It was defense that brought Yale to within one victory of the Ivy League title. Today, it was defense that clinched the championship.
Holding Princeton to 135 yards, scoring one touchdown on an interception and another on a fumble recovery, the Elis wrapped up their fifth outright Ivy title with a crushing 35-10 victory in front of 22,825 on a rainy after in Palmer Stadium.
"We never talked about an undefeated season before we started because we lost so many starters (18 or 22)," said captain Tim Trompone, who had one of Yale's four interceptions. "But now we can start thinking about it. It looks good."
Yale improved its record to 8-0 and its Ivy mark to 6-0. Princeton is 4-4 overall and 4-2 in the league. Brown's loss to Dartmouth eliminated Yale's last challenger. The Elis will go for their first perfect season since 1960 next week against Harvard.
Yale got the offense it needed from tailback Ken Hill and quarterback Dennis Dunn. Hill, who sat out part of the game with a bruised thigh, gained 129 yards on 19 carries and scored the first touchdown on a 64-yard off-tackle burst with 4:57 left in the first quarter.
Hill, 6 feet and 190 pounds, has 9.7 speed and is considered a prospect by pro scouts. He move past Calvin Hill (no relation) into sixth place on the all-time Yale rushing list today and has 1,551 yards for his college career, even though he has split time between wingback, fullback and tailback.
"He's a tough back" Princeton Coach Frank Navarro said. "He can get to the outside with that speed, but he's also strong enough to run inside like he did on the first touchdown."
The first touchdown was enough to keep Yale in the lead through half-time. Princeton made it 7-2 with 1:19 left in the half when Yale center Greg Repetti snapped the ball over punter Mike Sullivan's head and Sullivan bobbled the ball out of the end zone for a safety.
Other than Hill's run, the first half was all defense. Yale ended Princeton's only threat by stopping fullback Larry Van Pelt on fourth and one at the five. Princeton reached the five after Henry Milligan recovered a fumble at the Yale 14.
Through eight games, Yale has surrendered 166.4 yards a game, 65.4 rushing.
The Princeton defense was on the field for 12:38 in the third quarter. The Tigers were so tired, according to Navarro, that he used all three of his timeouts trying to rest them during the Yale touchdown drive that made the score 14-2.
That march, 58 yards in nine plays, was threatened when Yale had fourth and two at the Princeton eight. However, Eli quarterback Dunn, off play action, found fullback Mike McIntrye wide open for the touchdown.
Linebacker Trompone's interception and 22-yard return to the Princeton 15 on the ensuing series set up Yale's third touchdown, Dunn's 19-yard keeper on a fake reverse for a 21-2 lead.
That play appeared to end the suspense. But when backup quarterback Bob Rogan, trying to throw a down-and-out pass to Dennis Gaughan at the Princeton eight, threw short, Tiger Chris Boudreau stepped in and went 92 yards for a touchdown -- a school record. A two-point conversion made it 21-10 with 10:18 left.
Princeton then tried an onside kick and it worked, Mike Moran diving on the ball at mifield. But the Yale defense held again. Two plays later, Princeton quarterback Bob Holly, playing for injured starter Steve Reynolds, fumbled and the ever-present Crane jumped on the ball.
On Princeton's next series, Jim Dwyer hit Holly as he faded to pass from his 15. When the ball dropped loose, tackle Dave Conrad grabbed it in midair and ran unmolested into the end zone for a 28-10 lead with 6:13 left. i
Then, after injury to insult, the Eli knocked Holly silly on the first play after the kickoff. Two plays later, safety Arnie Pinkston dashed 40 yards with an errant pass from third-string Princeton quarterback Mark Lockenmeyer, creating the 35-10 final margin.