WASHINGTON, D.C. - Freshman quarterback Eric Williams' winning college debut was one for the record books, even one as dense as Yale's.
Williams passed for 250 yards, including a 98-yard touchdown to Cameron Sandquist for the longest pass play in the program's 140-year football history, and the Bulldogs opened their season with a 24-21 victory at Georgetown on Saturday.
Coming off an adversity-filled offseason, the Bulldogs (1-0) overcame five turnovers by forcing three fumbles and intercepting a pass in the final seconds.
After Georgetown coughed up possession deep in its own territory late in the third quarter with a 21-17 lead, Yale running back Tyler Varga scored the game-winning touchdown from nine yards.
Georgetown (2-1) crossed midfield three times in the fourth quarter. Yale stuffed quarterback Aaron Aiken's fourth-and-one run at the Bulldogs' 29 with 7:11 remaining and defensive back Collin Bibb intercepted Aiken's end zone pass from the 17-yard-line with 33 seconds left.
"I think that sort of speaks a little bit to our mentality; no matter what situation, no matter what the adversity is, we just got to play the next play and I think we did that today," linebacker Will McHale said.
Sandquist caught nine passes for 187 yards and Varga rushed for 100 yards on 21 carries for the Bulldogs, who opened their sixth straight season with a victory.
Trailing, 14-10, inside the final minute of the first half, Yale forced Aiken to fumble and recovered at its own two-yard line.
Not content to run out the clock, Williams threw a long pass down the right sideline toward the double covered Sandquist. Georgetown's defenders deflected the pass, but right to Yale's junior wide receiver, who raced for the touchdown and a 17-14 lead with 33 seconds left in the half.
The 98-yard touchdown broke a 37-year-old record of 97 yards, from Don Gesicki to Gary Fencik at Princeton in 1975.
"It was amazing," said Williams, who completed 19-of-30 passes, but threw three interceptions. "That was all Cam on that play basically. I put the ball too far inside, it was tipped.
"He has a great knack to get the ball. That's what he did, made a great play and took it to the house."
The potential 14-point swing dramatically shifted momentum and epitomized Georgetown's ill-timed mistakes.
"We didn't get a touchdown there and then they turnaround, the ball kind of tips up in the air and goes 98 yards for a touchdown," coach Kevin Kelly of Georgetown said.
"I just put my hands up and said, 'This is crazy.' We went in at halftime, regrouped, but didn't get it done."
The game also marked the head coaching debut of Yale's Tony Reno, who spent the last three seasons assisting at Harvard after a similar stint for the Bulldogs.
Reno's return to the New Haven campus was part of a tumultuous offseason, which included the coaching change and McHale's captaincy being suspended following an altercation with another student.
Last season, Yale finished 5-5 under former coach Tom Williams, who resigned in December amid allegations he falsified his resume.
"It was a good example for our team to say, 'OK, things are going to happen to us over the course of the season and we need to push through,'" Reno said of the disorder heading into the season.
"We need to perceiver through adversity. The silver lining is those experiences helped us to develop who we are."
After an exchange of opening possession fumbles, Yale's no-huddle offense marched 90 yards on 14 plays for the opening score, capped by Varga's first touchdown run from two yards.
Midway through the second quarter, Georgetown took the lead without its offense stepping on the field. After consecutive drives ended in missed field goals, the Hoyas scored on Kevin Macari's 79-yard punt return, tying the game, 7-7, with 8:42 remaining.
Only 77 seconds later, cornerback Kevin Moore returned his second interception of the half 41 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Georgetown lead.
Leading, 14-10, Georgetown threatened again before halftime, but Aiken fumbled inside the five-yard line, setting up the Sandquist's record breaking score.
Yale's first drive of the second half ended with a fumble following a botched snap. Taking over near midfield, Georgetown went ahead, 21-17, on Dalen Claytor's 32-yard touchdown run.
NOTES: Aaron Aiken totaled 77 of Georgetown's 260 rushing yards, but threw for only 94. ... Linebacker Will McHale collected a team-high 13 tackles for the Bulldogs. ....Philippe Panico's 41-yard field goal with 4:28 left in the second quarter pulled Yale to within 14-10. ... Georgetown lost to Yale for a third straight season after opening 2-0.