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Yale-Penn Square Off in Philly Saturday

Jake Stoller and Reed Spiller. (photo by Ron Waite, Photosportacular)
Jake Stoller and Reed Spiller. (photo by Ron Waite, Photosportacular)



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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale football team (3-2, 2-0 Ivy), which finished off its non-league portion of the season last week, begins the Ivy stretch run this Saturday at Franklin Field. The Bulldogs and defending league champion Penn (3-2, 2-0) have a noon kickoff in Philadelphia that airs live on Versus TV and can be heard on WELI (960 AM, Radio.

Yale leads the series against the Quakers 44-33-1, though Penn has won 15 of the last 19 meetings. The Blue has won every contest when scoring over 21 points except for a 48-30 Penn victory in 1972 and 2003's 34-31 OT decision. Three of the last eight meetings have gone to OT.

The Bulldogs, looking for their first road win of 2011, are also looking for the first win in the state of Pennsylvania in three attempts this fall when a pair of 3-2 (2-0 Ivy) teams square off to see who can stay atop the league standings. On paper, the offenses are producing similar numbers while Penn's defense has been stingier. Both squads beat Dartmouth and lost to Lafayette in different places.

Junior WR Chris Smith (Midlothian, Va.) had 281 all-purpose yards and a 50-yard TD reception, but it wasn't enough in Lafayette's 28-19 win at Fisher Stadium. Yale had 361 yards of total offense but had the ball for 13 fewer minutes. Smith had a career-high seven catches for 174 yards and ran back five kickoffs for 107 more, while the Bulldogs played from behind almost the entire game. Senior RB Alex Thomas (Ansonia, Conn.) led the visitors with 65 rushing yards. On a day their team had three QB sacks, seniors LB Wes Moyer (Alameda, Calif.) and CB Drew Baldwin (Alexandria, Va.) led the Elis with five solo tackles each. Lafayette QB Andrew Shoop completed 17 of 21 passes with two TDs while his counterpart, senior Patrick Witt (Wylie, Texas) was 18-for-40 with 270 yards and a pair of scores, including a 10-yard toss to sophomore FB Elijah Thomas (Rochester, N.Y.).

Billy Ragone completed 18 of 31 passes for 185 yards, but it was his feet that got Penn a 27-20 win at Columbia. The junior QB from Cheshire, Conn., scored twice running the ball including the game-winner with 25 seconds left. He threw a TD pass with under a minute left at Hanover two weeks earlier to engineer a comeback win over Dartmouth. Three different Quakers picked off Columbia passes while Penn PK Connor Loftus connected on two field goals.

Penn held off a late Yale comeback in a battle of Ivy unbeatens last October at Yale Bowl that ended 27-20. The Bulldogs got 331 passing yards from QB Patrick Witt, including a pair of touchdowns, but the Quakers had one score set up by an interception and also got a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown.  Yale had the edge in total offense (360 to 308) but could not overcome some crucial missteps.

2007: Yale's goal-line stand followed a TD run by Mike McLeod '09 in the third OT of an Eli win, the first for the Blue at Penn since 1900… 2006: Alan Kimball's '08 35-yard field goal in OT gave Yale a 17-14 victory at New Haven... 2003: Playing its first modern OT game, Yale fell to Penn at Franklin Field (34-31) after erasing a 31-10 deficit. The Blue tied the game with 32 seconds left but had a FG attempt blocked in the extra session... 1991: Nick Crawford '92 rushed for a Yale QB record 204 yards in a 31-12 Bulldog win at New Haven... 1987: WR Bob Shoop '88 (currently Vanderbilt's defensive coordinator) capped off a miraculous comeback at Yale Bowl with a last-second TD reception in a 28-22 Yale victory... 1969: Jack Ford `72 (provides color for Yale on YES games) intercepted a Penn pass and went 77 yards for a score in a 21-3 Yale win... 1958: Herb Hallas '59 set a school record with a 94-yard punt return, but it was the only points in a 30-6 Quaker win.

In the only two league clashes, Brown blanked Princeton 34-0 and Penn edged Columbia 27-20. The Ivies won one of four games against Patriot teams: Holy Cross beat Dartmouth 25-17, Colgate slipped past Cornell 35-28 in OT and Harvard bashed Bucknell 42-3.

Brown at Cornell; Columbia at Dartmouth; Harvard at Princeton.

The Bulldogs rank third in both scoring offense and defense among Ivy squads. Yale has thrown the ball 167 times while running it on 156 plays.  

Yale finished 1-2 against Patriot League opponents this fall, beating Georgetown (5-2) and falling at Lehigh (6-1) and Lafayette (2-4).

Senior DT Jake Stoller (Shaker Heights, Ohio) leads Yale with four sacks this fall. He had 1.5 last week and is the top tackler (9) among Bulldog defensive linemen.

Sophomore DB Chris Brady (Wayne, NJ) had the best hit of the game against Lafayette. Midway through the second quarter, on a perfect form tackle, he knocked the helmet off a receiver who had a made a catch over the middle.

Most did it in high school, but none of the current Bulldogs had played a night game since coming to Yale until last week. The last Yale football night game was at San Diego in 1999.

Junior WR Chris Smith (Midlothian, Va.) earned the College Football Performance Awards National FCS Wide Receiver of the Week Honor with a career-high seven catches for 174 yards and one score. He also returned kickoffs for another 107 yards. He is the only Ivy player with three 100-yard receiving days this fall. Smith, the first player in Ivy history to run back a pair of kickoffs for TDs in the same game (last year at Brown, span of 2:23), ranks second in Yale career KOR yards with 1,301, which is 100 yards shy of Robert Carr '05. His 732 yards in 2010 are a single-season record. Smith is also the only Yale player with two career kickoff returns for TDs. He is also four catches shy of making the school's career top 10.

Smith's 2011 Numbers
102.2 ypg (1st Ivy, 8th FCS)
181 AP ypg (1st Ivy, 6th FCS)
5.0 rpg (2nd Ivy)
174 receiving yards vs. Lafayette (most in Ivy 2011)
163 KOR yards vs. Georgetown (most in Ivy 2011)

Smith's Career
84 catches (4 from top 10)
1,094 receiving yards (83 from top 10)
6 TDs (4 from top 10)
1,301 KOR yards (2nd)

Senior QB Patrick Witt (Wylie, Texas), a two-time Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week this season, is now Yale's career leader with 448 completions. He was a 2010 second-team All-Ivy selection who led the league in passing yards (2,216), yards/game (246.2), completions (212) and attempts (351) and was the only QB to complete more than 60% of his passes (60.4%). Witt, the largest starting signal caller in the Ivy League, was seventh in the FCS in completions/game (23.56) and 15th nationally in passing yards/game (246.22) last year. Elected to the team's Leadership Council, Witt became the first transfer (Nebraska) student at Yale to start immediately at QB since World War II (when transfers were common). He is also an outstanding student (3.91 GPA) who has written for the Yale Daily News, is a member of the Intercultural Affairs Council and has done some prison ministry work. Witt, Yale's candidate for National Football Foundation & Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete honors and the Campbell Trophy, has been endorsed by his school as a 2011 Rhodes Scholar candidate and a Mitchell Scholarship candidate. He also won the Francis Gordon Brown Prize, one of the school's highest undergraduate accolades, awarded to the student in the junior class in Yale College who most closely approaches the standards of intellectual ability, high manhood, capacity for leadership and service to the University set by Francis Gordon Brown, who captained Yale Football's "Team of the Century" in 1900.

Witt's Yale Career Numbers
448 completions (1st)
756 attempts (2nd)
29 TDs (6th)
4,784 yards (3rd)

As expected, senior captain Jordan Haynes (Folsom, Calif.) has been all over the field this year and is fourth among Ivy players with 9.0 tackles per game. Last year he led (102) the Elis and was second among Ivy players in tackles from his linebacker position. The 2010 first-team All-Ivy and All-New England pick represented the West as a National Football Foundation High School Scholar-Athlete. He is the first Yale captain from the Golden State since Thorne Shugart (Los Angeles) led the 1954 Bulldogs.

Senior WR Gio Christodoulou (Miami, Fla.), the Oct. 10 Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week after returning four punts for 106 yards in the win over Dartmouth, is atop the school's career punt return yardage list with 831. That also makes him the NCAA's active career leader. He currently leads the Ivies with a 14.1 average, while his 106 return yards vs. Dartmouth are the most for an Ivy player this fall. Christodoulou is in the mix of talented receivers getting snaps but only has two catches this fall after having 38 for a team-best 563 yards last fall. He came back to Yale this fall using a medical hardship waiver from 2009. He also has 23 kickoff returns for 553 yards (shy of 10th on career list).

Alex Thomas (Ansonia, Conn.), nicknamed "Train," is Yale's active career rushing leader with 1,390 yards and six 100-yard games. His career-high is 137 (best day for a Yalie in 2010) yards on 19 runs (7.2), including a 42-yard TD, against Columbia. He is also Yale's active career receiving leader (49) among the RBs. His 47-yard run at Cornell in 2010 was the longest run by a Bulldog last fall, while his 74-yard TD scamper vs. Dartmouth is the longest this season in the league. Thomas, a former Ansonia High School star, is the most prolific (8,279 yards, 114 TDs) runner in Connecticut High School history. The nickname stems from his "train" tattoo, a word based on scripture verses that refer to training both physically and spiritually.

Deon Randall (San Diego, Calif.) is listed as a RB on the Yale roster and a WR on the depth chart, but you could see him lining up at any skill spot. He leads the team with 23 catches while his 250 yards are second best. Randall's first collegiate TD came on a pass play and a scary collision over the middle at Lehigh.

Senior FS Geoff Dunham (Dallas, Texas) is third on the squad with 34 tackles. One of the largest DBs in the Ivy League at 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, he started every game last year and was third on the team with 31 solo tackles and 47 overall. His best day was 7-2-9 vs. Penn in 2010, and he scored the first TD of his football career on a fumble return against Princeton. He also had 7-2-9 against Cornell this fall. A biomedical  engineering major, Dunham interned in cancer research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 2007 and 2008 and spent some of a summer at Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla., doing the same thing. He stayed on the Yale campus last summer to take an organic chemistry class.

DE Austin Pulsipher (Temecula, Calif.) has accomplished more than the average college senior. After playing on the 2006 JV team, he spent two full years (2007, 2008) in greater Taipei, Taiwan on a Mormon mission where he became fluent in Mandarin Chinese and served in many leadership roles. Pulsipher, whose father played football at BYU, organized and taught a drug rehabilitation program while managing the finances of over 150 missionaries. He is also the only married member of the Yale football team; he arrived a few days late for football this summer because of the wedding (Aug. 13th in Newport Beach, Calif.). Sebastian Swett '09 was one of the groomsmen and the honeymoon was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Pulsipher, 23, the oldest player on the roster, is looking for his second varsity letter this fall. He is the only Bulldog with an Ivy League Championship (2006) ring.

The left side of the offensive line includes sophomore T Wes Gavin (San Diego, Calif., 6-5, 275) and G Colin Kruger (Sarasota, Fla., 6-3, 300). G Gabe Fernandez (Honolulu, HI, 6-0, 273) and T Roy Collins (Carbondale, Ill., 6-5, 260) are on the right. John Oppenheimer (Menlo Park, Calif., 6-0, 265) played DT as a freshman last fall before switching to center in the spring.

They don't want their names called on the PA system on game days, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve recognition. Here are some notes about Yale's starting five offensive trench guys. LT Wes Gavin's father, Bob, ran the two-mile event at the Missouri High School State Championships and the marathon during the 1975 Kansas Relays. He and his wife are under 5-foot-8. Their son was named scholar-athlete by the San Diego chapter of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame while also throwing the shot and discus in high school. He had offers from SDSU, Portland State, the military academies and the rest of the Ivy League … LG Colin Kruger, who might be the strongest guy on the team, had had offers to play at other FCS schools including Stanford… RG Gabe Fernandez, a mechanical engineering major who transferred from UCLA after his first year, was a very good soccer player in high school. His senior year's soccer team won the DII state title before he gained 30 to 40 pounds for football. His brother played offensive guard at Harvard… C John Oppenheimer, who moved over from the defense last spring, played both sides of the line in high school. His father, Peter Oppenheimer, is Apple's senior vice president and Chief Financial Officer… RT Roy Collins, who was a prep star at Choate Rosemary Hall, came to Yale as a TE. He was in the New Haven chapter of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. His first cousin, Gerome Sapp, played at Notre Dame and then with the Colts and the Ravens (2003-2007). His mother's cousin, Burgess Owens, played at the University of Miami and with the Jets and Raiders (1973-1982).

Junior PK Philippe Panico (pronounced pa-NEE-ko) is 4-for-7 on field goals, including a career-long, 39-yarder against the Hoyas and the Big Green, and is 14-for-17 on PATs. The Boston native connected on 17 of 18 PATs and six of 14 field goals in his first year of varsity kicking in 2010. His three-pointer with no time left at Dartmouth was the game-winner, while his 36-yard boot in the fourth quarter at Brown gave the Elis a three-point win. Panico, who had a 47-yard FG in the 2011 pre-season scrimmage, also swings a golf club well, playing for the Yale team as a freshman and leading his foursome to the lowest score at Yale Football Association Golf Outing in August. He had his photo taken with 2011 U.S. Open Champion Rory Mcllroy when the Yale team was at this year's New Haven Open tennis tournament.

Here are the awards handed out to Yale players after three weeks:

Ivy League Offensive Player of Week
9/17    QB Patrick Witt (co)
9/24    QB Patrick Witt
9/17    QB Patrick Witt
9/24    QB Patrick Witt
10/8    RB Alex Thomas, DT Jake Stoller, PR Gio Christodoulou
10/15    WR Chris Smith (National WR of the Week)

That's the 2011 team slogan and what is printed on the backs of the team t-shirts this fall.

Seven freshmen have seen action this season. P Kyle Cazzetta (Slate Hill, N.Y.), OL Ben Carberry (Oak Park, Ill.) and William Chism (Ridgeland, Mississippi), DE EJ Conway (Luthersville, Md.), DB Nick LaTesta (Wood Ridge, N.J.), RB Wynston Bouknight (Upper Marlboro, Md.) and LB Tyler Manu (Meridian, Idaho). Thirty-one members of Yale's Class of 2015 joined the Bulldogs this summer. The newcomers, representing 15 different states, include 15 defensive players, 16 on offense and a number who have played on both sides during their high school careers. The offensive linemen and defensive backs (6 each) outnumber any other position recruited in this class. The Class of 2015 is spread evenly across the U.S. with California (4) having the most. Connecticut has three, which does not

 include the Elis who attended Choate Rosemary Hall after growing up outside the Nutmeg State.

Senior DT Reed Spiller, nicknamed "Speed Riller" because he so fast for a 290-pounder, works with a program called Ready, Set, Launch, which helps underprivileged kids and guides them on the college application process… Alex Thomas (Ansonia, Conn.) and Ansonia native John Coughlin (Yale Football Office) have visited the Boys and Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley's Joel E. Smilow Clubhouse in Ansonia to help kids learn the importance of eating healthy and staying fit. They have also visited schools in the valley... Senior CB Drew Baldwin (Alexandria, Va.), co-chair of the Yale Black Men's Union Community Outreach Committee, is in his fourth year of outreach work. Baldwin is responsible for creating the lesson plans and the calendar of events, working to promote personal growth and development through educational activities. Classmate Jordan Haynes works closely with Baldwin on the project… Senior LB Nick Schneider (Cincinnati, OH) was one of seven friends at Yale's Saybrook College who founded ReadySetLaunch, a non-profit consulting organization that provides one-on-one college tutoring for underprivileged students. Schneider serves as director of external relations and manages relationships with potential donors in the community. His first year, he helped raise $50,000 in the Chase Community Giving Challenge.

There are 18 seniors listed among the players on the offense/defense on the two-deep depth chart. Thirteen juniors and sophomores are included with just a pair of newcomers. This does not include special teams.

Yale goes on the road for a third straight week with a trip to Columbia for a noon kickoff next Saturday, the first of three straight Yale on YES Network games.

Yale recorded its first safety since 2007 when the Lafayette long snapper misfired into his own end zone and a teammate had to knock it out of bounds… Sophomore FB Elijah Thomas, who had two catches last week, scored his first collegiate TD on a 10-yard pass play… C John Oppenheimer leads the team with two fumble recoveries this year and both of them came after Yale passes were picked off… Alex Thomas' 18 rushing attempts last week tied the season-high for the Bulldogs… Yale is -2 in turnover margin which ranks fifth in the Ivies… The Blue is No. 1 among the Ivy schools in kickoff coverage (42.0) and punt returns.

Two former Bulldogs are coaching in the NFL this season. Dick Jauron, who has spent 33 years in the NFL, playing and coaching, is the new defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns (2-3). Last year he coached the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive backs. Jauron was the 2001 AP Coach of the Year with the Chicago Bears and his most recent head coaching gig was at Buffalo. Pat Graham '01, a former Yale tight end and defensive lineman, is an assistant coach for the 5-1 New England Patriots. Graham, a Waterbury, Conn., native, was a member of Yale's 1999 Ivy title team.

There are four Yale players who could play three times this season in their home state (Lehigh, Lafayette, Penn). The Pennsylvania Bulldogs are TE Alex Birks (Pittsburgh), DB Ryan Falbo (Moon Township), LB Brian Leffler (Newtown) and OL Mike McInerney (Blue Bell). The Quakers have four Connecticut natives, two of whom are New Haven County natives, QB Billy Ragone (Cheshire) and DB Evan Jackson (Hamden).

For the 14th consecutive season, all 10 Yale Football games can be heard live on New Haven's News/Talk 960 WELI-AM and free online at Ron Vaccaro '04 (play-by-play) and Carm Cozza (color) have the call, which can be heard on AM radio throughout Connecticut and across Long Island Sound, for their seventh season together. WELI's broadcasts can now also be accessed for free via the "iheartradio" application available on most "smart phones". It can be downloaded either by typing into your phone's browser or by typing "iheartradio" in the app search field on your phone and is free of charge.

There was a time not too long ago that you could find a half dozen Yale football players who were also varsity baseball players. There might also be six competing in track & field, a few playing lacrosse and a guy or two rowing for the heavyweight program. For many reasons, those days are long gone. The current Yale football roster includes just one player, freshman L.J. Hunt (Stratford, Conn.), who is on another team roster. Hunt, a DB who has seen JV action this fall, was the captain of the St. Josephs lacrosse team and will play for Eli head coach Andy Shay.

Dartmouth owns the most Ivy League titles since league play officially began in 1956. Yale trails Penn by one for second, one championship in front of Harvard.
    No.     Team                Last Title
    17       Dartmouth        1996
    15       Penn                 2010
    14       Yale                  2006
    13       Harvard            2008
     9        Princeton          2006
     4        Brown              2008
     3        Cornell             1990
     1        Columbia         1961

The annual survey of Bulldogs produced the anticipated results; Yale is a team full of leaders who produced as much off the field as they did on it. Here is the 201 breakdown.

77         players were captains of their high school football team
52        players were captains of another sport in high school
62         players were a national honors society member
 8         players were class president at their high school
 9       players were student body president at their high school
 9       players were class valedictorian at their high school
 4      players were class salutatorian at their high school

The following Yalies have distinguished themselves according to a vote by their teammates.

DB Josh Grizzard (Sr, Zebulon, N.C.)… most humorous
DB Geoff Dunham (Sr, Dallas, Texas)… most intelligent
DL Jake Stoller (Sr, Shaker Heights, OH)… most vocal leader (not captain)
DL Pat Moran (Sr, Alexandria, Va.)… most likely to be U.S. President
RB Alex Thomas (Sr, Ansonia, Conn.)… strongest player (pound-for-pound)
DB Drew Baldwin (Sr, Alexandria, Va.)… most involved in community outreach

Tom Williams, the Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Yale Football, and some of his players are at the world famous Mory's (306 York Street) every Tuesday (Sept. 13 through Nov. 15) at 2 p.m. for the Dick Galiette Yale Football Press Conference. This event is limited to media only. Please contact Yale Sports Publicity Director Steve Conn ( if you would like to attend.

All five home games this season are video streamed (pay per view) on through Yale's All Access with Ron Vaccaro and Carm Cozza providing the call.

The Bulldogs, off on Mondays, are on the field at 7:30 a.m. (until approx. 9:30) Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday behind the baseball stadium. Fridays are walk-through days either at Yale Bowl or on the road and times vary. Players and coaches are available for interviews with working media following the practice if there are no class conflicts. All schedules are subject to change.

Yale on YES includes three broadcasts this fall on the YES Network. The YES games are Saturday, Oct. 29 (Yale at Columbia), Saturday, Nov. 5 (Brown at Yale) and Saturday, Nov. 12 (Yale at Princeton). All three games begin at noon ET. This is the fourth straight fall the Bulldogs appear on the network home for New York Yankees baseball. YES broadcaster Chris Shearn handles the play-by-play, with color commentary coming from former Ivy League and National Football League lineman Ross Tucker and former Yale defensive back Jack Ford '72, a well-known author and TV personality.

Yale football airs live on VERSUS three times this fall, the second of which is this Saturday (Cornell on Sept. 24 was first). Yale Bowl on Nov. 19 is the setting for the final VERSUS telecast and the 128th edition of The Game. All three contests are noon kickoffs. Randy Moss, a new member of NBC's award-winning horse racing coverage team and contributor to NFL Network, serves as the play-by-play announcer for all VERSUS Ivy League games and is joined in the booth by Ross Tucker as lead analyst.

"Hawaiian Fridays" are the rule in the Yale Football Office. Show up without a Hawaiian shirt and you risk a fine. Three coaches (Tom Williams, Ikaika Malloe, Doug Semones) have worked in high school, college or pro football on the island while three players, Gabe Fernandez (Honolulu), Kolu Buck (Kaneole) and Jake Semones (Haleiwa), grew up there.

The press box has a taste of New Haven with Yorkside Pizza & Restaurant serving slices, pasta and salad on home Saturdays. Rather than interrupting your work with a lunch at halftime, the food is now served on its arrival before kickoff.

Soon, everyone coming to the Bowl will know Yale's primary (Bulldogs) nickname.  A three-and-a half foot tall, 600-pound bronze statue of Handsome Dan will be placed outside in the Jensen Plaza and serve as the top spot to have photos taken around the famous venue.

Yale was the first football team of any type to reach 800 wins when it beat Dayton 42-6 on Sept. 16, 2000. It wasn't hard for Michigan (890) to catch up playing three or four games more than Yale (866) each season.

Nate Lawrie '04 (49ers), Shane Bannon '11 (Chiefs), Tom McCarthy '11 (Falcons) and Chris Blohm '11 (49ers) were in NFL camps this summer. All but Blohm saw action in exhibition games. Bannon, an HB who was drafted by Kansas City in the seventh round and is currently on the taxi squad, had the first and final carry of the opening pre-season contest in August. McCarthy, a free agent DL in the Atlanta Falcons camp, made two tackles in a pre-season game. Lawrie, a TE who has NFL experience but played in the UFL the last two years, signed with the 49ers in August and made a catch in their last exhibition game.

Jesse Reising '11, a starting LB for Yale last fall who was seriously injured at Harvard in the 2010 season finale, is still recovering from a collision with Crimson TB Gino Gordon that left the Bulldog with arm nerve damage. Reising's U.S. Marine Corps career is on hold, but the licensed pilot is still serving his country. He is currently in Afghanistan working as a contractor while he plans a non-profit organization with Yale classmate Nick Rugoff. "Operation Opportunity" will provide personalized prepatory services for the children of fallen service members.  "It's the means by which I hope to redirect the outpouring of support I have gotten since my injury towards the service members who are now serving in my place. I have been thinking, since all the e-mails and all the support started pouring in, how could I harness this support for some greater good."

Yale, which last played in the Golden State in 2005 at the University of San Diego, has another trip to California planned. On Oct. 5, 2013, the Bulldogs will play against Cal Poly Tech at San Luis Obispo. The only two games the Blue has played on the West Coast were against USD.

The Ivy League has a weekly online radio show, "Inside Ivy League Football." The 10-episode show airs Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on ( It's available on-demand via BlogTalkRadio and   

filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director