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Matthew Sluka, Holy Cross pass Yale by in second half to run away with nonconference victory

Matthew Sluka threw for four touchdowns and ran for another pair of scores.Andrew Holtan

Holy Cross, led by dual-threat quarterback Matthew Sluka, blew open a close game by scoring four straight touchdowns in the second half to beat Yale, 49-24, in a nonconference football clash Saturday in New Haven, Conn.

Sluka threw three of his four touchdowns passes during the second-half onslaught. In addition to his first-half TD pass, he also ran for two scores as the Crusaders (2-1) carried a 21-17 lead into the break. The senior finished with 275 passing yards and 98 on the ground.

“Offensively, what a show we put on,” Holy Cross coach Bob Chesney said. “We were very confident that we were going to be able to move the ball, and continue to move the ball throughout the day.”


Yale (0-1) opened the scoring on a 1-yard rush from Joshua Pitsenberger less than five minutes into the game, but Sluka began to impose himself upon the game soon after. He rushed for a 19-yard score on the Crusaders’ opening drive, then found senior wide receiver Jalen Coker on a 3-yard pass for the first of their three touchdown connections.

Coker finished with nine receptions for 124 yards. He caught TD passes of 4 and 5 yards in the second half.

“My job is to go and get it,” Coker said. “Wherever [Sluka] puts it, it’s my job to catch it. We’ve been practicing it for four years now, so it’s just second nature at this point.”

Sluka added his second rushing touchdown, this time from 18 yards out, on the Crusaders’ next drive and with 1:44 to play in the half. Holy Cross found the end zone on seven of its first eight drives, with the only non-scoring drive ending in a missed field goal.

In addition to Coker’s two second-half scores, Jordan Fuller added an 11-yard touchdown run and Jacob Peterson caught an 8-yard TD pass from Sluka.


The Crusaders held Yale to just 153 total yards in the second half, tightening up after the Bulldogs found plenty of running room in the first half for Tre Peterson (95 yards) and quarterback Nolan Grooms (68).

The defense picked up back-to-back fourth-down stops before forcing a fumble that gave the offense the ball at the Yale 5. Fifth-year linebacker Jacob Dobbs finished with a game-high 17 tackles.

“When, schematically, you have coaches that are going to put you in the best position, all you have to do is go out there and execute,” Dobbs said. “There was a lack of execution on our end at the beginning of the game … We finally found what they were doing, and went and made really good adjustments in the second half.”

The Crusaders host Colgate (0-2) in a Patriot League opener Saturday at Worcester’s Fitton Field.

Boston Globe Today: Sports | September 15, 2023
Watch the full episode of Boston Globe Today: Sports from September 15, 2023.