With 40 seconds to go and the ball on Yale’s 17-yard line in Saturday’s football game, Georgetown junior quarterback Aaron Aiken lofted a pass toward the corner of the end zone.
But what could have been a storybook ending turned into a nightmare when the ball ended up in the hands of a Bulldog and the game-ending interception secured Yale’s 24-21 win, the sixth straight game when the Bulldogs have had theHoyas’ number.
“It was such a wacky game,” Head Coach Kevin Kelly said. “I have been coaching college football for 28 years, and I don’t know if I’ve been involved in a more wacky game.”
The unpredictable ride began right at the start, when Georgetown senior cornerback Jeremy Moore forced and recovered a fumble on Yale’s first possession.
But while the Blue and Gray successfully ran the ball inside the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line, a fumble gave the football right back to the Bulldogs.
After Georgetown was hit with a pass interference penalty on third down, Yale scored the first touchdown of the game with a 2-yard run by freshman tailback Tyler Varga.
Both Varga and junior running back Mordecai Cargill were able to find running space throughout the game, resulting in disappointment for a Georgetown defense that had done a good job containing the run over the first two games of the season.
“They ran the ball on us today,” Kelly said. “This will be a great game to take a look at the film and make corrections, as I told the team.”
The Hoyas, on the other hand, continued to struggle to move the ball — either running or passing — near the goal line, something that had plagued the Hoyas against Wagner last Saturday.
“That was something that last week we did a poor job with, and we have to correct that,” Kelly said of his team’s red zone woes. “So that’s something that, obviously, we’ll fix this week.”
Despite an 18-yard screen pass to junior halfback Dalen Claytor, the Blue and Gray had to settle for a 19-yard field goal attempt, but junior Matt MacZura’s chip-shot attempt hit the uprights, leaving Georgetown down, 7-0.
Moore came up with another big play in response to the disappointment, intercepting Yale freshman quarterback Eric Williams in Yale territory. Unsurprisingly, however, the Hoyas’ drive stalled, and MacZura — who made both of his field goal attempts against Wagner — was wide left on a 36-yard try.
Georgetown’s defense kept the team in the game, however, with sophomore wide receiver Kevin Macari taking the Bulldogs’ punt on the next drive 79 yards to tie the game for the Blue and Gray.
When Yale tried to respond, Moore forced his third turnover of the afternoon with another interception, one that he converted for a touchdown with a 41-yard return that gave Georgetown a 14-7 lead.
A methodical drive led the Bulldogs to a 36-yard field goal, but the Hoyas squandered any semblance of momentum when Aiken fumbled on the 8-yard line, the fourth time Georgetown found its way into the red zone but failed to score.
“There were two fumbles inside the 10, and then we missed two field goals,” Kelly said. “That’s a lot of points we left on the field.”
In an epitome of the game’s “wackiness,” the Bulldogs recovered the ball on their own 2-yard line and scored immediately when Williams heaved a pass downfield. It was tipped and eventually caught by junior receiver Cameron Sandquist for a 98-yard touchdown.
That sequence, which took place just before the intermission and gave the Bulldogs a 17-14 lead, was one of the Hoyas’ low points, and Kelly was quick to spell out its meaning.
“There’s probably a swing of 14 points right there,” Kelly said.
But in an odd subplot, Georgetown often looked like the better team, despite their sloppy play.
Coming out of the locker room, the Blue and Gray recovered the ball after punting to the Bulldogs when a high snap went over Williams’ head and was recovered by Georgetown senior linebacker Jeremy Grasso.
The Hoyas took advantage of the miscue with a beautiful 32-yard touchdown run by Claytor, regaining a 21-17 lead.
And Georgetown seemed to be in command when another high snap led to a sack by senior linebacker Robert McCabe and forced Yale to punt.
The drive was indicative of Georgetown’s defense for the day, which bent but did not break. Moore led the way early, while McCabe chipped in with 16 tackles, and junior linebacker Dustin Wharton had 13. McCabe and Wharton each had a sack as well.
“We got the stops when we needed to,” Kelly said, “but it wasn’t one of our better efforts.”
On the next offensive possession, the Blue and Gray coughed the ball up at their own 14-yard line, and Varga took the ball in from the 9-yard line to give Bulldogs a 24-21 lead.
Both defenses held firm for the rest of the half, although Georgetown’s seemed to sag as the game wore on. Sophomore safety Nick Alfieri came up with an interception for the Hoyas, however, and Yale stopped Georgetown on two separate fourth-down runs.
With 2:36 remaining, Georgetown batted down a Yale pass on third down and regained possession. The Hoyas’ drive downfield was full of promise — until the interception sealed their fate.
“The ball went up, and the kid made a heck of a play,” Kelly said of Yale’s interception. “In hindsight, we should have [run] the ball to the middle of the goalposts, kicked a field goal and gone into overtime. We didn’t make the play, and that kind of tops off the whole day.”
After the game, Kelly was quick to talk about the effort Georgetown will need to show in practice this week before the team travels to Princeton Friday.
“We’ve got to hang onto the football, and we’ve got to make the field goals,” Kelly said. “That’s what coaching is all about.”
The Hoyas will take on the Tigers at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised live on ESPNU.