November 6, 2006

Bulldogs Seek 8th Straight Win and Ivy Crown

Nov. 6, 2006

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale football team (7-1, 5-0 Ivy), which has won its last seven games and can clinch at least a share of the Ivy title with a win, is home Saturday for the last time this fall to host No. 21 ranked Princeton at 12:30 in a crucial game for both teams. Ron Vaccaro '04 and legendary Yale football coach Carm Cozza call the action on WELI (AM-960), while it can also be heard on WYBC (AM-1340).

Title Scenario

The Bulldogs, who won a seventh straight game for the first time since 1999, can clinch at least a share of the Ivy title with a win against Princeton. If that happens and Penn beats No. 17 Harvard, Yale has an outright championship no matter what happens in the season finale.

Perfect Ivy Campaigns

Yale's last unbeaten league season came in 1968. The only blemish (6-0-1) was a 29-29 tie (yes, that one) at Harvard. The Blue last won all seven Ivy contests in 1967, while the last overall undefeated team was the 1960 squad that went 9-0.

H-Y-P Still in Race

Yale (5-0), Princeton (4-1) and Harvard (4-1) each can win an outright Ivy title with two Saturdays left. The trophy has not been shared since Yale and Brown both went 6-1 in 1999. H-Y-P have never been part of a three-way tie for the title. Harvard and Princeton have shared the championship once in 1966. Yale shared with the Crimson (1968, 1974) and the Tigers (1969, 1989) twice each. Never before have Yale, Princeton and Harvard been alone as the three remaining Ivy League contenders heading into the last two weeks of the season. In fact, those three teams have all been within a game of the League lead with two weeks to play just five times (1963, 1980, 1987, 2005, 2006).

2nd Longest-Running Series in College Football

One hundred and three years ago, a young rivalry featuring two of the venerable powers of the gridiron made history by playing in the first game captured on film. Thomas Edison's camera focused on Yale's 12-5 win at Princeton that November day, and the rivarly has developed into the second-longest in college football. This week marks the 129th meeting, second only to the Lehigh-Lafayette (141) rivalry. Some of the Old Blue hold this series dearer to their hearts than THE Game. Yale leads 70-48-10 but the last 10 have gone 6-4 in favor of the Blue, including wins in the last four meetings.

Memorable Moments in the Yale-Princeton Series

The ball burst after it was kicked during the first meeting in 1873 and it took 30 minutes to replace it... Princeton's James Haxall drop kicked a school-best 65-yard field goal in a 2-1 Tiger win in 1882... Playing both ways for the entire game, Yale's "Iron Men" ended Princeton's 15-game win streak with a 7-0 win in 1934 at New Jersey... Yale held the orange and black to one first down and minus-four yards rushing in a 20-14 Bulldog win at Princeton in 1945... The 1953 Bulldogs erased a 17-0 Princeton halftime lead and won 26-24... Don Gesicki completed a 97-yard pass play to Gary Fencik at Princeton in 1975 in the longest pass play in Yale history as the Blue won 24-13... 1981 was the battle of Bob Holly (Princeton QB) vs. Rich Diana (Yale RB). Holly, who scored the winning TD with 4 seconds left, threw for a school-record 501 yards while Diana set the Yale record with 222 rushing yards in a 35-31 Tiger win at Princeton... Kevin Moriarty hauled in a 14-yard pass from Mike Curtin with 5 ticks on the clock in Yale's 27-24 win in 1984... The 1995 Elis spoiled an undefeated season by winning at Princeton behind QB Chris Hetherington (229 total offense)... The Bulldogs, who tied the game on a 22-yard TD pass from Alvin Cowan to Chandler Henley with no time left on the clock in the fourth quarter, won a double-OT game at Princeton in 2003 by recovering a fumble after Yale kicked a field goal.

Last Year at Old Nassau

Yale erased a 14-0 deficit by scoring 21 straight in the second half for a 21-14 win. Princeton (385 yards) dominated the play for three quarters, but QB Jeff Terrell was intercepted five times and allowed Yale (263) to get back into the contest. Yale QB Jeff Mroz (39-18-2) connected with WR Todd Feiereisen at 1:14 of the fourth to tie the game before Mroz ran it in from a yard out with 47 seconds to win it. The winning score was set up by a Brendan Sponheimer forced fumble and a Bobby Abare 27-yard return to the one-yard line.

Tigers Survive Quakers

Jeff Terrell matched his career high with three TD passes and scored on a bizarre 1-yard, fourth-down run in the second OT to lead Princeton to a a 31-30 victory over Penn last Saturday. Penn botched a snap on an extra point following a 25-yard touchdown pass from Rob Irvin to Matt Carre on the play after the Terrell run. Holder Matt Reinert tried to run the ball on the extra point, but he was pushed out of bounds at the 2-yard line, keeping Princeton in the chase for the Ivy League title. The Quakers also botched a snap on a 21-yard field goal attempt in the first overtime. That didn't matter because Penn later blocked a Princeton field goal attempt.

Siedlecki on The Brown Game

"This kind of typified our season. We've won a lot of close games late. This one, I think, was the hardest-earned. We were struggling offensively. We couldn't put more than a couple plays together. They were doing a good job containing Mike McLeod and getting extra guys to the ball. We just kept playing. We turned them over five times and the defense kept giving us good field position. The total offense for either team wasn't great, but it was a great football game."

The Coaches

Jack Siedlecki (Union '74), in his 10th season as the Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football at Yale, is 110-65-2 as a collegiate head coach, 54-43 at Yale and 6-3 vs. Princeton. Siedlecki has coached in four of the oldest rivalries in college football (Lehigh-Lafayette, Yale-Princeton, Yale-Harvard and Amherst-Williams). Princeton mentor Roger Hughes (33-34 overall and at Princeton), the Charles W. Caldwell '25 Head Coach of Football, is 2-4 against Yale.

Yale Comes Back For 27-24 Win

Sophomore TB Mike McLeod's three-yard touchdown run with 3:27 remaining capped the scoring in yet another wild Yale-Brown game, giving the Bulldogs a come-from-behind 27-24 win at Providence. The Elis pulled this one out despite being held to 286 yards of total offense on 65 plays, Yale's lowest gain per play of the year (4.4 yards). The five turnovers, including three interceptions (one returned 19 yards for a TD) by sophomore linebacker Bobby Abare, proved to be the difference. The game-winner by McLeod was set up by a 71-yard completion from junior QB Matt Polhemus to senior WR Ashley Wright two plays prior. Virtually all of those yards came after the catch, as Wright grabbed the ball just past the line of scrimmage, broke one tackle, and raced down the right sideline until finally getting tackled at the five. Yale had leads of 10-0 and 17-7 before Brown raced back to take a 21-17 halftime advantage. The margin was to 24-17 in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs scored the last 10 points.

Yale Defense Wins Another One

Brown QB Joe DiGiacomo came into last Saturday's game as the Ivy's leading passer, but left Brown Stadium with four interceptions and just eight completions. The Bulldogs picked off two of his first three passes and had three picks by the time the QB had attempted six throws. That helped the Blue take a 10-0 lead. MG Brandt Hollander and DE Joe Hathaway (last drive) had important sacks and DE Michael McGinity came up with a Brown fumble.

Abare Named Ivy, I-AA.org Defensive Player of Week

Sophomore LB Bobby Abare earned Ivy League and I-AA.org Player of the Week and Walter Camp Yale Player of the Game honors by picking off three passes and making seven tackles. Abare, who picked off Brown QB Joe DiGiacomo's first quarter pass and went 19 yards for a score, returned an interception for a TD for the second straight week. He is the first Bulldog to have a three-interception game since Nate Boxrucker against Princeton in 1998 and the first Yale linebacker to record the trifecta since Carl Ricci '95 snared three passes at Brown in 1994 in a 27-16 win. Abare, who leads the team with 41 solo stops and 65 total tackles, now has four interceptions in two games. The current Bulldog has four picks this fall, one shy of the school record for linebackers shared by Lee Driftmier (2005), Ricci (2004) and Jack Sellati (1975). The Yale record for interceptions in a game is held by Edmund Decker, who grabbed four against Dartmouth in 1927.

But Larry Led Defense

Sophomore SS Larry Abare, Bobby's twin brother, is second on the team with 35 solos and 59 total tackles. He led Yale with 6-5-11 last week at Brown, his fourth game with a team-high in tackles.

Abare, The Pair

Sophomore fraternal twin Yale defensive players LB Bobby (41-24-65) and DB Larry Abare (35-24-59) had another big day for the Blue with a combined 9-9-18 last week. One of the Abares has led the Eli defense in tackles in each of the last six games.

McCarthy Finalist for Draddy Trophy

Yale left tackle Ed McCarthy `07 has been named to the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame 2006 Scholar-Athlete Team. He is the seventh Bulldog to earn this award since 1967, the year his father, Rick McCarthy `68, was named to the team. They are the only father-son combination from the same school to earn this award. McCarthy, who has helped the Elis win six of their first seven games this fall, was Yale's offensive line MVP eight times last year and has already taken the honors six times in eight games in 2006. McCarthy, the 2003 Ivy Rookie of the Year (only lineman in league history to win it) as an OG and a second-team all-league center in 2004, was first-team All-Ivy at LT last fall. He is a pre-season All-America pick who has been getting looked at by pro scouts this fall. McCarthy's uncle, Ed McCarthy `65, also played for the Bulldogs. The current Yale star was 2005 Academic All-Ivy pick.

McLeod Ranked 4th Among I-AA Backs

Sophomore TB Mike McLeod, who has 13 TDs (one receiving) in the last seven games, is ranked fourth among I-AA runners with a 137 yard average and is seventh in all-purpose yardage (153). On Oct. 14 he ran for a career-high 204 yards (4th best at Yale) on a career-best 40 carries (2nd at Yale) and scored the game-winner in the 26-20 OT win over Lehigh. His Lehigh game rushing total was the most by a Yale runner since Robert Carr '05 broke the school record with 235 at Cornell in 2002. He earned Ivy Offensive Player of the Week honors after wins over Lafayette and Dartmouth and was Walter Camp Yale Player of the Game in the Cornell, Lafayette and Lehigh games. His first career TD catch was a 41-yarder off a screen pass at Cornell. McLeod, who had three TDs in consecutive weeks (Cornell, Lafayette), is the first Bulldog to score three in consecutive games since John Pagliaro, who had three against Columbia and Penn in 1976. McLeod leads the Ivies in rushing but is second in all-purpose running to Harvard's Clifton Dawson. He now has nine career games with more than 100 yards rushing and has 13 of Yale's 24 TDs this fall. McLeod has produced 33 (30 rush, 3 pass) plays of 10 or more yards.

McLeod Climbing

TB Mike McLeod, who broke the Yale record for rushing yards by a sophomore (1,096), became the 11th Bulldog to go over 1,000 yards in a season. He is now seventh at Yale with his 2006 total with two games left. His seventh straight 100-yard outing is a school record while the season total ties the Yale standard (Rich Diana in 1981, Chris Kouri in 1991 and Rashad Bartholomew in 2000).

Running Towards Records

The overall season yardage record is 1,442 by Rich Diana in 1981, so McLeod would need 346 over the last two games to catch him. McLeod's 12 rushing TDs are fourth best for a season at Yale. He is four rushing TDs shy of John Pagliaro's record of 16. His 78 points are more than 24 of the school's last 27 season scoring leaders.

Prognostications

Harvard was picked first in the Ivy pre-season media poll with Yale (5th) and Princeton (6th) way down the ladder. The Bulldogs were picked fifth in 1989 when they tied for the title, while the Crimson was 7th in the 1961 pre-season poll before sharing the championship that fall.

Polhemus Survives Bad Outing

Junior QB Matt Polhemus had his toughest day as a Bulldog starter since the loss in week one. He completed 12 of 25 passes for 148 yards, but 71 of those yards came on his last pass of the day. Brown put a lot of pressure on Polhemus and forced him to throw an interception at the end of the first half. His season and career-high is 18 completions against Lehigh for a career-best 236 yards. His 301 rushing yards are the most for a Bulldog QB since Alvin Cowan ran for 435 in 2003.

Captain Clutch

Yale captain Chandler Henley has been the go-to-guy in key situations. Twenty eight of his 33 catches this fall have resulted in either a first down or a TD. Henley has caught 14 passes on third down and 13 have moved the chains. His two TD catches this year have been in key Ivy games (Penn, Brown). Henley has 106 career grabs (5th at Yale), 11 TDs (7th) and 1,509 yards (4th).

The Scoop on Ashley

Senior WR Ashley Wright, who has a catch in 22 straight games dating to the end of the 2004 campaign, is second on the team with 27 catches for 434 yards. He has TDs of 63 and 43 yards this fall and ranks sixth all-time at Yale with 13 receiving scores. His 71-yard play late in the fourth quarter at Brown set up the game-winning TD.

Taylor Made First Downs

Senior FB Taylor Craig had his best collegiate day running the ball at Brown with four carries for 16 yards. Three of his runs produced first downs while he also snared one pass for six yards.

Kimball Connects

Junior PK Alan Kimball enjoyed his best day of the year aiming at the uprights by making both field goal attempts (35, 23 yards) and all three PAT boots.

Last Game at the Bowl

As many as 23 Yale players could be playing their last games at Yale Bowl Saturday, a group that includes 17 on offense, six on defense and 16 returning lettermen. There will be a short ceremony prior to kickoff honoring the class of '07.

Coming Back for 2007?

Three seniors on the current roster and three others who are not playing this fall could return for 2007. DE Brendan Sponheimer, TB Matt Murray and CB Kevin Littleton all compete on the 2006 squad and might take another season, while FS Nick Solakian, LB Lee Driftmier and WR Chris Denny-Brown could also be back with medical hardships after missing a year.

Driving 70 Is OK

Yale has had nine drives over 70 yards this season, including one that may be the longest in college or pro football this year. The Bulldogs closed out the fourth quarter against Columbia on Oct. 28 by taking 10:30 off the clock with a 17-play, 84-yard drive that ended in a TD. The Elis had a 97-yard drive earlier against the Lions and an 8:15 scoring possession at Dartmouth that took 14 plays.

Bulldog Bites

The last time Harvard, Princeton and Yale all had a winning percentage of .875 or better (as in 2006) at the same time was on Nov. 9, 1907, when Harvard and Princeton were both 7-1 and Yale 7-0-1... Bobby Abare and Carl Ricci '95 are both linebackers from New England who had three interceptions at Brown Stadium in Yale victories in which the Elis scored 27 points... LG Brett Crandall's streak of 28 starts came to an end last week when he missed the Brown game with an injury... Freshman CB Paul Rice had his first career interception on Joe DiGiacomo's first pass attempt... According to the experts, Princeton (ranked 21st in the TSN poll) should be favored to defeat the Blue, which received 136 votes but needed 214 to make the top 25... Yale and Brown combined for three scores in 61 seconds in the first quarter... The NCAA is trying to get away from the I-A and I-AA distinction by having them referred to as Bowl Championship Series and Football Championship Subdivision.

Santoro Finding the Ball

Sophomore FS Steve Santoro, whose first touch as a KOR man went 94 yards for Yale's first TD of the year against San Diego in the opener, became a defensive starter in week two and has made a huge impact. Santoro, fourth on the team with 37 tackles, has had a hand (or a helmet) in six turnovers. He has three interceptions (Cornell, Lafayette, Penn) and ranks 35th in I-AA in that category while he has also forced three fumbles. Santoro returned a kick 91 yards against Dartmouth that was called back for a holding penalty. He is first in the Ivy and 15th in the nation in kick return average (25.8).

Leading the League

The Bulldogs lead the Ivies in rushing (193), third-down conversions (46%) and fourth-down conversions (33.3). Sophomore FS/KR Steve Santoro is tops with a 25.8 KOR average, while TB Mike McLeod (137 rushing) is the top runner. Princeton QB Jeff Terrell leads the Ancient Eight in pass efficiency (128) and total offense (244), while Tiger punter Colin McDonough leads the league with a 43 yard average.

Extra Time at The Bowl

The Bulldogs have been playing a lot of extra football at Yale Bowl recently. Three of the last five games on the Class of 1954 Field have gone into overtime with Yale winning the last two. The last game of 2005 was a triple OT contest, the longest in Ivy history, and a loss to Harvard. Yale beat Lehigh 26-20 on Oct. 14 and then edged Penn 17-14 on Oct. 21. Yale is 3-3 overall (2-1 at home) in OT sessions.

Mante Moving Up

Freshman punter Tom Mante struggled early to find consistency but is showing his true form recently. He boomed a career-long 58-yarder against Penn and landed four balls inside Brown's 20-yard line. Against Columbia in foul weather he averaged over 40 yards on four punts. Mante has now placed 12 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He has a 35.2 average this season after recording a 44.0-yard mark at Bishop Guertin High in Massachusetts.

Abares and More

Other sets of twins that played Yale football are: Chris and Andy Kagan (1999-2000); Rob and Chris Michalik (1988-90); Jim and John Quinn (1984-96) and Bob and Dick Jacunski (1960). There are 35 sets of brothers who have played at Yale and here are the last names: Abare, Athanasia, Balme, Bliss, Burkus, Cautero, Conway, Coombs, Flaster, Freccero, Gallagher, Hallas, Handlon, Hinkey, Hoopes, Iwan, Jacunski, Kagan, Kiernan, Kenney, Littleton, Lovejoy, McCarthy (2), Michalik, Miller, Noetzel, Perkowski, Quinn, Ryan, Schulte, Sigal, Spence, Walker, Wimer.

Around the Ivies

Clifton Dawson ran for 120 yards and scored two touchdowns and Matt Schindel kicked his school record 28th career field goal Saturday in Harvard's 24-7 victory over Columbia. Dawson became the ninth player in Division 1-AA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season four times. He now has 1,034 yards... Nathan Ford scored three touchdowns to lead Cornell to a 28-25 win over Dartmouth Saturday. Cornell (4-4, 2-3 Ivy League) opened the scoring in the first when Ford threw a 1-yard pass to Luke Siwula. Ford then went on a 4-yard run to make it 14-0.

Nutmeg State Connection

Connecticut has always provided talented athletes for the Yale football team with offensive stars such as Rich Diana (Hamden) and John Pagliaro (Derby), but historians would be challenged to find a Bulldog squad with more in-state accolades than the 2006 team. QBs Ryan Fodor (Madison) and Matt Kelleher (Southington) both earned state player of the year honors as seniors. RB Mike McLeod (New Britain) was the New Haven Register's player of the year while OT Ed McCarthy (Fairfield) and DE Brendan Sponheimer (Orange) were all-state players before coming to Yale.

Looking Ahead

Former Yale player Jerry Kenney '63 and ex-Harvard standout Tom Stephenson '64, who will both be honored by the Ivy League Football Association at a Manhattan dinner in January, take part in the official coin toss for the 123rd playing of The Game at Harvard Stadium next Saturday. The noon kickoff airs live on HD NET (National Cable and Satellite), Superstation WGN (National Cable and Satellite), WLVI-TV (Boston), WPIX-TV (New York), WTIC-TV (Hartford) and WCWN-TV (Albany).

Cornering The Rookie Market

RB Mike McLeod became Yale's second Ivy League Rookie of the Year in three seasons when he earned the 2005 honor. The Bulldogs have had three since DB Todd Tomich became the school's first in 1997. The league began selecting its top rookies in 1981 but an Eli was not selected until 1997. Yale's two newcomer starters, DB Paul Rice and P Tom Mante, have made an impact this fall. Rice had a career-high 5-1-6 against Lehigh and intercepted his first pass at Brown, while Mante had a 58-yard punt against Penn.

Yale Still Leads the Nation

Yale has not won a national football title since 1927, but the Bulldogs still have more championships (26) than any other school in the country. Notre Dame is second with 11 national titles. In addition, the Elis were the first collegiate football team to win 800 games but have since been overtaken by Michigan.

Catching Bulldogs At Practice

The normal practice week is from Tuesday through Friday, 4:15 to 6:15. Note that Friday times could be altered on travel days. Practice is held on the fields behind the baseball stadium and inside the outdoor track. Inclement weather could bring the team inside to either Coxe Cage or the Lanman Center. Players might be available for interviews before/after practice around the Smilow Center or out on the fields. It is best to email Steve Conn to arrange a meeting at least a day before you would like to speak with a player.

Home Cooking in the Bowl

Since opening the national historic landmark in 1914 with a 36-0 loss to Harvard before a full house, the Bulldogs have gone 355-186-21 (562 games) in Yale Bowl. Since formal Ivy play began in 1956, the Elis are 117-73-3 vs. Ancient Eight foes at home.

Galiette Luncheon at Yale Golf Course

This Tuesday at noon, Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki will be joined by OL Steve Bassermann and LB Michael Woodson. The Galiette Luncheon interviews can be heard on Don Boyle's sportingnewsct.com.

Yale Bowl Restoration

The restoration of Yale Bowl is nearly complete with a number of additions planned in the near future. The playing surface has been named the Class of '54 Field to honor the majority gift for the project from former Yale football player Charlie Johnson and his class. One of the additions will be the Jensen Family Plaza, which will be located on the walkway to the Bowl from Central Avenue, and honors the Jensen brothers: Irving '54, Colin '57, Erik '63 and Mark '67. The welcoming plaza will serve as the perfect place for fans to gather before and after games. The Kenney Family Field Center, which includes renovations to the exisiting field center and halftime room and additional special event space, will also be completed in the next phase of Bowl renovations. It honors the Kenney brothers: Jerry P. '63 (who will be honored by the Ivy Football Association in January), Brian R. '60, Robert D. '67 and Richard L. '71, and a son, Jeffrey S. '93.

Father of American Football

For the eighth straight season, the Walter Camp Football Foundation honors Yale's game MVP as the Walter Camp Yale Player of the Game. This award is handed out both at home and on the road and captain Chandler Henley earned the honor against USD (six catches) and Dartmouth (eight). Mike McLeod took week No. 2 honors (three TDs at Cornell), week three (172 rushing yards and three more scores) and week five (204 yards, two TDs). PK Alan Kimball was the WCYPG after his game-winning FG against Penn in week six. LB Bobby Abare was the first defensive player to take the honor. He put the Columbia game away with a 52-yard interception return for a TD and then took it again at Brown with three interceptions. Walter Camp (class of 1880), commonly known as the father of American football, captained two Yale teams and coached five others.

Tuesday's at Morys

Listen to Ron Vaccaro as he interviews Yale football personnel past and present Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The broadcast from Mory's can be heard live on yalebulldogs.com.

Radio, Internet, Home Page and Hotline NEWS/TALK 960 WELI broadcasts Yale football this fall on 960-AM. You can also listen on TEAMLINE by calling 800-846-4700 and entering Yale's code (5682). WELI's Jerry Kristafer begins home game coverage from the Bowl with a half-hour tailgate party. WYBC (1340-AM), the Yale student station, also covers each game and has a 30-minute pre-game show that includes an interview with Eli head coach Jack Siedlecki. Sports Coordinator Anthony Brooks and Director of Football Broadcasts Bob Heussler lead a talented student staff. Yale games can be heard live on the internet at www.960WELI.com and www.wybc.com. The latest scores and game information from Yale varsity athletics are available by calling 432-YALE. The Yale Sports Hotline is sponsored by Barnes & Noble at Yale University, which is located on Broadway. Call 1-888-730-YALE for a copy of the store's fall catalog.

report filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director

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