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Friday Night Lights at Bowl: Bears, Bulldogs

Yale Bowl's 2nd Night Game is Friday
Yale Bowl's 2nd Night Game is Friday

Yale Needs Win Over Brown to Stay Atop Ivy

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Bulldogs, 6-1 overall (3-1 Ivy), who take a three-game win streak into November, look to avoid a post-Halloween scare when Brown (2-5, 0-4) comes to the Bowl Friday night for a nationally televised contest. Yale, tied atop the Ivy League football standings with Columbia and Cornell, takes on the Bears in a game airing live on NBC Sports Network (Todd Harris, Ross Tucker) and WELI Radio-960 AM (Ron Vaccaro, Jack Siedlecki). The game is also streamed live by NBC Sports for viewers who get the network on their cable systems.

So much for home field advantage; the visiting team has won 14 of the last 21 meetings heading into the 122nd between Yale and Brown. The Bulldogs may be up 81-35-5, but the Bears have won 10 of the last 17. Of the 121 meetings, only 33 have come at Brown Stadium, where the Blue is 20-10-3. The two rivals met in New Haven 32 consecutive years (1926-57), and Yale has a 61-25-2 advantage at New Haven.

RB Alan Lamar, who is out this fall with an injury, rushed for two touchdowns and Alex Galland booted a pair of field goals, but Yale fell short in its comeback attempt at Brown a year ago. The Bears led all the way to a 27-22 decision.

Yale, with wins over the two other teams tied for first, is 6-1 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, a comeback, close win at Penn and a dominating 23-6 win last week against Columbia.

Yale's defense, which had four sacks and two interceptions, held Columbia to 206 yards of offense and dealt the visitors their first loss of the season in a 23-6 decision at the Bowl. QB Kurt Rawlings threw for a TD and ran for another while Zane Dudek rushed for 173 yards and caught four passes. Backup QB Andrew Johnson threw a 10-yard, fourth-down scoring pass to TE Jaeden Graham and WR Michael Siragusa Jr. hauled in a nine-yard TD pass while Alex Galland split the uprights on a 37-yarder.

Brown, which has lost four straight games, is looking for its first road win of 2017. The Bruins earned victories in week's one and three, going 2-1 in out of league action.

The Bears forced three Quaker turnovers in their best defensive effort of the year but fell 17-7 at home. Senior All-Ivy defensive end Richard Jarvis made 10 total tackles, while senior safety Connor Coughlin had five tackles and an interception. Junior Daniel Aidman and sophomore Brendan Pyne (forced fumble) each registered five tackles and a sack from their linebacker spots. Bears' junior quarterback Nick Duncan completed 13-of-25 passes for 86 yards, with sophomore Jakob Prall making five catches for 35 yards.

Yale is 3-0 at the Bowl, outscoring opponents 104-30. The Elis allowed just six points in their last two games on the Class of 1954 Field.

Chris Smith '13 became the first Ivy player to return two kickoffs for TDs in a game during Yale's 27-24 win at Providence in 2010… The Elis played spoiler in 2008 against league unbeaten Brown and won 13-3 on the road. The clincher was a 78-yard pass play from Brook Hart '11 to Peter Balsam '11... Ralph Plumb '05 set a Yale record with 258 receiving yards in 2004 at Providence... The Bears and Bulldogs combined for a series-record 99 points in the 2003 game at Yale Bowl, a 55-44 Brown victory that included four TD grabs for Bear WR Lonnie Hill... DB Ben Blake '00 blocked Brown's PAT attempt in the closing seconds of the 1999 game as the visitors attempted to tie the game. However, Bear TB Mike Powell picked up the loose ball and lateraled to FB Rob Scholl, who rambled into the end zone for the two-point conversion and a 25-24 victory... WR Jake Borden '00 hauled in a 27-yard TD pass from Joe Walland '00 with six seconds left as Yale pulled out a 30-28 game at Providence in 1998... Chris Hetherington '96, a Yale QB who later became an NFL fullback, rushed for 166 yards and passed for 223 in a win over Brown in 1995... In a matchup of defending co-champions, Yale's goal-line stand prevented the Bruins from converting a first-and-goal from the two-yard line with under a minute to play in a 10-9 Eli victory at the Bowl in 1977... The two teams combined for 37 punts in a 1941 Brown (7-0) win.

Yale gained its 900th win last week, a total that is third among all Division I teams. Michigan leads college football with 941 wins, while Notre Dame is second with 903. The Bulldogs' total includes a 1997 forfeit (ineligible player) victory against Penn that was legislated by the Ivy League but not recognized by the NCAA. Yale is 900-374-55 (.694) all time.

The Elis lead the Ancient Eight in 14 team and six individual statistical categories as listed by the NCAA.

Yale is 1-2 on Friday nights against Ivy schools. The Elis lost at Penn in 2015, fell to the Quakers a year ago at the Bowl's first true night game and then beat Columbia at New York a week later. The only other Yale Friday night game was a 1997 win over Valparaiso at Chicago's Soldier Field, which was also the first victory for Jack Siedlecki as head coach of the Bulldogs. Siedlecki is in the WELI Radio Booth this Friday doing color commentary.

RBs Deshawn Salter (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Zane Dudek (Kittanning, Pa.) have accounted for 15 of Yale's 18 rushing TDs while serving as one of the best combos in FCS play this fall.

The team's active career TD leader with 15, Salter is 7th in the FCS with a 6.5 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.

Ranking second among all Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) ball carriers with an 8.4 yards per carry mark, Dudek, who ran for 10 first downs against Columbia, has been placed on the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award Watch List for the top rookie in the FCS. He owns the Yale freshman record (9) for touchdowns in a varsity season and has been Ivy Rookie of the Week three times with four games over 100 yards. He was STATS FCS National Rookie of the Week and both Ivy offensive player and rookie of the week after going for 173 yards against Columbia. 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 4.4 average and have now surpassed its 2016 total with 30 this fall. Senior LB Matthew Oplinger (Summit, NJ) leads the FCS averaging better than one per game and has 9.5 on the year. Three (including a safety) of those came against Holy Cross, the most sacks in a game for a Bulldog in 15 years. Sophomore defensive end Charles Callender (Cutler Bay, Fla.) is second with five, while junior DE Kyle Mullen (Manalapan, NJ) has 3.5. Some of the team success in getting to QBs can be attributed to senior All-Ivy League DL Copache Tyler (Springfield, Ill.), who can require multiple blockers. Yale had a season-best six sacks against both Penn and Cornell. 

Matthew Oplinger, Yale's All-Ivy linebacker, leads the FCS in sacks per game and now has a team-high 9.5 this year. His season total is 4th best at Yale, which is 4.5 shy of record holder Kevin Czinger (14.0, 1980). His 19.5 career sacks are also 4th (Czinger is No 1 with 27). Oplinger has also helped put points on the board. He tackled the Holy Cross QB for a safety and caught a conversion pass against Penn

The Yale defense is No. 1 in the FCS sacks (4.4) and third in red zone effectiveness (.579), while it is 6th in stopping the rush (77.3) and 9th in scoring (16.4). 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 154 career tackles and six interceptions over 35 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 254 tackles, is 15th on the school's career list after jumping over former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jeff Rohrer '82 (253). Carlson, who scored his first TD on his seventh career interception vs. Cornell this fall, now has eight picks overall. He 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 11th in the FCS (2nd, Ivy) with a .656 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 19 TD passes in 14 career games (9 starts).

Christopher Williams-Lopez (Duluth, Ga.), nicknamed "C-Lo," is Yale's active career leader in receptions with 115 in an injury-shortened, 18-game career. He is currently tied with Yale tight end coach Chandler Henley '06 for 7th on the Yale career receptions list. His 6.50 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 40 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.
Yale got 40 votes in this weeks STATS FCS National Poll... Sophomore CB Malcolm Dixon leads the team with 9 PBUs… Senior TE Jaeden Graham now has 3 TD catches this season… Yale has dominated the first three quarters on the scoreboard, including 72-17 in the first, but are being outscored 51-48 in the fourth… The Elis have converted seven of eight fourth-down attempts.

Junior Alex Galland (Bakersfield, Calif.) is handling the punting and place kicks this season. He is 5th in the Ivy with a 39.6-yard punt average, but his value to the team is field position control. Galland has landed 18 of his 32 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 13-18 on FGs and 47-51 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
Hayden Carlson - Columbia: Ivy H 
Zane Dudek: Lehigh - Hero, Ivy H, STATS; Cornell: Ivy R; Penn: Ivy R; Columbia: STATS R, Ivy O, Ivy R, CSM
Matthew Oplinger - Holy Cross: Ivy H
Foyesade Oluokun - Penn: Ivy D, CSM
Kurt Rawlings: Lehigh - Ivy O, CSM, STATS, CFP; Holy Cross, Ivy H     
Deshawn Salter: Cornell - Ivy H; Fordham: Ivy H
Christopher Williams-Lopez - Dartmouth Ivy H

The Awards Index
(CSM) College Sports Madness Ivy POW
(Ivy O) 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 R) STATS FCS National Rookie of Week
(STATS H) 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, Jason Alessi, Malcolm Dixon and Christopher Williams-Lopez 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 was Hero's day… Friday is Yale Employee and Westville Community Game… Harvard is "Fill the Bowl" with the Connecticut Food Bank.



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