Oplinger Leads Way with 3 Sacks, Safety
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The offense did its job, but it was a defensive day for the Yale Football Team which earned its first shutout since 2011 with a 32-0 win over Holy Cross at Yale Bowl on the Class of 1954 Field.
The Bulldogs, who improved to 4-1, were facing one of the top quarterbacks and offenses in the FCS with a number of key defensive secondary members out of the lineup. The Blue rose to the occasion, holding pro prospect Peter Pujals to 89 passing yards and a 143 of total offense.
Pressure from the defensive front that included four sacks and numerous hurries made for a rough day for the guys in purple helmets. Senior linebacker Matthew Oplinger had three of the sacks – all in the first half – and even tackled Pujals in the end zone for a safety late in the second quarter to make it 19-0.
"The past few weeks we have been working on different patterns and techniques. We put an emphasis this week on pass rush," said Oplinger, who is a key part of a Yale defense that ranks first in sacks among FCS schools. "I knew that I needed to improve on it. It really helped me hone in on what I needed to do. They [coaches] put me in really good position to make plays. I was just glad I was able to capitalize."
This was the first time since 2004 that the Crusaders (2-5) were blanked. Today's defensive accomplishment may have even surprised Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach, whose squad allowed just eight first downs.
"We knew we were going to be facing a very good opponent," said Reno. "Obviously a very explosive offense and a team that had beaten a top ranked team in the country. They also had come within a few plays of beating the University of Connecticut. Our guys took the challenge on from Sunday and really prepared well."
Meanwhile, the Eli offense also had a fine afternoon. It accounted for 452 yards, most of it coming during a 22-point second quarter that put the game out of reach.
After junior Alex Galland gave the Blue a 3-0 lead with a career-long, 39-yard field goal – the only points of the first quarter – senior receiver Michael Siragusa caught the first of his two scoring passes, a 5-yard connection with sophomore QB Kurt Rawlings, who notched a career-best 27 completions and 316 yards to go along with the two scores.
Freshman RB Zane Dudek, who had two 20-plus yard TD runs on just four attempts, increased the lead to 17-0 with a blast up the middle.
Yale also had a significant advantage in field position with help from Galland, who was booming punts (40.2 average) after playing his trumpet with the Yale Band during the national anthem. Four of his punts went inside the 20 and none of the five attempts were returned.
"Alex has done a really great job this season with placement," said Reno. "He places the ball really well on punts. That helps us so much in field position."
Christopher Williams-Lopez had six catches today and is now 10th on Yale's career list with 106 in just 16 games played... Matthew Oplinger now leads the Yale team with seven sacks… Yale had seven different ball carriers and nine players with receptions… The Elis had 23 players with defensive stats… Juniors Kamsi Nwangwu and Daniel Debner had their first varsity rushing attempts today… Zane Dudek now has seven rushing TDs and eight overall this fall… Yale's last shutout was a 30-0 win over Dartmouth in 2011… The last time Yale had a safety was in 2015 against Lehigh… The Bulldogs play at Penn next Saturday at 1 p.m... Tomorrow's JV game has been canceled.
By Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director – firstname.lastname@example.org