Senior LB is Ivy Defensive MVP
MANHATTAN, N.Y. - The last time a Yale defensive player was the most valuable player in the Ivy League, Carm Cozza was midway through his 32-year, hall of fame career for the Bulldogs. That was 37 years ago.
Matthew Oplinger, the Elis' senior linebacker, was announced today as the Asa S. Bushnell Cup recipient. The Ancient Eight's defensive and offensive MVP awards were handed out today in the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton Midtown. He had seven classmates, his head coach, his defensive coordinator, his family and the rest of the big crowd in the room to cheer him on.
"This is a team award," said Oplinger, who is the third Yale defensive player to hold the Bushnell Cup. "I am just one eleventh of the unit."
Oplinger 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. He led the Ancient Eight and was second in the country in sacks.
There was just one annual Bushnell winner prior to 2009. Yale's last defensive recipient was nose guard Kevin Czinger in 1980, who followed Elis' linebacker Tim Tumpane in 1979 as the head coaches' choice for Ivy MVP.
Oplinger, the 10th Yale Bushnell recipient and the first since Tyler Varga in 2014, is also a finalist for the 2017 Buck Buchanan Award, the top defensive player in the FCS. He registered 11.5 sacks in 10 games and led 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.
Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach, talked about Oplinger's impact on the team the last four years.
"We saw him grow as a person and player week in and week out. He was showing guys the way to do things right," said Reno. "It's an honor to have him here as part of the Yale football family."
The other finalists for the defensive portion of the Ivy's MVP Award were 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 partnered 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 – firstname.lastname@example.org