12:00 PM ET, November 21, 2009
Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Yale's first-year coach Tom Williams says he's ready to take responsibility for the Bulldogs' eighth loss in the last nine games to rival Harvard.
Yale was ahead 10-7 Saturday with just 2:25 left when it failed to convert a fake punt on fourth-and-22 from its 26, and wound up losing 14-10.
"The whole idea was to keep our foot on the pedal, and not play scared," said Williams in trying to explain the call. "If anyone is looking for somebody to blame, blame this guy right here."
The Crimson (7-3, 6-1 Ivy) got the ball when Yale safety John Powers was dragged down at his 40. Three plays later, Collier Winters hit Chris Lorditch down the left seam for a 32-yard winning score for Harvard.
What made the call even stranger was that Yale punter Tom Mante was leading the Ivy league and averaging over 51 yards per kick on the day.
A week after New England Patriots' Bill Belichick's fourth-down gamble late in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts led to a wave of criticism crashing onto the Super Bowl-winning coach, Williams' gamble made that seem conservative.
Williams expects to take the same type of criticism that Belichick has endured since deciding not to punt from his 28 on fourth-and-2 with a six-point lead and just over 2 minutes remaining against the Colts.
"With the time on the clock and the fact that they had used their last time out, we felt that if we had executed that play and got the necessary yardage, that the game was over," Williams said. "The other factor that was involved is that they seemed like they had gotten some momentum offensively."
The last time Harvard had won eight of nine from Yale was back in 1922.
Harvard (7-3, 6-1 Ivy) didn't get on the board until there was just under 7 minutes left in the game. Winters hit Matt Luft with a 41-yard touchdown pass over the middle, two plays after Gino Gordon converted that fourth-and-4 by spinning out of a tackle and racing down the left sideline for 19 yards. He finished with 86 yards on 13 carries.
"I just told the offense to keep pushing the ball, eventually we would get across the goal line," said Winters. "My receivers did a great job catching the ball and making plays. We knew wed eventually get some points on the board."
Lorditch finished with five catches and 104 yards.
Yale jumped out to an early lead, marching 61 yards on the opening drive to a 26-yard field goal by Alex Barnes. They went up 10-0 on a 3-yard run by Rodney Reynolds, his first career touchdown. That capped a 59-yard drive set up when cornerback Adam Money recovered a fumble by Winters.
Harvard had several missed scoring opportunities, failing three times on fourth down, including a faked 30-yard field goal that ended when kicker Patrick Long's pass was broken up by Larry Abare. Abare was playing with a cast on his right arm, which he broke Oct. 17 against Lehigh.
Harvard ate up over 7 1/2 minutes of the third quarter on a 14-play drive that was stopped by a Yale goal-line stand.
"In the end, it's all about not giving up," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "That's the kind of kids we have. That's what happened out there today."
Yale's Tom Mante, who hit a 56-yard field goal against Cornell earlier in the year, missed a 63-yard try as time expired in the first half. It had the distance, but was wide left. Yale also missed a 27-yard attempt, when Barnes was wide right in the fourth quarter.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-13||7-16|
|4th Down Conversions||1-4||2-4|
|FG||08:43||Alex Barnes 26 Yd||0||3|
|TD||04:43||Rodney Reynolds 3 Yd Run (Tom Mante Kick)||0||10|
|TD||06:46||Matt Luft 41 Yd Pass From Collier Winters (Patrick Long Kick)||7||10|
|TD||01:32||Chris Lorditch 32 Yd Pass From Collier Winters (Patrick Long Kick)||14||10|