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First Meeting of Yale, Mercer Saturday

Black Bears (Maine) were in the Bowl on Sept. 29, Bears are here this Saturday (Ron Waite image)
Black Bears (Maine) were in the Bowl on Sept. 29, Bears are here this Saturday (Ron Waite image)

Ivy Meets Southern at the Bowl on Heroes Day

The final non-league contest for Yale Football's Team 146 is Saturday on Heroes Day when Mercer University of the Southern Conference comes to the Bowl.  The Bears (3-2) and the Bulldogs (2-2) have a 1 p.m. kickoff that airs live on ESPN+, WELI Radio (AM 960) and iHeart Radio.

This is the first meeting of Yale and Mercer, the only private university in Georgia with a Division I athletics program. The Bears, who were called the Baptists when the program began early in the 20th century, suspended the sport in 1942 and brought it back in 2013. Yale is playing a school from the Peach State for the first time since a 1934 matchup with the University of Georgia in the Bowl. The last time the Bulldogs played a SoCon school was North Carolina (13-6 win) in 1944.

This is the first time the Bulldogs host a new opponent since Albany (23-20 loss) in 2010. The last time Yale had its first meeting with an opponent was at nationally ranked Cal Poly (24-10 win) in 2013.

Yale is coming off a 41-18 loss to Dartmouth last Friday. Reed Klubnik had a career-best 13 catches for 124 yards, Zane Dudek scored on a short run and Alex Galland kicked a field goal, but the Bulldogs could not hold off the Big Green.

Mercer, off last weekend, is coming off a 48-38 conference win over Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, Va., on Sept. 29. Running backs Tee Mitchell and Tyray Devezin combined for 284 rushing yards and four touchdowns at Foster Stadium. After allowing 20 first-half points, the Bears (2-1 SoCon) held VMI scoreless in the third quarter with an interception and two turnovers forced before withstanding a late rally by the Keydets.

Through 21 career games, junior QB Kurt Rawlings, who earned the New England Football Writers Gold Helmet Award for Sept. 29 and then had a career-high 29 completions last week, is climbing the Yale career rankings:

Completions: 348 (6th)
Yards: 4,155 (7th)
Attempts: 553 (8th)
Total Offense: 4,470 (6th)
TD Passes: 29 (8th)

RAWLINGS in 2018: Threw for 306 yards and 3 TDs (1 rush TD) vs. Maine...
RAWLINGS in 2017: Honorable mention All-Ivy League... 2nd in Ivy and 5th in FCS with Yale record .673 completion percentage... 2nd Ivy/10th FCS in pass efficiency (154.7)... 2nd in Ivy with 19 passing TDs (4th best at Yale)... Passed for 2,320 yards, 3rd in Ivy (6th best at Yale)... 1st Yale sophomore QB to lead team to Ivy title since 1979 (John Rogan)... Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, College Sports Madness Ivy Player of the Week, STATS FCS Honorable mention, College Football Performance Awards after 20-of-26 game with 308 yards and 4 TDs against Lehigh... Led game-winning, fourth-quarter drive at Penn… Helped Yale erase a 17-point deficit on the way to a title-clinching win at Princeton (26-of-34 for 304 yards and 2 TDs)… Established a Yale record for completion percentage with 18 connections (first 14 straight) on 20 attempts at Fordham.

Rawlings Career Bests:
Completions: 29 vs. Dartmouth 2018
Attempts: 46 vs. Dartmouth 2018
Yards: 308 at Lehigh 2017
TDs: 4 at Lehigh 2017

Junior WR Reed Klubnik (Austin, Texas) had a career-best 13 catches for 124 yards and now leads the team with 33 catches, 408 yards and five TDs. Klubnik also leads the league with better than eight grabs per game. He has had two games over 100 yards and caught three TD passes against Maine, the most for a Bulldog receiver since 2013.

Junior JP Shohfi, a WR from San Marino, Calif., missed the first game this fall and then caught 23 passes over the next three. That has him No. 2 among Ivy receivers with over seven catches per game.

Voted captain by his teammates last August… Senior DL using 5th year of eligibility… 54 tackles, 6.5 TFL in 30 career games… Former Fairfield Prep star two-way player… 18th Yale football captain from CT, 2nd Milford native… Political Science major, Ezra Stiles College… Grew up attending Yale games and always wanted to be a Bulldog.

Sophomore RB Zane Dudek has 18 career TD runs and just cracked Yale's career top 10 list.

DUDEK in 2018: Best day was 22-217 at Holy Cross… 2 TDs at Cornell.
DUDEK in 2017: Phil Steele FCS Offensive Freshman of the Year and First Team Freshman All-America... Finalist for Jerry Rice Award for FCS Rookie of Year... CSM Freshman of the Year... Phil Steele and CSM Third-Team All-America... Ivy League Rookie of the Year... First-Team All-Ivy League... New Haven Gridiron Club's Harry Jacunski Award... Led league in every rushing and scoring category including yards (1,133, 9th at Yale), yards per game (113.3), rushing TDs (15, 5th at Yale), yards per carry (7.1, 2nd in Ivy history, ties Yale record set in 1956), overall TDs (16), points (96, 2nd in FCS) and all-purpose yards (134.5)... First true freshman to lead league in rushing... Best Yale freshman football season ever for a running back... Six games over 100 yards... Ivy rookie of the week six (last 5 straight) times and the offensive player of the week once... STATS FCS National Rookie of the Week and took both Ivy honors after going for 173 yards against Columbia... Hero Sports Candidate, Ivy League Honor Roll, STATS Honorable Mention after rushing for 131 yards on nine attempts and 2 TDs against Lehigh... Ivy League Rookie of the Week after rushing for 173 yards on 16 attempts and 1 TD against Cornell.

Dudek Career Bests:
Yards: 217 at Holy Cross 2018
Attempts: 35 at Princeton 2017
Rushing TDs: 3 vs. Brown & at Princeton 2017

A pair of juniors who were All-Ivy picks last fall are playing side-by-side this season on Yale's offensive line. LT Sterling Strother (Moraga, Calif.) and LG Dieter Eiselen (Stellenbosch, South Africa) are both over 300 pounds and command great respect from opponents. Strother was a college hoops prospect who was convinced by his high school football coach to focus on the gridiron. Eiselen was a rugby player and weight lifter in South Africa looking for a way to become a college football player. He accomplished that by learning the game quickly while attending an American prep school.

WR Keith CJ McCord II, a senior who is also a jumper for the Yale Track & Field Team, got the first two catches of his career against Maine in his first collegiate start. The first time he got on the field in a varsity game was the 2018 opener at Holy Cross. McCord broke his leg in a JV game early in his rookie (2015) season. He missed the 2016 football season and then had an excellent 2016-17 track campaign (4th in high jump, personal best 2.03 meters at the outdoor league championships), but he was not on the 2017 football roster. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native rejoined the team last August and suddenly moved up when injuries hit the receiving corps.

Senior J. Hunter Roman is a regular on the defense who plays end and has been named a semifinalist for the NFF's William Campbell Trophy, the most prestigious scholar-athlete award for a college football player. His brother, D. Major Roman, caught passes in each of the last two games. D. Major, a sophomore tight end, was a NFF High School Scholar-Athlete (national) finalist when he played at New London (CT) High School.

Senior PK/P Alex Galland, an All-Ivy pick last fall, is happy to blow his own horn… especially if he can take part in the national anthem. The Bakersfield, Calif., native, has played his trumpet with the Yale Band for the Star Spangled Banner at home games when the team schedule permits and his band mates remember to bring his instrument. Galland, a mechanical engineering major, worked at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, Conn., last summer and was offered a full-time job. He will have to let the company know soon if he is accepting the offer; Galland is ahead of schedule on graduation requirements and will finish school this semester. Last summer he took a long weekend to head home for Chris Sailer's California Camp, where Galland was named "top college punter."

It's fair to say the 2018 Bulldogs are a young team. In fact, just two seniors, DL Nicholas Crowle and DB Marquise Peggs, have started games this fall.

There are many leaders among the 2018 Bulldogs, including senior J. Hunter Roman, who was selected as a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation's William Campbell Trophy. Here's how we quantify the leadership on the current Yale roster.
Captains of high school football teams: 82
Captains of another sport in high school: 50
National Honor Society Members: 45
High School Class Presidents: 6
High School Class Valedictorians: 2

DL Charles Callender '20 – Second-Team 2017
DB Malcom Dixon '20 – Honorable Mention 2017
RB Zane Dudek '21 – First-Team 2017
OL Dieter Eiselen '20 – Honorable Mention 2017
Alex Galland '19 – Second-Team 2017
QB Kurt Rawlings '20 – Honorable Mention 2017
OL Sterling Strother '20 – Second-Team 2017

The 2018 Yale football team represents 24 states and 4 countries (US, Canada, England, South Africa)... California has the most players with 14... Connecticut and Texas have the second most with 9, while New Jersey and Massachusetts both have 8... Kamsi Nwangwu, from Woodbridge, is the Bulldog whose home is closest to the campus... Dieter Eiselen, from Stellenbosch, South Africa, came the farthest to attend Yale (nearly 7800 miles)... The tallest players on the team are So. Grant Neagli and Jr. Jett Sexton, who stand at 6'7. Grant Neagli is also the heaviest player at 325 pounds… The average for Bulldog O-linemen is 6'4 3/4 and 290 pounds…. The average DL is 6'3 1/4 and 254 pounds.

A survey of the team produced some interesting anecdotal information about the Bulldogs.
Most humorous: Spencer Matthei & Rodney Thomas II
Most intelligent: Alex Galland
Most vocal: J. Hunter Roman
Most likely to become president: JP Shohfi
Most interesting extracurricular: Alex Galland (plays in Yale Band)
Best singer: Kamsi Nwangwu
Strongest (pound-for-pound): Alan Lamar, Melvin Rouse II
Most involved in community: John Lager

When you win, schools come calling. Three coaches from the championship team left Yale last winter. OC Joe Conlin became Fordham's head coach and took DB coach Paul Rice with him. TE coach Chandler Henley went to the NFL with Titans. New Members: Matt Cerins (TE, intern on Yale staff 2017), Ben Olson (DL, at Colgate in 2017, brother of Jake Olson, Chief of Staff), Al Netter (OL, at Michigan in 2017). Changes: Kevin Cahill went from Pass-Game Coordinator to Offensive Coordinator; Art Asselta (WR) is now Pass-Game Coordinator; Jordan Stevens went from DL in 2017 to co-Defensive Coordinator and LB coach.

Yale is back in the Ivy next week with a road game on Friday against Penn on ESPNU… The Dick Galiette Yale Football Media Luncheon is every Tuesday at Noon at Mory's… Rookie WR Jaylan Sandifer made his first collegiate catch against Dartmouth… Sophomore DB Deonte Henson had a career best seven solo tackles against the Big Green. 

Three Yale seniors from the 2017 championship team were on NFL rosters over the summer and made it to the final cut. Foyesade Oluokun made the 53-man Atlanta Falcons roster and has 12 tackles to date, while Jaeden Graham is currently on the Falcons' practice squad. In addition, Matthew Oplinger played in multiple exhibition games and turned some heads.

3 Yale Stars Make NFL Mark:
•Foyesade Oluokun (LB, Atlanta, drafted), Two-time All-Ivy League Selection
•Jaeden Graham (TE, Atlanta, FA), 2017 First-Team All-Ivy League Pick
•Matthew Oplinger (LB, Arizona, FA), 2nd Team All-American and 2017 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year

Yale University will celebrate the life of Hall of Fame football head coach Carmen L. Cozza on Nov. 10 prior to the game against Princeton at the Bowl. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. inside Coxe Cage. Cozza, who coached the Bulldogs to 10 Ivy titles in 32 seasons, passed away on Jan. 4, 2018. The Elis are wearing a patch on their jerseys this season to honor the college football legend.

All 10 games air live on AM (960 WELI or 1300 ESPN) as well as iHeart Radio with Ron Vaccaro '04 and Jack Siedlecki providing the call.

All of Yale's home games as well as Ivy road games in 2018 are on ESPN. Most of them are on ESPN+, a subscription based (Watch ESPN) streaming platform, but the Bulldogs will be on TV three times (Dartmouth, Penn, Harvard) this fall. Links will be available on for each streamed game. International viewers who cannot get ESPN+ may watch on the Yale portal presented by Stretch Internet.

Yale and Harvard have never played each other at a professional sports venue, so this year's edition of The Game is truly unique. The Nov. 17 contest takes place at Fenway Park with a noon kick on one of the ESPN networks. The 135th meeting of Yale and Harvard is also unique because it sold out in a few days last spring. That's the earliest tickets have ever gone on sale and the fastest the tickets have been sold.  The New York Post recently came out with "The 20 Best Experiences College Football Has to Offer" and The Game ranked No. 5 behind Clemson (Howard's Rock), Army-Navy, Notre Dame (TD Jesus) and Wisconsin's "Jump Around."

Sept. 15: Zane Dudek (Ivy HRoll); Ryan Burke (Ivy HRoll)
Sept. 22: Spencer Alston (Ivy ROW); Alex Galland (Ivy HRoll)
Sept. 29: Kurt Rawlings (NE Gold Helmet, CSM Ivy POW); Reed Klubnik (Ivy HRoll), Alex Galland (Ivy HRoll)
Oct. 5: Reed Klubnik (Ivy HRoll)

Five games and five different promotions for 2018:
Sept. 29 (Youth Day)
Oct. 5 (Employee Night)
Oct. 13 (Heroes' Day)
Nov. 3 (Community Day)
Nov. 10  (Fill the Bowl)

filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity