Yale Bowl: Still a place to be
NEW HAVEN – Once again it was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon like so many other Saturday afternoons that have entertained and amazed over a 100-year journey. Once again Yale Bowl proved it still has it.
Albie Booth wasn’t around or Heisman Trophy winners Clint Frank and Larry Kelly. Calvin Hill and Brian Dowling were nowhere to be seen nor where Dick Jauron, John Pagliaro, Rich Diana or Kevin Czinger. All legendary names of accomplishment.
Those are days past, gloried reminders of a gloried history. These are different days but Yale Bowl for all its chipped paint and wooden seats reminded us once again that it is still a venue that stands tall, still a marvelous monument capable of making you a take-home memory.
And so it was Saturday. You don’t get these big days too often any more, the cavernous Bowl often home to quaint Ivy League contests when empty seats reign. Only Harvard seems to generate the electricity that used to juice and jack up the multitudes.
This one was different. Yale Bowl raised its illustrious head and roared once more. Give Army credit for helping bringing it all back. This is a rivalry that bore national implications at one time, national championships in the battle.
They hadn’t played since 1996, this matchup needing special dispensation from the NCAA because Yale isn’t Division I and Army needed approval to count a win if it had gotten one towards Bowl qualification.
But they got it down with NCAA approval and Army always brings more with it than game. The stirring site of 1,000 white-clad cadets marching on to the field emphasized the unity among the sweating sun-drenched 34,142 fans rooting for different teams. Future fighting boys will do that.
Another reminder of the Army impact was the effect on the `Yale Precision Marching Band.’ The Eli horn tooters and such are notorious for their biting half time shows that usually spare noone nowhere. They were on perfect behavior this day, marching step for step with the impeccable musicians from Army Now that takes some doing.
Follow that up with four Army skydivers from 3,500 feet who landed quite elegantly right in the middle of the field. So many people were looking up you would have thought this was a mass prayer service. The helicopter than circled the top of the Bowl again drawing raves from the fans. There were cadets and fans running around the inside of the Bowl with American flags.
It was all good but the Bowl has always been made by the game and add this one to the list of classics. There have been great games and performances in the sea of green surrounded by now 61,446 seats. This one occupies a spot somewhere on the list.
Yale 49, Army 43 in overtime. Everything to make your day was there (except for defense and the almost four hours it took to play the game). Yale trailed throughout, on several occasions by two touchdowns. Rarely has the Eli defenseless looked as hapless and helpless as it did against the Army option attack.
The Cadets rushed for 386 yards and 597 yards total. Generally that will put one in the win column for you. Generally. Army and probably most of Connecticut, meet the Yale offense.
The Bulldogs have a blue chip running back in 5-foot-11, 224 lbs. Tyler Varga who bulldozed his way to 185 yards and five touchdowns. Varga had the media calling him the best back in Connecticut and who is to argue (sorry UConn.)
Yale may also have the best QB in Connecticut in junior Morgan Roberts (23-40, 290 yds.) The defensive struggles the offensive rolls. A total of 625 yards and now 92 points in two games.
With 1:42 to go and trailing, 43-36, Roberts drove the ball down the field and Varga rumbled into the end zone from 10 yards out to tie the game.
The drama didn’t end there. Army put the ball in field goal position only to see Dan Grochowski miss wide left from 42 yards out as time expired. His pain was just beginning.
In overtime, Army took the ball first and Grochowski was up again this time from 25 yards out and again he could not find the uprights. Yale had the ball on the 3-yard line and gave it to guess who, Varga. He bulldogged his way into the end zone sending Yale into a euphoria it hasn’t seen in more than a few Saturdays.
Yale lets the fans on the field after the game anyway, but the rush of players and spectators spoke of victory not just the desire to touch the fabled Bowl turf. This was big-time on a big-time day.
A huge comeback, more drama than a Hitchcock thriller, Army on the other side. Safe to say Yale and its fans took their sunburns on the 85 degree day out of the Bowl carrying smiles that could be rivaled only by a victory over Harvard.
This could be a special year for Yale if they can get the defense figured out. But the rest of the fall not withstanding, Yale Bowl reigned supreme on one more fall Saturday. ESPN Game Day chose not to come to the Bowl Saturday. Their loss.
One more time Yale Bowl was the place to be. Once again, one of America’s most famous athletic arenas proved it can still put on a special show. The Bowl will always be about yesterday. But it can still boogey today, ask those 34,000 plus that knew where their car should head Saturday. Classic.