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Oplinger Finalist for Bushnell Cup

John Coleman image
John Coleman image

Yale LB Up for Ivy Defensive MVP



BOSTON, Mass. – He was the leader of and most dominant player on the league's top defensive team, one that ranked 8th in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) with just over 15 points allowed per game. Yale linebacker Matthew Oplinger, who led the Ancient Eight and was second in the country in sacks, has been named a finalist for the Asa S. Bushnell Cup, given to the Ivy League's top defensive player.


The winner will be announced Monday, Dec. 4, at 12:30 p.m. ET in the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton Midtown, the site of the National Football Foundation gala on Dec. 5. This is the first time a Bulldog has been a defensive finalist since the Bushnell Cup was divided into separate offensive and defensive awards. Yale's last Bushnell Cup recipient was Tyler Varga (offense) in 2014, while the school's last defensive recipient was Kevin Czinger in 1980.


Oplinger is also a finalist for the top defensive player in the FCS, also known as the Buck Buchanan Award, after registering 11.5 sacks in 10 games and leading the Bulldogs to an outright league title with a 9-1 record. That sack total included three – one on a safety – against Holy Cross in October at New Haven.


The senior from Summit, N.J., also led the Ivies with 14.5 tackles for lost yardage while making 42 overall tackles and earning first-team All-Ivy and All-New England honors. Oplinger led a Bulldogs defense that paced the League in total defense (302.8) and rushing defense (73.1), while also ranking second in pass defense efficiency (111.6). In the national rankings, Yale is third in rushing defense, eighth in scoring defense and 13th in total defense.


Oplinger, who also caught a point-after pass in a road win against Penn, is an economics major in Ezra Stiles College who notched his name in the Yale record books this year. His season sack total is second best at the school, while his career count of 21.5 ranks third.


The other finalists for the defensive portion of the Ivy's MVP Award are Brown's Richard Jarvis (Senior, DE) and Penn's Nick Miller (Junior, LB).


Oplinger is the second in his family to win an Ivy title with Yale, as his older brother Justin was a part of the 2006 squad, the previous champion. Oplinger and his family, most of whom will be on hand Monday for the announcement, have worked extensively with Healing the Children, through which they foster children from other countries who need surgeries.


The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) and the Ivy League are partnering for the eighth consecutive year to co-host the Bushnell press conference and reception, presented by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses®.




Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director –