Nov. 14, 2005
Note: For a more complete version of the notes, open the above PDF
Yale Bowl is host to one of the most famous rivalries in college football on "odd" years. That is particularly appropriate this Saturday in the 122nd meeting of Yale (4-5, 4-2 Ivy) and Harvard (6-3, 4-2) as a very strange Ivy League campaign comes to an end. Yale, Harvard and Princeton are all tied for second with 4-2 marks and trail 5-1 Brown by a game. Penn, the pre-season favorite which lost its last three, is out of the race. Any time there is a potential three-way tie for the championship, especially with mulitple losses, it is truly an "odd" year. Saturday's contest can be heard live on WELI (AM 960), WYBC (AM 1340) and 960WELI.com and wybc.com, while it can be seen live on numerous Tribune Company TV stations including Superstation WGN.
Watching The Game on TV
The Game will be aired on the following TV outlets: Superstation WGN (Chicago); WLVI Boston (WB56); WTXX Hartford; WPIX New York; WEWB Albany; Cox Cable System (Rhode Island) and HD Net (National) Cable and Satellite (Direct TV). WLVI (originating station) is also in the process of putting together an international satellite feed. Charley Steiner, radio voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, provides The Game's play-by-play with alumni analysts, Dan Jiggetts (Harvard '76) and Brian Dowling (Yale '69) providing color. HDNet's Candace Creeger and Mike Ratte, sports director for Boston's WB, will report from the sidelines.
The Bulldogs lead the Crimson 63-49-9 heading into the 122nd meeting but Harvard has won the last four. Yale is 27-23-5 at Cambridge, 29-25-4 at home and 7-1-0 at neutral sites. The Blue has scored 1,611 points compared to 1,435 by the Cantabs. There have been 54 shutouts since the first meeting in 1875 and the Elis are 28-19-7 in those contests. Twenty times since the league was formed in 1956 the Yale-Harvard battle has had a bearing on the Ivy championship, and Harvard has won 10 times with one tie.
Rooting For (Light) Blue
Harvard, Yale and Princeton (H-Y-P) will all be rooting for the Light Blue of Columbia (2-7, 0-6) to knock off Brown (8-1, 5-1) and force a two or three-way tie for first. The Lions' head coach, Bob Shoop (Yale '88), might want to help his alma mater, but it would take quite an effort. In addition to the records, the league's top offense is facing the worst defense.
Second Place is Not Losing
It is sad to say that in our society, finishing anywhere but first is equated to losing. Many schools around the country view it that way, but Yale and Harvard might not be thinking that way this fall. Having any shot an Ancient Eight title on the last Saturday is a positive for two teams that lost a lot of seniors from 2004 and have suffered many injuries in 2005.
Hoping For First Since 1982
Yale, Harvard and Princeton are hoping that this fall will be the first time in 23 years that the Ivy champion has two losses. The Crimson had a 5-2 mark in 1982 and tied for the crown with Penn and Dartmouth.
What Else Is On the Line for The Blue
The Class of 2006 not only hopes to avoid its fourth straight loss to Harvard (5th overall), they don't want to become the second straight group of Yale seniors not to taste victory in The Game. The class of 2005 was the first in 82 years to endure that.
Yale Dashes Princeton's Title Hopes
The Bulldogs erased a 14-0 halftime deficit with the game's last three TDs, including two over the last 1:14 in a 21-14 Yale victory over Princeton before 18,265 at Princeton Stadium. The win was the fourth straight for the Elis over the Tigers, who were knocked out of first place. RB Mike McLeod (16-41) scored from a yard out on fourth down late in the third quarter before WR Todd Feiereisen (8-115) snared a fourth-down pass in the corner of the end zone with 74 ticks on the clock. The Bulldogs forced seven turnovers and had five interceptions. With the score tied, DE Brendan Sponheimer (4-2-6) forced a fumble that was scooped up by LB Bobby Abare(4-1-5, FF) and returned down the left sideline 27 yards to the Princeton one. That's where QB Jeff Mroz (18-38, 181) dove in from a yard out for the winner with 47 seconds left. LB Lee Driftmier (3-6-9, FR) and CB Mike Holben (3-2-5) both had two interceptions.
Yale last took the H-Y-P title, also known as the "Big Three," in 1999. The Bulldogs beat Princeton and lost to Harvard the last three years, while losing both games in 2001. The other Yale championships over the last 15 years came in 1990 and 1998. Yale can capture the 2005 title with a win in The Game, but the Cantabs, who lost to the Tigers, can only make it a three-way tie with a win against the Elis. Harvard had won four straight H-Y-P titles.
Last Week's Firsts
Senior QB Jeff Mroz (in photo) has 36 career TD passes but scored his first one on the ground to beat Princeton... Senior CB Mike Holben's first interceptions (2) of his career came in his second-to-last collegiate game... There had not been a Yale game where more than one Bulldog scored on a rushing TD. Both TB Mike McLeod and Mroz ran one in... The 21-14 win was the first fourth quarter, come-from-behind victory of 2005 and was Yale's first since a 31-28 win over Colgate at New Haven on Oct. 2, 2004.
Kimball Bounces Back
Despite having two field goal attempts blocked at Princeton, sophomore PK Alan Kimball came through at crunch time with two crucial extra points and a kickoff that sailed over the head of the Ivy's best return man. Kimball, who is 4-for-9 this year, has had his last three field goal attempts knocked down at the line. He is 24-for-27 on PATs.
Scoring With the Wedge
QB Jeff Mroz did not need his long irons to score at Princeton. Yale's first two scoring drives were 36 and 25 yards, while the game-winner began at the Princeton one-yard line.
Deja vu at Old Nassau
The comeback win at Princeton last week was very similar to Yale's 2003 trip to New Jersey. Yale trailed by 14 (17-3) at intermission and rallied late to send the game to overtime. Chandler Henley's diving catch with no time on the clock caused the extra session. This time it was WR Todd Feiereisen's diving catch to tie the game with an injured Henley cheering him from the sidelines.
Driftmier Repeats Ivy, National Honor
Junior LB Lee Driftmier had his second two-interception and one fumble recovery game in the last three weeks. He earned Ivy League and I-AA.org Defensive Player of the Week honors after two acrobatic grabs at Columbia three weeks ago. He repeated both honors last week at Princeton. Driftmier got help from senior DE Brandon Dyches, who got his paw on both Princeton passes that he picked off and returned for a total of 44 yards. The current team leader with five picks, Driftmier's total ties Carl Ricci (1994) and Jack Sellati (1975) for most interceptions by a Yale linebacker. The two picks by Driftmier (Ivy leader with 3 fumbles recovered), and CB Mike Holben had the first multiple-interception games for a Princeton opponent in six years.
Crimson Crush Quakers
Harvard, ranked second in I-AA in rushing defense and leading the Ivies in sacks, shut down the Penn defense early and then picked off three Quaker passes on the way to a 29-3 win at Cambridge. However, it was the Cantab offense that stole the spotlight with 469 yards, including 293 passing by QB Liam O'Hagan (22-of-36) and 177 receiving by Ryan Tyler (11 catches). Adam Miller had two of the three Harvard interceptions. O'Hagan leads the Ivies in pass efficiency while TB Clifton Dawson (19-105 vs. Penn) ranks second with 112 yards per game.
Jack Siedlecki, in his ninth season as the Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football at Yale, earned his 100th win as a collegiate head coach against Cornell on Sept. 24. He is 103-63-2 as a collegiate head coach, 47-41 at Yale and 3-5 against Harvard. Tim Murphy, head coach at Harvard, is 7-4 against Yale and is 72-46 at Harvard and 104-91-1 in his 19th year as a collegiate coach.
Filling the Bowl
The Yale-Harvard game in New Haven regularly drew crowds between 50 and 70,000 until the 1990s when there were four meetings with fewer than 40,000. The Game has averaged 52,418 over the last three contests at Yale Bowl. The largest crowd to witness this rivalry was 77,000 in 1916, two years after the Bowl was built. Army drew the largest crowd ever at the Bowl with 80,000 in 1923.
Mroz One TD Away From Season Record
Senior QB Jeff Mroz, who leads the Ivies in three offensive categories and is 24th in total offense in I-AA, has thrown for multiple TDs in seven of nine games this season and is challenging many of the school's passing records. Mroz has thrown for 300 yards or better four times and has topped the 30-completion mark twice. The Greensburg, Pa., native, who beat his brother Greg's Princeton team last weekend, has tossed a TD in every game this fall. The 2005 team captain has 36 career TD passes (2nd at Yale) including a school-record five against Cornell on Sept. 24. His 34 completions at Lehigh were a career-high as was his 56 attempts and the 333 yards against Holy Cross. Mroz's yardage total in that game ranks seventh at Yale, the 34 completions were fourth-best and his attempt total was the third most by a Bulldog. He earned his first (co) Ivy Offensive Player of the Week honors on Sept. 26 when he tied the school record for TD passes with five (Pete Doherty, vs. Columbia , Oct. 15, 1966) against Cornell. Mroz ranks among the top 10 in all of Yale's QB records despite just 18 starts.
The Wright Decision
Junior WR/P Ashley Wright has caught seven TD passes over the last five games and his 10 scoring grabs this fall rank fourth at Yale. Wright earned his third (team-high) Walter Camp Yale Player of the Game honors this season against Brown with two TD catches. Wright, who had a career-high seven grabs for 198 yards and three TDs against Cornell, topped his catch mark with 11 against Holy Cross. The three scores vs. Cornell (9, 31 and 70 yards) on Sept. 24 tied the school record that he now shares with eight others. He leads the team with 55 catches (7th at Yale) and ranks first in the Ivy League and 14th in I-AA with 6.11 catches per game, while his 83.56 yards per outing are second best in the Ivies and 22nd in the nation. Wright, who is eighth in the Ivy League with a 33.57 punting average, had the longest reception (70 yards vs. Cornell) since 2003. Wright had seven catches in all of 2004 and did not attempt a punt.
The five picks at Princeton were the most since the 1946 Bulldogs established a record that will be tough to break with eight interceptions against Coast Guard... Yale has the No. 1 and 2 receivers in the Ivy League this fall in Ashley Wright (6.11 avg.) and Todd Feiereisen (5.67), which is amazing because Wright was a backup last year who saw little time and Feiereisen was a reserve QB who did not get a single snap... Three different Bulldog defenders had two-interception games this year, and they all came on two Saturdays on the road. At Columbia, LB Lee Driftmier and S Matt Handlon had a pair, while Driftmier and CB Mike Holben snared two each at Princeton. However, the Tigers were the first team in 2005 to have a player (Jay McCareins) with multiple picks on Jeff Mroz... The Bulldogs have cemented a winning Ivy season, the sixth under Jack Siedlecki... The Elis were 3-of-5 on fourth downs at Princeton... Harvard owns the top Ivy mark with 28 sacks compared to Yale's 14... FS Nick Solakian (in photo), who had an interception at Princeton, missed the 4th quarter with an injury.
Senior DE Brandon Dyches (Chapin, S.C.) and junior Brendan Sponheimer (Orange, Conn.) were all over the field last week causing havoc in the Princeton backfield. Although the official game stats only credit Dyches with one pass breakup, it was clear that he got a hand on both passes that were picked off by Lee Driftmier and may have had a few others. Sponheimer, who nailed Tiger QB Jeff Terrell many times with and without the ball, earned Yale's hammer award for those big hits. Dyches, who missed two games with an injury, still leads the team with five sacks.
The Bulldogs have 28 touchdowns in 2005 but all but seven have come through the air on QB Jeff Mroz tosses. Freshman RB Mike McLeod has five rushing scores this fall while RB Jordan Spence and Mroz have the others. Yale had seven rushing TDs in 2004, all by Robert Carr, compared to 16 passing TDs by Alvin Cowan. Six different Elis have hauled in scoring passes this season compared to five in 2004.
Feiereisen Makes Big Plays
Senior WR Todd Feiereisen (Westlake Village, CA), who led the Blue with eight catches for 115 yards last week, came up with the equalizing TD on a fourth-down reception in the corner of the end zone. He has led the Elis in receptions the last two Saturdays and is second on the team in receptions this fall while seeing his first varsity action. He caught 16 passes in the first four games and has snared 35 passes over the last five. Feiereisen, who played QB for the first three years of his collegiate career, snared his seventh TD pass of the year at Princeton. His 13 catches for 113 yards at Lehigh were both career-highs, while it was the second game this fall that he tallied a pair of scores. The former signal-caller currently ranks second in the Ivies in receptions per game (5.67) and is third in the league in yards per outing. Feiereisen, Alvin Cowan's backup behind center in 2004, did not have a varsity snap until this year.
Siedlecki Says After Princeton
"I don't know if I've ever been prouder of an effort. You couldn't ask more from a football team than we got out of these guys in the last 20-25 minutes of that game. We talked about it in the morning ­ about just never giving up and how these games have gone over the last three years. They threw some balls up that we went after and got. That's how you win. We came out in the second half and just played. Finally some things went our way... I don't think there were an awful lot of people real happy at halftime. We made a big play, and it was the only big play we made in the first half... and it kept us out of being down by 21. We did not have a great offensive day but I'll tell you what, we made some huge plays at the end and that's what it's all about. Guys stepping up. We've only got two seniors playing on offense. That's it. Boy they came through today. That's senior leadership. It's huge for us. At the other end of it, that play Bobby Abare made, that's as good a football play as you're ever going to see, and he's only a freshman folks. He's going to be around, he's going to be a pretty exciting player over the next few years."
Freshman RB Mike McLeod ranks 28th in I-AA all-purpose yardage with 125.22 per game and 87th with 66.44 rushing yards per outing. He had two 100-yard rushing games over the first three weeks (San Diego, Holy Cross) of the season but has not topped the century mark since. McLeod earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors for the second time this year after the Dartmouth game. He averages 17.56 on kick returns and has 13 receptions this year. The New Britain, Conn., native has broken new ground for rookie runners at Yale. He became the first Yale freshman runner to go over 100 rushing yards in his debut when he went for 102 at San Diego on Sept. 17 and earned league rookie honors. The Elis have not enjoyed this type of offensive weapon from the Nutmeg State since Rich Diana (Hamden) was the 1981 Ivy League MVP.
Six sets of players share a last name and help confuse all who are trying to cover the Elis this fall. There are four sets of brothers and two other sets of players with the same name on the roster. The brothers are Bobby (LB) and Larry (DB) Abare, Matt (RB) and Mike (OL) Cautero, John and Matt Coombs (both DBs) and Jordan (RB) and Rylan (DB) Spence. The Abares, who did not lose a high school game (Acton-Boxboro streak ended at 52 on 9/23/05), are the only twins among the brothers. Larry, playing mostly special teams, has earned five weekly team awards this fall. Bobby, a backup LB, made two huge plays at Princeton and also has four team awards this season. Ed (OL) and Kevin (DL) McCarthy and Ashley (WR) and Chris (DE) Wright are not related.
Yale Still Leads the Nation
Yale has not won a national football title since 1909, but the Bulldogs still have more championships (12) 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 (now 830) but have since been overtaken by Michigan (848).
McCarthy Continues to Shine
Junior LT Ed McCarthy (Fairfield, Conn.), the 2003 Ivy Rookie of the Year as an OG and a second-team all-league center last year, is having another great campaign. McCarthy, whose father and uncle played for the Bulldogs, has been named Yale's offensive line MVP in eight of the nine games. He is the only offensive lineman in league history to earn rookie of the year honors.
Catching Bulldogs At Practice
There is no practice on Mondays, and normal practice time from Tuesday through Friday is 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 practice around the Smilow Center or out on the fields or after practice. It is best to email Steve Conn to arrange a meeting at least a day before you would like to speak with a player.
91st Season in Yale Bowl
Since opening the national historic landmark in 1914 with a 36-0 loss to Harvard before a full house, the Bulldogs have gone 352-185-21 (558 games) in Yale Bowl. In recent times the Blue has had five home and five away games each fall, but the average for the 90 seasons is 6.2 home contests per year. Since formal Ivy play began in 1956, the Elis are 115-73-3 vs. Ancient Eight foes at home.
Yale Bowl Renovations
The restoration of Yale Bowl, a project which was approved by the Yale Corporation, is well under way. Substantial completion is projected by the fall of 2006. The work includes the rebuilding of the interior and exterior walls, the repair or replacement of 17 miles of wood seats and upgrading of all drainage and utilities. The 30 tunnels including the entrances and wing walls at the exits will also be totally refurbished. Each portal at the Bowl will be named to honor a class, team or individual. Gifts have already been made to name more than 20 of the 30 portals, while the playing surface has been named the Class of '54 Field to honor the majority gift in the Yale Bowl project. In addition, Jerome (Jerry) P. Kenney '63, a former Yale football player, has bestowed a gift that will restore the original Yale Bowl Field Center and add additional facilities. Kenney, one of four brothers to compete for the Bulldogs at Yale Bowl, will not only help restore the field center at the base of the press box at the historic stadium, the new Kenney Family Field Center would create additional space above to host special events and other functions. For more details, see the full release on www.yalebulldogs.com.
Bulldogs on Sundays
The last time Yale had two graduates on the same NFL team OT Bill Schuler '47 and end Paul Walker '46 both played 12 games for the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. Fifty-eight years later there are two Bulldogs playing for the San Francisco 49ers, though one is out with an injury. 49er TE Eric Johnson '01 will miss the entire 2005 NFL season with a foot injury that kept him out of the pre-season. Johnson, who played WR at Yale, has had two excellent NFL seasons. Chris Hetherington '96 was released by Oakland and picked up by the 49ers just before opening day and is a FB and special teams player wearing No. 41... Nate Lawrie '04 is in his second season at a Tampa Bay TE... Dick Jauron '73, an Ivy League star runner and former NFL special teams All-Pro, was the head coach of Chicago for five seasons. He is now in his second season as the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.
Leaders Play for Yale
The Yale football team has always produced leaders of all types on and off the field and this year is no exception. The 2005 roster includes 67 players who captained their high school gridiron squads and 45 people who captained other teams. Eight members of this year's team were senior class valedictorians and two were salutatorians.
WFAN's Heussler Calling Action on WYBC
Bob Heussler, a member of the WFAN (NY) Sports Staff, will serve as the play-by-play man for this Saturday's game on WYBC (1340 AM). Heussler, the mentor for the WYBC sports staff, is also the radio voice of Fairfield Men's Basketball and the Connecticut Sun.