April 26, 2008

Bulldogs Air it Out in Spring Blue-White Scrimmage

April 26, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The balmy spring weather Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field provided almost perfect conditions for throwing the ball. With the Bulldogs in search of a starting quarterback, junior Ryan Fodor and sophomore Rich Scudellari took advantage of that fact. The two leading candidates for the position vacated by graduating senior Matt Polhemus combined for 36 throws in the Yale Blue-White Scrimmage, with Fodor completing 11 of 15 attempts and Scudellari going 15 for 21. Fodor's pair of touchdown tosses helped the Blue team to a 53-29 win under the scrimmage's modified scoring.

With the last three quarters abbreviated to 10 minutes each, the game featured a unique scoring system. Touchdowns, field goals and extra points were six points, three points and one point as usual. But the offenses also got a point for getting a first down, while the defenses got three points for an interception, two points for a fumble recovery and one point for a stop on downs. That, along with the aerial fireworks, helped account for the 82-point barrage.

"Coach decided to let us let it all hang out today," Scudellari said. "We got to throw the ball a little bit and we all had a good time."

Fodor is the only returnee who attempted a pass last season (he was two for five), though Scudellari saw significant time as a holder on special teams. Now, both players recognize the fact that the open competition at the quarterback spot can bring out the best in all involved.

"Ryan's a great quarterback," Scudellari said. "He has a lot of great tools. I think I bring a lot to the table also. To be honest, I'm just going out there and having fun because that's what this is all about ... I want to play as well as I can, but you can't get caught up thinking about stuff in those terms. You just go out and play the best that you can, and may the best man win. [No matter who starts], I think the other guy's going to support him as much as he can."

As encouraging as the performance of the two starting quarterbacks was, the Bulldogs also had plenty of bright spots on the other end of all those throws. Only one returning player had more than 15 catches last year (sophomore tight end John Sheffield had 22), so the Bulldogs are looking to diversify their receiving options. Scudellari's 15 completions for 148 yards were divided up amongst seven different players, including five (for 69 yards) by junior wideout Jarrett Drake. Drake also caught a 14-yarder from freshman QB Brook Hart in the second half. Hart and sophomore Matt Kelleher split time in relief of Scudellari.

Not counting a pass that he caught himself after it was batted in the air, Fodor utilized five different receivers in throwing for 153 yards before giving way to freshman Peter Balsam after the first half. In addition to getting the ball to Sheffield four times for 42 yards (inlcuding two touchdowns), he also utilized speedy sophomore receiver Reid Lathan twice for 46 yards and connected with freshman receiver Jordan Forney twice for 53 yards.

"We have a lot of great athletes," Fodor said. "We've got six or seven guys that can catch the ball and make something happen after they catch it."

Adding to the performance of Yale's receiving corps was the fact that the tight ends had an NFL player coaching them -- Eric Johnson '01 of the New Orleans Saints, who returned to New Haven Friday to help out at practice. All four of the tight ends on the roster had catches Saturday -- Sheffield, freshman Chris Blohm, sophomore A.J. Haase and freshman Caleb Smith.

"It was really good to have [Johnson]," said Sheffield. "We worked a lot on different route running, running good routes. It helped tremendously. We have an option play we run on short yardage, and we worked a lot on that -- reading the coverage and what we need to do to get open every single time."

The Bulldogs had little need to work their top running backs much, since all of their tailbacks from last season are proven commodities. Junior Mike McLeod, an All-America selection and the Ivy League player of the year, sat out the scrimmage as a precautionary measure. A pair of sophomores, Jordan Farrell and Ricardo Galvez, started Saturday -- Farrell for the Blue and Galvez for the White. Galvez had a one-yard touchdown run. Freshman John Pagliaro, Jr. came on strong for the Blue team in the second half. His one-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter extended Blue's lead from 31-27 to 38-27. Pagliaro also had a six-yard score right at the end of the game that capped a clock-killing four-minute drive and made the final 53-29.

The defense had its moments as well, including interceptions by freshman defensive back Adam Money (Blue), junior linebacker Jay Pilkerton (Blue), junior linebacker Matt Plummer, sophomore defensive back Grant Todd (White) and freshman defensive back Marcus Wallace (Blue). Wallace's second-quarter interception came in the end zone, right after a "sack" by sophomore defensive end Justin Oplinger -- quarterbacks were sporting red jerseys for this scrimmage, so the whistle blew once an unblocked defender got near. Those two plays kept the White team from scoring on that drive despite the fact it started just 24 yards from the end zone.

Sophomore defensive back Travis Henry's fumble recovery for the White team provided one of the other defensive highlights of the scrimmage. Special teams were also a key part of the day, including a punt block for the White team by freshman fullback Shane Bannon. Sophomore placekicker Wells Stewart had a 28-yard field goal for White as well.

Junior linebacker Bobby Abare, the team captain, had placed an emphasis on upping the intensity level heading into the scrimmage. He felt that mission was accomplished Saturday.

"Better than years past where it's lacked enthusiasm, I thought today everyone came out pretty excited about [the scrimmage]," Abare said. "It was a good way to end the spring season and we're looking forward to going into the summer."

After a pre-season scrimmage at Princeton Aug. 31, Yale opens the 2008 season against Georgetown at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field on Sept. 20.

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    report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity

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