Monday, September 25, 2006

Yale-Cornell follow

By Sean Barker
Sports Editor


ITHACA, N.Y. — Yale has played prettier games in recent years. But the Bulldogs didn’t need pretty Saturday in their Ivy League football opener at Cornell. They needed a win.

Yale came together in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points to defeat the Big Red 21-9.

Congregating outside the visitor’s locker room, waiting to board their buses, players laughed and joked and spent time with their parents. Some coaches smoked cigars. Everyone smiled.

Someone mentioned with the win there would be movies on the bus. A loss, and players faced six hours in silence and darkness with only their thoughts to keep them company.

Yale desperately wanted to avenge the loss to San Diego in its season opener last week. Instead, the Bulldogs fell behind early en route to a 43-17 loss and were never able to do anything they wanted to do.

For three quarters against Cornell, Yale’s offense never truly clicked. But it responded in the fourth.


Sophomore quarterback Matt Polhemus was a modest 9-for-19 passing for 131 yards, but he completed 4 of 6 for 46 yards in the fourth quarter, including converting on each of Yale’s three third downs. He also had a rushing play of 26 yards.


“That last drive, we knew we had to do it,” Polhemus said.


Sophomore tailback Mike McLeod rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, his first 100-yard rushing game since Week 3 against Holy Cross last year. McLeod rushed for 49 yards on 10 carries in the fourth quarter.


“We were running dive and getting 6 yards every time,” said Yale senior captain and wide receiver Chandler Henley, who caught a third-down pass between two defenders to keep Yale’s final scoring drive going.


“Offensively at the end, we made plays,” Yale coach Jack Siedlecki said. “Our big-play players made plays when they had to. It was not a pretty offensive ballgame, but I don’t think we’re going to be a pretty offensive team this year, but that’s the way it is. We’re a little bit different style. We’re going to run the quarterback and Mike a lot. We’re going to have to play good defense and on special teams.”


They did Saturday.


Yale’s defense held Cornell to three field goals despite the Big Red reaching at least the Yale 22 five times.


Yale stopped Cornell on a fourth down play at the 22 and forced a fumble on Cornell’s first drive at the Yale 1, recovering the ball in the end zone.Yale’s special teams helped get the Bulldogs an average starting spot to their own 37.


“That’s how you become confident,” said Siedlecki, whose Bulldogs visit Lafayette Saturday at 1 p.m. “You make plays, get excited about them, and then believe you’re going to make another one. We have to teach on the negatives because we had some bad things happen to us, but we need to build off our success.”


Sean Barker can be reached at sbarker@nhregister.com.

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