win.”

The sea­son fi­nale comes next Sat­ur­day against Har­vard at the Yale Bowl. The Bull­dogs (8-1, 5-1) could claim their first out­right Ivy ti­tle since 1980.

It’s an op­por­tu­nity that’s there only be­cause Yale found a way to re­group af­ter tee­ter­ing on the brink of dis­as­ter against Prince­ton (5-4, 2-4).

Kanoff threw for a school-record 454 yards and four touch­downs. Three came in the first half, when the se­nior con­tin­u­ally beat Yale’s sec­ondary with the deep ball.

Jes­per Horstead caught an 88-yard touch­down pass in the first quar­ter. Stephen Carl­son caught one from 18 yards out be­fore Tiger Bech, in what ap­peared to be the knock­out blow, hauled in a 58-yarder with 1:51 left in the half.

Two huge plays helped turned the tide for Yale.

The first came just 29 sec­onds af­ter Bech’s touch­down catch gave Prince­ton a 24-7 lead. Kurt Rawl­ings threw a per­fect pass and hit tight end Jae­den Gra­ham in stride for a 58-yard touch­down, cut­ting the deficit to 10 points at half­time.

The next oc­curred on the sec­ond play from scrim­mage in the sec­ond half. Prince­ton run­ning back Collin Eaddy was hit by de­fen­sive end Earl Chism, fum­bling the ball. Spencer Matthaei re­cov­ered on the Tigers’ 35.

Four plays later, Zane Dudek, Yale’s bril­liant fresh­man run­ning back who had 35 car­ries for 180 yards and three touch­downs, scored on a 33-yard run to make the score 24-21.

“We cre­ated an ex­tra pos­ses­sion with the fum­ble,” Yale coach Tony Reno said. “At the end of the day, that was a huge turn­ing point in the game.”

Things got wild from there. Yale scored again, on a 1-yard run by Dudek, to take its first lead of the game, 28-24, with 3:58 to play in the third quar­ter. An­other touch­down pass by Kanoff briefly re­gained the lead for the Tigers at 31-28. Yale promptly marched down­field and scored again, a 4-yard run by Dudek, to make the score 35-31.

The Bull­dogs, who’d strug­gled to con­tain the Prince­ton pass­ing at­tack all game, made a pair of huge de­fen­sive stops to thwart po­ten­tial go-ahead drives in the fourth quar­ter.

Hay­den Carl­son broke up a pass on 4th-and-3 from the Yale 31 to get his team the ball back. A time-con­sum­ing Yale drive ended when Alex Gal­land missed a 41-yard field goal at­tempt with 2:20 re­main­ing.

Kanoff’s 31-yard com­ple­tion put the ball in Yale ter­rirory. But on 4th-and-8, line­backer Matt Oplinger pres­sured Kanoff into a hur­ried throw, which was picked off by Olu­okun to pre­serve vic­tory.

“It’s the best feel­ing in sports I’ve ever had,” Dudek said. “I’m still speech­less. It’s been a long sea­son, and we do this all to­gether. So to win it for the guys be­side me, that’s the best feel­ing. To be able to send (in­jured se­nior run­ning back) De­shawn Sal­ter out with a cham­pi­onship ring, to send (cap­tain) Spencer Rymiszewski out the way he’s sup­posed to be sent out. That’s what we do it for, and that’s a great feel­ing.”

For now, Yale — which, un­til this drought, had never gone longer than 10 years with­out win­ning the Ivy League — will bask in the af­ter­glow of this lon­gawaited cham­pi­onship. Though it will be short­lived. Ti­tle or no ti­tle, los­ing to Har­vard would be a blem­ish on the sea­son.

“We have a 24-hour rule around here,” Reno said. “Good, bad, we say en­joy it for 24 hours. A lit­tle less for the coaches. By the time we get in to­mor­row, we start talk­ing about ad­just­ments and get on to game No. 10.”

Yale’s Ross Dr­wal runs away from the de­fense on a touch­down re­cep­tion against Prince­ton on Sat­ur­day. Cour­tesy of Yale Ath­let­ics

Chip Malafronte / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Mem­bers of the Yale foot­ball team cel­e­brate af­ter beat­ing Prince­ton to clinch a share of the Ivy League cham­pi­onship.

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