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Yale Hosts Undefeated Columbia

The Bulldogs won at Baker Field last year (Jack Warhola image)
The Bulldogs won at Baker Field last year (Jack Warhola image)

First Place on the Line Saturday at Bowl


NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Bulldogs, 5-1 overall (2-1 Ivy) after a win at Penn, have a chance to put themselves atop the Ivy League this week with an undefeated squad guarding first place in week seven. The last time Columbia came to Yale Bowl with a perfect record was 1996. The Lions edged Yale 21 years ago to improve to 6-0, the same record they bring to New Haven this Saturday. Yale and Columbia have a 1 p.m. kick in their 93rd meeting on Heroes Day, which airs live on SNY TV (Ron Vaccaro '04, Jack Ford '72), the Ivy League Network and on WELI Radio 960 AM (Evan Ellis '12, Jack Siedlecki).

Yale, which has taken 12 of the last 14 games, leads the series 70-20-2, its most commanding advantage over any league team. Columbia won the 2015 meeting in New Haven, but the Blue came back for a win at New York last fall. The Elis are 35-10-0 on the road and 35-10-2 at home against the Light Blue.

John Herubin had not scored a touchdown since he was a middle school quarterback in Coppell, Texas. The defensive tackle scooped up a fumble and sprinted 61 yards in the second quarter to give Yale the game's first points and helped the Elis to a 31-23 win over Columbia at Wien Stadium.

Yale is 5-1 for the first time since 2014, when the Bulldogs won eight of their first nine games. The Bulldogs won all three 2017 non-league games by an average of 28 points. The league games have been more of a mix: a blowout against Cornell, a one-point loss to Dartmouth and a comeback, close win at Penn.

Kurt Rawlings found Christopher Williams-Lopez in the corner of the end zone with 4:52 left in the fourth quarter on a four-yard pass play and the Yale defense came up with one of many huge stops as the Bulldogs came from behind to beat Penn 24-19 last week at Franklin Field. The Blue, which allowed an opponent to score the first points of a game for the first time this fall, overcame 7-0, 10-7 and 19-18 deficits to notch its first victory at Philly since 2007. Yale sacks Penn QBs six times while holding the home team under 300 yards of total offense.

Columbia, looking for its first 7-0 start since 1932, has beaten Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth. That trifecta tells you they are a legitimate championship contender, maybe the first for the Lions in 20 years. Last week, Columbia knocked off the Big Green at Hanover, 22-17, with a great, late defensive effort. The Lions have had the great defense all season, but half of their wins have come in the final two minutes.

Columbia's defense came up with two key stops in the game's final three minutes, including a key sack in the closing seconds, to register the victory at Dartmouth. Lions' DB Ryan Gilbert broke up a fourth-and-goal play in the end zone on the Big Green's second-to-last possession. The home had another shot with 17 seconds left on a first-and-goal play from the Columbia seven. DL Mike Hinton registered a sack and the clock ran out on the Green. RB Josh Bean had two TD runs and WR Josh Wainright caught a two-yard scoring pass from Anders Hill for the Lions.

Yale enters the game with Columbia at 899 all-time wins, third among all Division I teams. Michigan leads college football with 940 wins, while Notre Dame is second with 902. The Bulldogs' total includes a 1997 forfeit (ineligible player) against Penn that is recognized by the Ivy League but not by the NCAA.

The Lions did not allow Yale to complete a pass in a 1954 game but still lost 13-7... Columbia blanked a Yale team in 1961 (11-0) that was coming off an undefeated campaign. It was the fourth and last shutout of the Bulldogs by the Lions... Columbia QB Marty Domres, a future NFL QB, threw for 326 yards in 1966 for the Lions in a losing (44-21) effort... Yale QB Pete Doherty '67 connected on a school-record five TD passes in 1966 (44-21 Yale win)... Yale and NFL great Dick Jauron '73 scampered 87 yards late in the fourth for the deciding score in a 28-14 win over Columbia in 1972... Ryan LoProto '02 scored on two interceptions, including one from 67 yards, as Yale won 41-0 in 2000… Kahlil Keys '15 broke the Yale record for the longest run from scrimmage with a 94-yard dash at the Bowl in 2013.

RBs Deshawn Salter (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Zane Dudek (Kittanning, Pa.) have accounted for 15 of Yale's 17 rushing TDs while serving as one of the best combos in FCS play this fall. Salter, the team's active career TD leader with 15, is eighth in the FCS with a 6.7 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, whose 9 overall TDs are a freshman school record, is No. 5 in the FCS with 9.0 points per game and 2nd in the FCS with 9.0 yards per carry. Dudek was Ivy Rookie of the Week after his third 100-yard day of the year at Penn. He began his collegiate career with a pair of 100-plus yard games. He came within a dozen yards of the Yale freshman record against Cornell while earning Ivy Rookie of the Week honors. Dudek's Western Pennsylvania high school game rushing record (492 yards) was broken while he was making his collegiate debut at Lehigh.

Yale leads the FCS in sacks with a 4.6 average and have now surpassed its 2016 total with 28 this fall. Senior LB Matthew Oplinger (Summit, NJ) leads the FCS with eight, having notched three (including a safety) against Holy Cross. That was the most sacks in a game for a Bulldog in 15 years. Sophomore defensive end Charles Callender (Cutler Bay, Fla.) and junior DE Kyle Mullen (Manalapan, NJ) each have four, while senior DL Copache Tyler (Springfield, Ill.) and junior DE J. Hunter Roman have three. Yale had a season-best six sacks against both Penn and Cornell. 

The Yale defense is No. 1 in the FCS in red zone effectiveness (.625) and sacks, ninth in stopping the rush (85.0) and 16th in scoring (18.2). One of the major contributors all season has been senior LB Foyesade Oluokun (St. Louis, Mo.), who earned the team's first Ivy Defensive Player of the Week honor after making 10 tackles, including two sacks and a forced fumble at Penn.
Spencer Rymiszewski (West Chester, Pa.), who was voted captain by his teammates despite missing last season with an injury, has started all 31 games (152 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 147 career tackles and six interceptions over 34 games, while his 392 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.

Senior DB Hayden Carlson (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), Yale's active career leader with 249 tackles, is 16th on the school's career list. Carlson, who scored his first TD on his seventh career interception vs. Cornell this fall, led the Ivy League in tackles in 2015 with 92 and was third in 2016 with 95.

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 played football in high school. 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 second in the FCS with a .702 completion percentage, is all about the gridiron, having grown into the game as the son of a high school football coach (Yale's first since Dean Loucks '57). 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 18 TD passes in 13 career games (8 starts).

Christopher Williams-Lopez (Duluth, Ga.), nicknamed "C-Lo," is Yale's active career leader in receptions with 112 (9th for a Yale career) in an injury-shortened, 17-game career. His 6.58 average per game is among the top 3 in the nation, but the NCAA does not include anyone with fewer than 125 career catches. The senior WR leads the team this fall with 37 catches. 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.

Columbia got 115 votes and Yale 2 in this week's STATS FCS Top 25 poll... Senior LB Matthew Oplinger is responsible for four Yale points this year. He tackled the Holy Cross QB for a safety and caught a conversion pass against Penn… Junior DE J. Hunter Roman had 1.5 sacks and was all over the Penn backfield… Sophomore WR JP Shohfi, who had four catches, led the Blue with 68 yards… Melvin Rouse, a rookie WR who was injured at Dartmouth, came back to make two catches today… Foyesade Oluokun had two sacks, a forced fumble and a team-high eight solo, 10 overall tackles…

Junior Alex Galland (Bakersfield, Calif.) is handling the punting and place kicks this season. He is 5th in the Ivy with a 40.1-yard punt average, but his value to the team is field position control. Galland has landed 15 of his 27 punts inside the 20 while limiting opponent returns. 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. Galland, who plays the trumpet in the Yale Band and has played the national anthem at the Bowl before his own game, is 12-16 on FGs and 45-48 on PATs.

Sophomore lefty PK Sam Tuckerman (Bexley, Ohio) takes the Yale kickoffs and has six touchbacks this fall, though the Elis are not always trying to knock it through the end zone. 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.

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.

Yale Player, Game, Honor
Kurt Rawlings: Lehigh - CSM, STATS, CFP; Holy Cross, Ivy H     
Zane Dudek: Lehigh - Hero, Ivy H, STATS; Cornell: Ivy R; Penn: Ivy R
Deshawn Salter: Cornell - Ivy H; Fordham: Ivy H
Christopher Williams-Lopez - Dartmouth Ivy H
Matthew Oplinger - Holy Cross: Ivy H
Foyesade Oluokun - Penn: Ivy D, CSM 

The Awards Index
(CSM) College Sports Madness Ivy POW
(Ivy) Ivy League Offensive Player of Week
(Ivy D) Ivy League Defensive 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

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

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, Jaeden Graham, Jon Bezney and Jason Alessi have attended this fall.

The Cornell game was Youth Day at the Bowl… Health, fitness and sustainability was the focus for the Holy Cross game… 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.

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