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Bulldogs at the Bowl Saturday at 1

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The 2017 Yale Football season began in fine fashion last week on the road with a 56-28 win at Lehigh. This Saturday marks the opening of Ivy League play as the Big Red of Cornell come to Yale Bowl for a 1 p.m. kick. The home opener, which airs live on Eleven Sports (DirecTV 623), the Ivy League Network and ESPN Radio (AM-1300), is also Yale Youth Day.

Yale leads the series with Cornell 47-30-2 heading into the 80th meeting. The series began on Oct. 16, 1889, with Walter Camp coaching the Bulldogs to a 60-6 win at New Haven.  The Elis, who traveled to Ithaca less than a month after the first encounter and notched a 70-0 win, have taken five of the last nine meetings with the Big Red.

The Elis committed three costly turnovers in the first half leading to a 24-3 halftime deficit in front of a large Homecoming Day crowd at Ithaca. Despite a stout second-half effort by the Bulldog defense, surrendering just three points, the early mistakes proved to be too much as Yale fell 27-13. Yale defensive backs Hayden Carlson and Jason Alessi both recorded seven solo tackles.

The Yale offense exceeded its expectations for the opener in a 56-28 opening day victory over Lehigh at Goodman Stadium. The Bulldogs scored four times on passes and ran for four other TDs. It was the most Yale points in a game since the 2003 season opener, a 62-28 win over Towson at the Yale Bowl. The margin of victory was the largest since a 51-13 decision at Cornell in 2014. The Bulldog defense came up with big plays when needed, including five sacks, two of which caused fumbles that resulted in Yale scores.

Cornell committed five first-half turnovers, which resulted in 27 points, and Delaware (2-1) cruised to a 41-14 win at Delaware Stadium in the Big Red's season opener. Junior quarterback Dalton Banks completed 23-of-35 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown, but was also intercepted three times. He found 12 different receivers, with 13 different Big Red players making at least on catch. Sophomore defensive lineman Jordan Landsman, making his first collegiate start, had a pair of sacks and six total tackles.

This Saturday is Youth Day, but last Saturday at Lehigh was another kind of youth day. Freshman accounted for five TDs, and that was only from a combined 13 carries and five receptions. TB Zane Dudek (Kittanning, Pa.), who was honorable mention STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Week, had 131 yards and two scores on nine runs to lead the ground game, while WR Melvin Rouse II (East Charlotte, NC) had TDs on two of his four catches. TB Andrew Grinde (Great Falls, Montana.) also found the end zone on one of his four runs.

Sophomore defensive end Charles Callender (Cutler Bay, Fla.) and senior linebacker Matthew Oplinger (Summit, NJ) each had two sacks at Lehigh. The five total for Yale were the most for the Blue since registering seven in 2014 vs. Dartmouth. Callender (and captain Spencer Rymiszewski) forced a fumble that turned into an Eli TD. Senior DL Copache Tyler (Springfield, Ill.) had the other Yale sack.

Here are some highlights from the Yale-Cornell series: Morgan Roberts threw for 312 yards and tied a Yale single-game record by throwing five touchdowns. He also set a Yale single-game record for completion percentage, completing 26 of 30 passes in 2014… Tom Mante '10 tied the 104-year-old school record for longest field goal and broke the Ivy League record with a 54-yarder at the Bowl against the Big Red in 2009… Jeff Mroz '05 tied the school record with five TD passes in 2005; Ashley Wright '07 caught three Jeff Mroz passes that day to tie a Yale record… Robert Carr '05 rushed for a sophomore record 235 yards and four scores at Ithaca in 2002…  Billy Brown '02 tied the Yale standard for TDs in a game with three in 2001… P.J. Collins '04 set the "modern" school mark with seven punt returns in 2001… Yale had a school record 214 kickoff return yards in 1990 on eight returns… Ken Hill '79 broke a 19-year-old Yale record with a 100-yard kickoff return in the 1978 game… The Blue set a team record for punting average (47.8) in 1970.

Spencer Rymiszewski (West Chester, Pa.), who was voted captain by his teammates despite missing last season, has started all 27 games (136 tackles, 6 interceptions) in the defensive backfield that he's been available for. He earned freshman MVP honors in 2013 and was team MVP and a first-team All-Ivy pick in 2015. An injury slowed him in 2014, and he elected to have surgery over competing in 2016. His busiest day was 11 solos and one interception vs. Dartmouth in 2014.

He's the only player in school history to return two punts for TDs of 80 yards or more. Jason Alessi (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), the dual-sport standout who has been a starter on defense for most of his career, has 126 career tackles and four interceptions over 29 games, while his 358 career punt return yards are 6th best at Yale. His work as a midfielder on the lacrosse team has helped the defending Ivy champs win three straight league tournament titles.

In addition to their talk about assignments, blocks and plays on the Yale offensive line, there's likely to be some chatter related to biology. Seniors Jon Bezney, Karl Marback and Anders Huizenga are all science guys who helped the Bulldogs amass 566 yards of total offense at Lehigh.

BEZNEY, a molecular, cellular and developmental biology major, worked in Yale's Bindra Laboratory this summer in the department of therapeutic radiology. The laboratory focuses on novel therapeutics for brain cancer and specifically focuses on the biology of DNA repair. His project aimed to distinguish how certain drugs react in the presence and absence of key proteins involved in DNA repair, hoping to translate the findings into a clinical setting. Bezney (Cincinnati, Ohio), a tackle who missed last year with an injury, plans to attend medical school and become a physician.

HUIZENGA, a guard, is a biomedical engineering major who spent 8 weeks last summer in the legal department at Mercy Health, a Catholic non-profit hospital system in Ohio. He also spent 4 weeks interning for The Cooper Law Group in Colorado Springs, Colo. Huizenga (Trophy Club, Texas) plans to intern with the firm again next year and then go to law school.

MARBACK, a biomedical engineering major and the team's rocket scientist, has been sending devices into space as part of the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA). He helped build a rocket (sophomore year) that climbed to 10,000 feet and collected microbes from the air to learn more about what is living in the atmosphere. Marback (Birmingham, Mich.) moved from the defense as a sophomore and then started every game at center last year.

Bliksem, in South Africa, is slang for hitting, which is what Dieter Eiselen does very well on the Yale offensive line. The South African native, who played rugby from ages 7 to 16 before switching to Olympic weightlifting, was fascinated by the American gridiron and wanted to find a way to play after graduating from his local high school. He attended a football camp in Washington, D.C., and immediately garnered interest from colleges. He got in as a PG at Choate Rosemary Hall and then attended the Yale camp to get ready for his first season of football. Eiselen, who worked his way into the starting lineup as a rookie last fall, is the starter at guard this fall.
Sterling Strother (Moraga, Calif.), who earned a starting job at tackle last fall as a newcomer, is now Yale's center, playing the position for the first time. He learned to snap while staying at QB Kurt Rawlings' house the summer before their first season in New Haven. (Rawlings' father is a high school football coach, but Strother also learned from his own father, who did not play football but his son calls a "jack of all trades."). Strother, who is considering a major in psychology, became a starter early in the 2016 campaign.

The name may remind you of baseball (gloves), and his brother is is a college baseball player, but Kurt Rawlings is all about the gridiron, having grown into the game as the son of a high school football coach. The sophomore from Bel Air, Md., got the last three starts of 2016, including a win at Harvard, and picked up where he left off last fall. Rawlings completed 20 of 26 passes at Lehigh for 308 yards and four TDs to earn Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, College Sports Madness Ivy Player of the Week, honorable mention STATS FCS Offensive Player of Week and College Football Performance honorable mention national performer of the week.  He has nine TD passes in eight career games (4 starts).

Christopher Williams-Lopez (Duluth, Ga.), nicknamed "C-Lo," is the active career leader in receptions at Yale with 83 in just 12 games, while his 885 yards and four TDs are also tops on the team. The former Greater Atlanta Christian High School football and track captain came to New Haven as a Spanish Honor Society and National Honor Society member. He was also on the GACS President's list and won the school's citizenship award.

Junior Alex Galland (Bakersfield, Calif.) is handling the punting and place kicks, while the left leg of sophomore Sam Tuckerman (Bexley, Ohio) takes the Yale kickoffs. Tuckerman embraces the nicknames his high school friends use for him: The Hefty Lefty, The Hebrew Hammer. Junior Hunter Simino (Portage, Mich.) has been the top long snapper in every game since he arrived at Yale. When Simino was in fourth grade, his neighborhood friend (the offensive line coach at the rival high school) brought him to rival school's football camp and spent the day teaching him to snap.

Seven members of the 2017 team earned all-league honors last fall or in 2015. Here are the current All-Ivy players:

CB Spencer Rymiszewski '17 – First-Team 2015 *
DT Copache Tyler '17 – First-Team 2015 *
DB Jason Alessi '18 - Second-Team 2016
OL Karl Marback '18 - HM 2016
LB Matthew Oplinger '18 – HM 2015, 16
DE Kyle Mullen '19 - HM 2016
RB Alan Lamar '20 - Second-Team 2016 (missing 2017 due to injury)
*missed 2016 season and is a senior this fall 

The current roster includes the following:

87 High School football captains
53 High School captains of an additional sport
61 National Honor Society members
7 High School Class Presidents
3 High School Student Body Presidents
3 High School Valedictorians
2 High School Salutatorians

Yale players were surveyed about their teammates:
Most humorous: OL Anders Huizenga
Most intelligent: OL Jon Bezney
Most vocal leader (besides the captain): LB Matt Oplinger
Most interesting extracurricular activity: OL Karl Marback (rocket building)
Best singer: RB Kamsi Nwangwu
Strongest pound-for-pound: LB Matt Oplinger
Most involved in community outreach: QB Rafe Chapple

The 2017 Yale football team represents 24 states and 3 countries… California (14) has the most Bulldogs… Andrew Grinde is the first player from Montana since Greg Magee in 1998… Cameron Warfield is the first player from Washington, D.C. since John Kemp in 1990… Ross Drwal is the first player from Nebraska since Christopher Beutler in 1965… The heaviest player on the team is sophomore offensive lineman Sterling Strother at 310 pounds… The tallest player is freshman offensive lineman Grant Negali at 6-8… The Yale OL averages 6-4 and 280 pounds… The school with the most (6) players is Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn.

Sam Tuckerman and Jack Westafer did a 6-week, intensive Spanish immersion program through IES Madrid in order to test out of Yale's language requirement. They took two classes: a Spanish language course taught at El Colegio Mayor Universidad Guadalupe, and an art history class at the Prado Museum. Both tremendously improved their Spanish speaking skills and passed an exam to test out of remaining Spanish classes… Former Yale offensive lineman Cody Arledge, who is now a senior working with the team's football operations, spent part of last summer interning with the SMU Mustangs' football office.

There are three JV games slated for 1 p.m. at home this fall: Sept. 24 (Milford Academy); Oct. 15 (Brown) and Nov. 17 (Harvard).

Yale Player, Game, Honor
Kurt Rawlings, Lehigh: CSM, Ivy, STATS, CFP    
Zane Dudek, Lehigh: Hero, Ivy H, STATS

The Awards
(CSM) College Sports Madness Ivy POW; (Ivy) Ivy League Offensive Player of Week; (Ivy H) Ivy League Honor Roll; (STATS) STATS FCS Honorable mention;  (CFP) College Football Performance Awards; (Hero) Hero Sports candidate

The Cornell game is Youth Day at the Bowl… Health, fitness and sustainability is the focus for Oct. 14 with Holy Cross… Columbia is Hero's day… The Friday night Brown contest is Yale Employee and Community Game… Harvard is "Fill the Bowl" with the Connecticut Food Bank.

Yale TE D. Major Roman is a finalist for the 2017 NFF Chapter Scholar-Athlete Award. The awards honor these football players for their accomplishments as high school athletes, scholars and citizens. The winners will be announced October 4 and will travel to New York for the NFF Chapter Awards Luncheon in December.

This Saturday is the first birthday of Walter (a.k.a. Handsome Dan XVIII), who began his reign as The Yale Bulldog last November. The University has planned a special birthday celebration the day before the game on campus. The Yale Band will pay tribute to Walter on his official birth date at halftime of the Cornell game. There will also be a "passing of the leash" ceremony involving former mascot caretaker Chris Getman '64 and current keeper of the Dan Kevin Discepolo '09.

by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director -