NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The tandem of senior Deshawn Salter and freshman Zane Dudek led a ground attack that accounted for 342 yards as the Yale football team opened its home and league slate with a 49-24 win over Cornell.
Leading 14-10 after two quarters, the Elis scored four straight touchdowns, including two on the ground, to improve to 2-0. Salter ran for 143 yards and three scores, while Dudek enjoyed a second straight triple-digit performance with 173 yards and one touchdown.
The Bulldogs, who got 287 of its 342 rushing yards over the last 30 minutes, needed the big day on the ground to overcome a pair of early deficits.
Salter scored on one and three-yard scampers before reeling off an 82-yard dash that put the game away in the fourth quarter.
“I really got around the corner and there was no one there,” said Salter about the long run. “At that point, it was a track meet. It was easy on me, but I have to thank those big guys up front, our offensive line did really well.”
Dudek averaged 10.8 per carry and set up a pair of Yale scores with long runs, including a 47-yarder.
“I need to adapt to getting lower on plays, just getting three or four yards on plays instead of going for the long run the way I used to in high school,” said Dudek, who held the Pennsylvania record for yards in a game with close to 500 yards until last week. “I have to get used to not being wide open. Our O-line does a great job, so I can focus on getting us second and five, which makes it easier on our offense.”
Kurt Rawlings, coming off a 308-yard, four-TD day at Lehigh, was much busier distributing the ball to his runners than looking down field. He finished 10 for 17 with 123 yards, including a four-yard scoring pass to senior tight end Jaeden Graham.
The Yale defense had another solid overall showing despite a 272-yard passing performance by Big Red QB Dalton Banks. The Blue registered six sacks and now has 11 for the season with junior defensive end Kyle Mullen notching a pair against Cornell. He and his rotation of defensive mates put big hits on Banks all game.
“It definitely helps that we have some coverage behind us,” said Mullen, an All-Ivy pick last fall. “We work hard every day, and I think our D-line is playing really well. We must continue to play aggressively and work together.”
The defensive pressure set up seniors Jason Alessi and Hayden Carlson for first-half interceptions that enabled the home team to take a lead into the intermission. Carlson snatched a first-quarter tipped pass at the visitor’s 19-yard line and then sprinted to the right corner of the end zone before plowing through a few white shirts for his first career score on his seventh interception as Bulldog, giving his team a 7-3 lead.
“We have a lot of guys who have an aggressive mentality who will not sit back and let an offense attack us. We want to be the attackers,” said Yale captain Spencer Rymiszewski.
The most significant series of plays in this contest may have been Yale’s last on offense in the second quarter. Trailing 10-7, Rawlings connected with sophomore receiver Reed Klubnik on plays of 27 and 22 yards before the second-year signal-caller danced out of the pocket to run for a 14-yard touchdown with 53 seconds left. Rawlings used a Jon Bezney block near the line of scrimmage and then a Graham play on a Cornell defender at the five-yard line to get the space to find the end zone untouched for his first career rushing score.
Tony Reno, Yale’s Joel E. Smilow ’54 Head Coach, summed up the transition to the second half this way.
“You tell what a football team is made of when they’re not playing well. It’s easy to be on top and play your best, but it’s really hard to come back when you’re not playing your best,” said Reno about the first-half offensive shortcomings. “It’s very difficult, in a game, to make the adjustments you need to be successful. To me, that’s the mark of good team.”