As stunning as it was to believe, had a Yale player recovered the ball on Brown's final offensive play, the Bulldogs may have been able to walk out of the Yale Bowl with an Ivy League championship still within their grasps.
In a mistake-prone game, Brown quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero fumbled the ball when all the Bears needed to do was take a knee and let the final seconds tick off the clock. After a wild scramble, it was ruled that Brown maintained possession and as a result, earned a 34-28 victory.
Capitalizing on three Patrick Witt interceptions and a key fumble by punt returner Gio Christodoulou, the Bears had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs mounted a frantic comeback.
Patrick Witt, who passed for two scores and ran for two more, had a 2-yard touchdown run and an 18-yard TD pass to Mordecai Cargill to pull within 34-28 with 1:28 to play. That set the stage for the final fumble in the game. Yale senior defensive tackle Reed Spiller came out of the pile with the ball but the officials ruled that Brown had already been awarded possession.
"I know we had our hands on it, they had their hands on it," Williams said. "The officials said that he ruled simultaneous possession to them, that is what he told me on the sideline."
The fact of the matter is that the Bulldogs were fortunate to even be within six points at game's end. Yale had enough miscues to last a season and those mistakes mean the Bulldogs would need all sorts of help to be able to go into the season-ending Harvard game in position to earn a share of the Ivy League title.
"We were playing until the last second, we had guys grabbing trying to get the ball but the fact of the matter is that we didn't play well enough to win in a game of that magnitude," Williams said. "We turned the ball over too many times, we didn't take advantage of good field position to score and we gave up a couple of easy touchdowns defensively. We had a punt blocked for no reason at all. If you do things in a game of this magnitude against a good team like Brown, you are going to lose the game. We had plenty of opportunities to have a good day and we didn't do it.
"It starts with me. I have to figure out the right buttons ti push with my football team so that we can execute with poise in a game of this magnitude. This is the point in the season with a team that has been around for at least three years with our staff that we felt confident that we would be able to finish these types of games and to have those things pop up in the biggest game of the year is a head scratcher to me."
Speaking of head scratchers, I asked Williams about the curious play call of having Deon Randall run the ball out of the Wildcat formation with Yale having a 2nd and 3 on the Brown 5. Randall was thrown for an eight-yard loss and Philippe Panico missed a 30-yard field goal. I know Yale was struggling to run the ball at that point but I'd take my chances with a powerful back like Cargill getting a couple of cracks into the 5 rather than the Wildcat.
"That is a play that we practiced all week in that situation and we didn't execute the blocking of it," Williams said. "There was a particular block that needed to be made. It wasn't and that caused us to move backwards. It came down to execution, we liked the play, we knew what we were going to get from it. When you aren't able to execute plays, it doesn't really matter what you call."
It also didn't help that Yale gave up the longest run in Brown football history as Mark Kachmar had 95 of his 192 rushing yards on the Bears' third offensive play. The Bulldogs had a hard time defending both the run and pass in the first half. Brown helped Yale come back by going a bit conservative in its offensive play calling in the second half.
"You kind of knew they had it in them with the kind of skill that they had to come back but when you are up by three touchdowns, it is a matter of getting first downs and we blew it down there," Brown coach Phil Estes said of Yale's late offensive barrage.
"We were up 20 points and we are going to be OK. We have to get some first downs and we just couldn't get the first downs. The problem is you just start watching the clock. You don't want to throw. They have great skill at receiver, great skill at running back, defensively they play some soft coverages but they really wrap up, they hit hard and tackle hard."
Yale senior running back Alex Thomas missed his second straight game with a knee injury while Chris Smith appeared to suffer an ankle injury in the second half. If there was a positive for Yale, it is the continued emergence of freshman defensive end E.J. Conway who had another strong game.
Witt finished with 370 yards and is now just 69 yards shy of Alvin Cowan's Yale career record. Speaking of Witt, a film crew from NBC Nightly News was on campus yesterday following Witt around and also at today's game. They are planning to run a segment on Monday's show about Witt's potential conflict with his final Rhodes Scholarship interview. The interview was set for the morning of Nov. 19 in Atlanta and if it is not shifted to the previous day, Witt would have to choose between playing in The Game and going to interview for the most prestigious scholarship in this country.
Labels: E.J. Conway, Gio Christodoulou, Jackson Liguori, Mordecai Cargill, Patrick Witt, Philippe Panico, Reed Spiller