NEW HAVEN — Unless good fortune bathed the football program from start to finish, Yale understood that it would eventually face a Saturday night and ensuing practice week trying to deal with a loss.
The Bulldogs escaped that inevitability for the first three weeks, recording historic offensive numbers in wins against Lehigh, Army and Cornell.
And then came last Saturday at Yale Bowl.
Yale's offense, and especially its defense, were one-upped by Dartmouth junior quarterback Dalyn Williams, who threw for 388 yards and three touchdowns and eventually rushed for the game-winner in the Big Green's 38-31 victory.
"It was a tough game for all of us … I thought we let one slip away," Yale coach Tony Reno said. "We had two or three opportunities in the second half to throw the knockout punch to finish them off and we didn't do it."
Now comes the natural follow-up question: How will Yale rebound Saturday against Colgate at Yale Bowl?
"The learning point for us is when you get the chance, you need to finish them off," Reno said. "Sunday's practice was great. I looked every guy in the eye and I got the same look back, although I could tell there was a little more burning [intensity]. Sometimes where you are faced with a situation when you are not as successful as you feel you should have been, there is a little more self-pity than usual. I did not see that from my players."
Colgate (4-2) twice trailed by 16 points last week before coming back for a 31-30 win against Princeton to extend its winning streak to four. Its 31 points and 414 yards of total offense were both season-highs for a team that opened with losses to Ball State and Delaware.
"We have a big test, but that's what we want to do here," Reno said. "We feel playing scholarship schools will help us in the end."
Yale opened last season with a 39-22 win at Colgate, a game in which it scored on each of its first four possessions to take a 20-0 lead.
Reno admitted that last week's loss hurt more than just about any of the 14 losses he has experienced since he arrived in 2012.
"We should have won, but we didn't do the things we needed to do to win, and the guys know it," Reno said. "Our three turnovers hurt, the special teams [punt return for touchdown] hurt and we didn't perform as well as we had, on either side of the ball, on third down.
"You put those three things together and it leads to being on the right side of the paper [where the loser is listed on a score line] instead of the left."
Still, Yale's offensive numbers are lofty. It is averaging 46.3 points, third in the FCS. Yale's 1888 team holds the record by scoring 698 points in a 13-0 season. The modern-day record is 354 in 2003. The Bulldogs also average 593.2 yards on offense.
Yale senior offensive tackle Ben Carbury expects the team to channel its frustration in a positive way.
"Anger is destructive to a football team," Carbury said. "The theme this year is to handle setbacks well, keep believing and grinding. We'll focus on what we've been doing in the past better. No drastic changes. No anger. No shouting matches."
In conjunction with its seasonlong celebration of Yale Bowl's 100th birthday, the program is welcoming those who played in the great Thanksgiving morning series between Hillhouse and West Haven High from 1939-57, a game that routinely drew more than 30,000 fans. ... Yale is expecting more than two dozen alumni on Saturday and the players will be honored at halftime.