NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Yale ended a lot of droughts by beating archrival Harvard on Saturday. The Bulldogs used a stifling defense to win 24-3, securing the program’s first outright Ivy League championship since 1980.
It was the first time Yale (9-1, 6-1 Ivy) had beaten Harvard (5-5, 3-4) at the Yale Bowl since 1999. It also was the first time the Bulldogs won two straight in the series since winning three in a row from 1998-2000.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was I.T.O., Ivy takeover, and we did it,” coach Tony Reno said. “I’m very proud of this group for what they’ve done and how they accomplished it and the precedent they set.”
Kurt Rawlings threw for 177 yards and a touchdown and Melvin Rouse and Zane Dudek combined for 106 yards rushing and a score.
But it was the Yale defense that dominated.
The Bulldogs held Harvard scoreless after a 29-yard field goal on the Crimson’s opening possession and kept their offense to just 164 total yards. Yale sacked freshman Jake Smith six times and forced four turnovers.
“This one was won in the trenches,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “They’ve got a big strong front seven and they’ve got big strong secondary guys and they just play right in your grill.”
Rawlings and receiver J.P. Shohfi got Yale on the board in the second quarter, connecting on a 46-yard pass, followed three plays later by a 9-yarder into the left corner of the end zone.
Yale quickly built on that lead when Harvard’s Smith made a bad decision on an option, fumbling a late pitch. Linebacker Malcolm Dixon picked up the ball and ran 19 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw him pitch it so I ran toward the running back,” Dixon said. “I saw him slip. I saw the end zone. I saw the ball, put two and two together and that was it.”
Another errant pitch by Smith on the next Harvard possession set up a 25-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, giving the Bulldogs a 17-3 lead.
Dudek’s 2-yard TD run in the fourth quarter capped an eight-play 81-yard drive that put the game out of reach.
Yale players rushed the field after the final whistle, when they were surrounded by thousands of fans who streamed from the stands.
“It was a surreal moment,” Yale captain Spencer Rymiszewski said. “To just go out like this. It’s a pitch-perfect ending.”
Yale: The Bulldogs already had clinched a share of their 15th Ivy League title with a win over Princeton last week. This is the team’s seventh outright title.
Harvard: Harvard had won 14 of the previous 16 meetings. This was the second straight game the Crimson has failed to score a touchdown, the first time that has happened since 1986.
Yale came into the game fourth in the FCS in sacks and has averaged 3.6 per game this year. Their six on the Saturday give the Bulldogs 36 for the season after making just 16 a year ago.
Dudek’s 64 yards rushing were well below his season average of 119 per game. The freshman finishes the year with 1,133 yards on just 159 carries, an average of more than 7 yards per run.
Harvard receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley caught seven passes for 77 yards. But three of those catches and four of his 10 touches came on the Crimson’s opening drive.
“He’s our best player, he’s our best athlete,” Murphy said. “It’s just been really tough getting the ball to him.
The Ivy League does not participate in the FCS playoffs, so the season is over for both teams.
By PAT EATON-ROBB, AP Sports Writer