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Yale Hosts Holy Cross Saturday

Mike McLeod scores against Holy Cross in the last meeting (Ron Waite's Photosportacular image)
Mike McLeod scores against Holy Cross in the last meeting (Ron Waite's Photosportacular image)

Crusaders Come to Bowl for Last Non-League Game


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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale Football Team, which has wins in three of its first four games, has its final non-league contest of the 2017 season when Holy Cross comes to Yale Bowl this Saturday. The Bulldogs and Crusaders have a 1 pm kickoff that airs live on the Ivy League Network and on the Yale Football Radio Network (AM 1300).

The Elis and the Crusaders meet for the first time since 2008. The Elis, who won 11 straight against the purple and white at one point, have a 26-5 advantage in the 114-year-old series.

The last time the Bulldogs met the Crusaders was 2008, a double-overtime victory for Yale. A 34-yard field goal by Tom Mante, followed by a defensive stand that forced Holy Cross into a missed 37-yard field goal, gave Yale a 31-28 win at Yale Bowl. The Bulldogs had to regroup after letting a 14-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter. The Yale defense limited Holy Cross to 55 rushing yards and picked off three passes, including one returned 32 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Bobby Abare.

Yale scored 27 points, rolled up 433 total yards against the fourth best defense in the FCS and had a 21-point lead in the first half, but came up short in a 28-27 decision at Dartmouth last week. That battle of unbeatens was the lone blemish for the Blue heading into week five. The Elis, who are coming up on the league stretch run, are third in the FCS with 48.3 points per game, while the Yale defense ranks first in sacks. Last week's contest was the first close call for Tony Reno's squad this fall after registering blowouts in the first three weeks. The Blue has played three of the first four games on the road, so they are hoping to take advantage of some home cooking this week.

Senior quarterback Peter Pujals threw for 500 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another score, but the Crusaders fell last week to 5-1 Monmouth, 48-36, at Fitton Field. Holy Cross, which is 2-4, rolled up 630 yards of total offense last Saturday. That's no surprise to anyone who has watched Tom Gilmore's squad this fall. Holy Cross beat a nationally-ranked New Hampshire team 51-26 last month and nearly (27-20) won at Connecticut before that. The Crusaders' one common opponent with Yale was Dartmouth, an OT loss at Hanover. Pujals is considered an NFL prospect and could take over all the school's career passing records.

RBs Deshawn Salter (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Zane Dudek (Kittanning, Pa.) have accounted for 12 of Yale's 14 rushing TDs this fall while serving as one of the best running combos in FCS play this fall. Salter, the team's active career TD leader with 15, is third in the nation with 10 points average. He is sixth with a 7.6 average per carry and had two straight games with three TDs, the most for an Eli back since Mike McLeod had consecutive triple TD games in 2007. Dudek is No. 3 in the FCS with an 8.9 average per run, while he is averaging 100 yards per game. Dudek, who began his collegiate career with a pair of triple-digit yardage games, came within a dozen yards of the Yale freshman record against Cornell while earning Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors. Dudek's Western Pennsylvania high school single-game rushing record (492 yards) was broken while he was making his collegiate debut at Lehigh. Freshman Michael Purvey Jr. (Houston, Texas) and junior Kyle Ellerson (Oradell, NJ) have also seen varsity action. 

Salter & Dudek in 2017
Game        Salter            Dudek
Lehigh:     13-42, 1 TD        9-131, 2 TD
Cornell:        12-143, 3 TD        16-173, 1 TD
Fordham:    8-118, 3 TD        10-56, 2 TD
Dartmouth:    16-73, 0 TD        10-43, O TD (1 rec TD)

Yale leads the FCS in sacks with a 4.5 average and have now surpassed its 2016 total with 18 this fall. Sophomore defensive end Charles Callender (Cutler Bay, Fla.) and senior LB Matthew Oplinger (Summit, NJ) lead the team with four each. Senior DL Copache Tyler (Springfield, Ill.) and junior DE Kyle Mullen (Manalapan, NJ) each have three. The six total for Yale vs. Cornell were the most for the Blue since registering seven in 2014 vs. Dartmouth.
Spencer Rymiszewski (West Chester, Pa.), who was voted captain by his teammates despite missing last season with an injury, has started all 30 games (150 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. Rymiszewski, whose busiest day was 11 solos and one interception vs. Dartmouth in 2014, leads the current squad in pass breakups.

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 133 career tackles and six interceptions over 32 games, while his 387 career punt return yards are 5th best at Yale. His work as a midfielder on the lacrosse team has helped the defending Ivy champs win three straight league tournament titles.

Seniors Jon Bezney and Karl Marback, two starters on the offensive line, are science guys. They have helped the Elis rank among the best in the nation in total offense and scoring, but they are equally impressive off the field.

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.

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.), a semifinalist for the 2017 William Campbell Trophy (nation's top football student-athlete), moved from the defense as a sophomore and then started every game at center last year.

Anders Huizenga, a guard, is a political science 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), who is known for his Yoga interests, plans to intern with the firm again next year and then go to law school.

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 and has played all five spots on the Yale o-line, became a starter early in the 2016 campaign.

The name may remind you of baseball (gloves), and his brother is a college baseball player, but Kurt Rawlings, who is third in the FCS with a .706 completion percentage, 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.  Rawlings established a Yale record for completion percentage with 18 connections (including the first 14 straight) on 20 attempts at Fordham. He has 14 TD passes in 11 career games (6 starts).

Rawlings in 2017
at Lehigh: 20-26, 308 yards, 4 TD, 0 int.
vs Cornell: 10-17, 123 yards, 1 TD, 1 int.
at Fordham: 18-20, 189 yards, 1 TD, 1 int.
at Dartmouth: 24-39, 283 yards, 3 TDs, 2 int.
Christopher Williams-Lopez (Duluth, Ga.), nicknamed "C-Lo," is Yale's active career leader in receptions with 100 in an injury-shortened, 15-game career. The senior WR leads the team this fall with 25 catches and 348 yards. He led the Blue with 60 catches in 2015. C-Lo had a season-high 10 grabs with one score at Dartmouth in 2017. 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.

Yale is ranked No. 1 in the FCS in three team categories, including sacks… Rawlings had a career-best 24 completions last week… Zane Dudek caught a career-high six passes last week, including his first career TD reception. He also returned a pair of kickoffs… Senior DB Hayden Carlson, Yale's active career leader with 237 tackles, scored his first TD on his seventh career interception vs. Cornell… Senior TE Jaeden Graham may be the most improved player on the 2017 team. He would have made it three games in a row with TDs last week if not for a questionable, third-quarter call in the end zone.

Junior Alex Galland (Bakersfield, Calif.) is handling the punting and place kicks this season. He is third in the Ivy with a 40.5-yard punt average, while nine of his 17 punts have been inside the 20. Last summer, in addition to working out, Galland interned as a mechanical engineer, helping design facilities for Hess Oil. The mechanical engineering major in Pauli Murray College was building 3D models and making sure they were compliant with state laws. His Yale career placekicking numbers are: 10-14 on FGs, 41-43 on PATs.

Sophomore lefty PK Sam Tuckerman (Bexley, Ohio) takes the Yale kickoffs and has six touchbacks this fall. He and a teammate did a 6-week, intensive Spanish immersion program last summer through IES Madrid in order to test out of Yale's language requirement. 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 the rival school's football camp and spent the day teaching him to snap. He missed the second half at Lehigh this year with an injury, and the emergency snapper, TE Jaeden Graham, had to snap for kicks and punts.

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

The 2017 Yale football team represents 24 states and 3 countries… California (14) has the most Bulldogs… 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 Yale starting offensive line averages 6-5 and 299.6 pounds… The school with the most (6) players is a college prep called Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn.

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). The Bulldogs lost a close game to Milford but had some great performances. RBs Kamsi Nwangwu (Woodbridge, Conn.) and Michael Purvey Jr. (Houston, Texas) scored rushing TDs, while Stephen Barmore (Southington, Conn.) threw scoring passes to WR Garret White (Newport Coast, Calif.) and TE J.J. Howland (Fiskdale, Mass.). LB Jack Westafer (Saint Paul, Minn.) had an interception and a sack for the defense.

Yale Player, Game, Honor
Kurt Rawlings: Lehigh: CSM, Ivy, STATS, CFP    
Zane Dudek: Lehigh: Hero, Ivy H, STATS; Cornell: Ivy R
Deshawn Salter: Cornell: Ivy H; Fordham: Ivy H
Christopher Williams-Lopez: Dartmouth Ivy H

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

Every Tuesday, the Dick Galiette, Yale Football Media Luncheon, takes place at Mory's on York Street. Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach, is joined by a few of his student-athletes. Captain Spencer Rymiszewski, Zane Dudek, Deshawn Salter, Foyesade Oluokun, Matthew Oplinger, Hayden Carlson, Kurt Rawlings and Jaeden Graham have attended this fall.

The Cornell game was 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.

by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director