Saturday, November 29, 2008

My 2 cents

Names of potential candidates to replace Jack Siedlecki as Yale's head football coach have been flying around the internet in recent days.

The Register's columnist Dave Solomon will weigh in with some names in his weekly "I Was Thinking" column which will run in Sunday's edition of the Register. I will not reveal who is on his list so you'll have to pick up the paper or log onto the web site tomorrow but have a few thoughts of my own.

First, my take on some names being speculated as popular picks to become Yale's third head football coach since 1965.

Steve Addazio, current an assistant at Florida. An absolutely top-notch coach who did a sensational job during his days as Cheshire High's head coach. I just don't see him leaving Florida for anything other than a head coaching gig at a Bowl Championship Series school or an assistants job in the NFL. I also don't think dealing with the non-coaching responsibilities that come with being the head man at Yale would be his cup of tea.

Mark Whipple, currently an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. If you could come up with the check list of the ideal candidate, it would closely resemble Whipple's resume. A former Ivy League player who had success as a head coach in the league at Brown and was also a winner coaching in the greater New Haven area at the University of New Haven. Also won a Division I-AA national title at UMass. I know things are a little dicey in Philadelphia these days concerning the future of Whipple's current boss Andy Reid but I would be a bit surprised if Whipple headed back to the Ivy League especially with all the BCS openings popping up.

Chuck Priore, currently head coach at Stony Brook. Had a brilliant run at Trinity College, winning his last 30 games and posting three straight perfect seasons so he certainly understands recruiting while dealing with the high academic standards he would face at Yale. Priore just signed a contract extension at Stony Brook in January.

Now for a few other "candidates" with the disclaimer that this is nothing but speculation on my part since it is still very early in the process.

Kevin Morris, currently the offensive coordinator at UMass. Like Siedlecki, Morris was a former head coach at WPI and both also had coaching stints at Albany. It's hard to ignore his results at Northeastern and UMass but a 24-32 record in six seasons as the head coach at WPI might be a tough sell to the alumni who were applying increasing pressure on Siedlecki.

Frank Sheehan, currently the offensive coordinator at Brown. Has spent the last 11 years at Brown, including the last two as the director of the Bears' dynamic offense. Has ties to the state both as a player and an assistant coach at the University of New Haven but would be surprised to see Ivy League co-champions let Sheehan go to one of its biggest rivals.

Mike Pedone, currently the offensive coordinator at Holy Cross. I know some are dreaming about convincing Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore to head south. That seems pretty unrealistic. Pedone, who was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2008 after doing yeoman's work with the Crusaders offensive line, would seem to be a more attainable option if both Yale and Pedone are so inclined.

Now for the fun part, big names who may be available with may the operative word.
Ron Prince, former Kansas State head coach. Prince has an Ivy League background with a brief stint as an assistant coach at Cornell. The hire would make waves by making him the first black head football coach at Yale. Prince, a former offensive coordinator at Virginia, he is a well-rounded individual as he served NFL Minority Fellowships with the Jacksonville Jaguars (1996), Washington Redskins (1997), Atlanta Falcons (1999) and New York Giants (2000). Don't be surprised if BCS or NFL teams come calling for Prince but if I were involved in the process, I would certain drop a dime to speak with Prince.

Mike Dembrock, currently the offensive line coach at Washington. With Ty Willingham not returning at Washington, it's uncertain what will happen with his staff. Dembrock had coaching stints at Stanford and Notre Dame so he is no stranger to coaching in setting where academics are a priority.

Dave Clawson, formerly the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. With veteran Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer not returning, Clawson is looking for a job as reports out of Knoxville have Fulmer's entire staff looking for work. During head coaching stints at Fordham and Richmond, Clawson has a 58-49 record. Yale would be crazy not to make a run at the former head coach who began his coaching career at Albany in 1989.

Aside from all of these candidates, you have the current group of Yale assistant coaches. It is certainly hard to ignore the job defensive coordinator Rick Flanders has done especially in the last couple of years but my gut feeling is that Yale will be looking to shake things up and will not hire somebody closely affiliated with Siedlecki which would take the current staff out of the equation.

Whatever direction Yale goes, it would be wise to act quickly. The Bulldogs lose 34 players including 15 players who started games this season. The more time that goes by, the tougher it will be recruiting a class to fill the void left by an outstanding outgoing group of seniors.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gerald wins Nason Award

Yale senior cornerback Casey Gerald was named the winner of the Jerry Nason Award from the New England Football Writers Association for senior achievement.

Gerald will receive the award at a banquet in Wilmington, Mass. on Dec. 11.
Gerald is also in the running for the Draddy Trophy or "academic Heisman" and had been asked to speak on behalf of the 15 candidates at the Dec. 9 National Football Foundation dinner in New York.

Gerald, the first Bulldog to win the Nason Award since John Saunders in 1993, started Yale's last 30 games at cornerback and finished his career with 61 solo tackles and one interception.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hawari honored

There is some good news to report after a rough couple of days in the world of Yale football with the Yale Precision Marching Band being suspended as a result of their activities and props during halftime of the Yale/Harvard game and head coach Jack Siedlecki being reassigned.

On Wednesday, senior defensive tackle Kyle Hawari was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American team.
Hawari, one of four Yale players named to the All-Ivy League first team, led the Bulldogs with eight sacks and was third on the team with 57 tackles and 10 tackles for losses.
Hawari is a history major with a 3.65 grade point average.

Yale makes it official

Yale just put out a release announcing Jack Siedlecki's retirement as Yale's football coach.

Nothing new to report out of the release.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Siedlecki reassigned

When Jack Siedlecki spoke about changes coming to the Yale program following yet another offensive meltdown at the hands of Harvard on Saturday afternoon, he had no way of knowing he would be among those moving on.

On Tuesday night word got out that Siedlecki was not going to be back for his 13th season as Yale's coach. He will not be fired, that is not Yale's way. Instead he will be reassigned. He has been offered a position as an assistant athletic director and will be meeting with university officials on Wednesday to speak about his future at Yale.

As to be expected, not much was coming out of Yale - on the record - on Tuesday night. Siedlecki, perhaps the most media friendly coach I have dealt with during my 20 years at the paper, declined to come to the phone when I called his house on Tuesday night. An official announcement should be coming in the next few days.

I returned to the beat after a 10-year absence this year but heard the rumblings from the alumni. Even though Yale was 17-3 with an Ivy League title in the previous two years, Siedlecki was under scrutiny coming into this season. Obviously finishing with just 90 yards of offense against Harvard was the last straw. It was the second straight year Yale failed to score an offensive touchdown against Harvard and the third time in the last five years they failed to find the end zone on offense against their rivals. Yale lost seven of its last eight against Harvard, the worst run against the Crimson since a 1-8 mark from 1910-1922. The bottom line is that if you are the head coach at Yale, you have to beat Harvard. It is as simple as that. Outside of a three-year win streak against Harvard from 1998-2000, his only other win over the Crimson came in 2006 with a convincing 34-13 victory. Going 4-8 against Ohio State will get you fired at Michigan, going 4-8 against Oklahoma will get you fired at Texas. Going 4-8 against Harvard will get you reassigned at Yale.

The administration had better move quickly to find a replacement. Yale loses 34 seniors including 13 players who started in the Harvard game and this is a prime recruiting time. Rumors that the entire staff were being dismissed could not be confirmed. That would clearly be a mistake. With a little more offensive fluidity, the Bulldogs could have gone into the Harvard game at 9-0. Yale lost by three at Cornell and back-to-back two-point losses to Fordham and Penn. After leading all Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense in 2007 and 2008, Yale officials would be crazy to led defensive coordinator Rick Flanders walk. Having been at four junior varsity games this year, the offensive play calling was much more creative than what I saw during varsity games so letting Larry Ciotti, a Connecticut institution, go would definitely be an error. Defensive line coach Duane Brooks, who works with Ciotti coaching the JV team, and defensive backs coach Anthony Reno have also done yeoman's work putting together a terrific defensive team. You can't discount the job defensive ends coach John Walsh did especially when fiery leader Brady Hart was sidelined early in the season. Yale's special teams, the onsides kick against Harvard the rare exception, were also strong led by punter Tom Mante, return specialist Gio Christodoulou and gunner supreme Brian Stephenson and special teams coach Shawn Halloran deserves credit for that. There will be some tough decisions for the Yale hierarchy of what to do with the staff. I guess a lot depends on how much work they think need to be done and how much loyalty the current staff feels towards Siedlecki. I personally think Yale was extremely close to coming away with the Ivy League title in 2008. The freshman class dominated in both playing time and production with the JV squad so there is some hope in the future but dragging out the process could prove disasterous in securing a strong recruiting class, something the program just can not afford considering all the holes left to fill by the graduation of this special senior class.

Obviously there will be much more to come on this story.

Abare, McLeod join select company

Yale senior linebacker Bobby Abare and senior running back Mike McLeod joined current Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron as the only Yale players named first team All-Ivy three times.

Abare led Yale with 86 tackles and tied for the team lead with four interceptions. He finished his career as Yale's leader with four defensive touchdowns and his 10 interceptions are the most by a Yale linebacker.

McLeod ran for 842 yards to become the first player in Yale history to lead the rushing four consecutive years. He finished as Yale's all-time leader with 4,514 rushing yards, 54 rushing touchdowns, 55 overall touchdowns, 22 100-yard rushing games and three 200-yard rushing games.

Senior defensive tackle Kyle Hawari, who led Yale with eight sacks and four forced fumbles, and senior offensive tackle Darius Dale also earned first team honors.

Senior nose guard Joe Hathaway (team-high 13 tackles for losses), junior punter Tom Mante and senior safeties Larry Abare (73 tackles) and Steve Santoro (57 tackles, three interceptions) were named to the second team. Center Ty Davis, cornerbacks Casey Gerald and Paul Rice, linebacker Jay Pilkerton and defensive end Brady Hart were honorable mention All-Ivy selections. Mante was also an honorable mention selection as a kicker.

Harvard senior quarterback Chris Pizzotti was named the Bushnell Cup winner as Ivy League MVP while Harvard defensive back Matthew Hanson was selected as the league's freshman of the year.

Now that the information portion of my duties are complete, now it is time for some observations.

Princeton running back Jordan Culbreath and Brown tight end Colin Cloherty were the only unanimous selections to the first team. That means that at least one coach did not vote for Bobby Abare as one of the four best linebackers in the Ivy League. Huh? I would love to hear that argument of the four linebackers in the league better than Abare. Pretty much every coach who called into the weekly Yale football luncheons said that any mention of Yale's sensational defense had to start with Abare and yet he was left off at least one ballot? And I thought I had to deal with some wacky ballots when I was in charge of the Register's weekly high school football poll.

A few other Yale-related rants from the voting. Yale led the nation in scoring defense and also led the Ivy League in pass efficiency defense and not one member of Yale's secondary earned first-team All Ivy?

Also, John Sheffield led all Ivy League tight ends with 43 receptions and yet he didn't warrant a spot either on the first, second or honorable mention teams?

Then you have no Princeton offensive linemen on first team. Excuse me, but didn't the Tigers lead the league in rushing offense. I would love to see the number of times that a team with the league's leading rusher didn't get at least one offensive lineman on the first team in any league. If the coaches really believe there were no Princeton linemen worthy of first team recognition, shouldn't Culbreath have been named the MVP of the league since they are saying he basically did it on his own.

Last but not least, perhaps it was just plugged in wrong on the Ivy League site, but Pilkerton was listed as a defensive back and Hart as a linebacker on the honorable mention list. OK, Hart does play off the line of scrimmage more than he does on it so I can buy listing him as a linebacker even if Yale considers him to be a defensive end. But I can not recall one time this season when Pilkerton lined up anywhere but linebacker.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rhodes list is out

There is a representative from Yale among the 32 Rhodes Scholarship winners but it is Jarrad McGuire out of Centennial, Colorado and not Yale senior cornerback Casey Gerald of Dallas.

Gerald was one of 13 finalists who headed to Houston for the District 8 final interviewing process. The committee selected Princeton's Stephen J. Hammer and Harvard's Mallorie Snider.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Recapping "The Game"

First thing I did after getting home - after turning up the heat of course - was look at the replay of the controversial punt fumble/no fumble call which set up the game's only touchdown.

It looked to me as if the ball grazed off of Larry Abare's foot. Replays were not 100 percent conclusive but it certainly appeared as if the ball struck Abare, who was blocking for Gio Christodoulou and if that is the case, the officials got the call right.

Some other observations: it is hard to believe that a team could fail to register at least 100 yards of offense but Yale actually did it twice this season. The Bulldogs managed just 92 yards of offense in a 9-7 loss to Penn on Oct. 25 and ended up with 90 in Saturday's 10-0 loss to Harvard. Of those yards, 42 came on the Bulldogs' first six plays meaning the other 34 plays gained all of 48 yards. Yet, Yale still was in the game up until the time that Brook Hart was sacked and fumbled on Yale's final offensive play.

If there was a constant in Yale's losses other than a lack of offense it was the breakdown in pass protection. When Hart, a strong-armed sophomore, was given time to throw he was extremely effective but it is hard to complete passes while laying on your back.

Yale's offense will look significantly different next season. With the graduation of all-time leading rusher Mike McLeod, look for Yale to go back to spreading the field and throwing the ball. At the risk of harping on the line play, it should be noted that Yale loses four starters off the offensive line and two top reserves.

The defense will also have a different look if for no other reason than the graduation of Bobby Abare who had 18 tackles in his final college game. He is far from the only loss as defensive linemen Brady Hart, Kyle Hawari and Joe Hathaway, linebacker Jay Pilkerton, corner Casey Gerald and free safety Steve Santoro are also graduating. The good news is that Paul Rice, Tom McCarthy, Larry Abare, Travis Henry, Justin Oplinger and Adam Money - all key contributors on the defense which led all Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense both in 2007 and 2008.

Speaking of Gerald, he was not one of the 32 people selected to receive a Rhodes Scholarship.

The best line of the day came from Harvard quarterback Chris Pizzotti. I asked him about the huge hit he took from Bobby Abare.

"Was it Bobby? I figured it would be. It was a good hit, I am still feeling it a little bit. He is an unbelievable football player. I grew up in Massachusetts and I heard all about the Abare brothers and they are as good as advertised."

There will be a look ahead at the 2009 Yale team in Monday's edition of the Register.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two days and counting

"The Game" is two days away and here are a few tidbits.

First, the game is sold out except for a few student tickets to be given out at Harvard.

The status of Yale junior cornerback Paul Rice probably won't be known until just before kickoff. Rice missed last week's game against Princeton and was limited to just one play the previous week against Brown with a knee injury. Rice, who is tied for the team lead with Bobby Abare with four interceptions, won't attempt to go full speed until the pre-game warmups.

Speaking of injuries, Yale will dress just 36 players for Friday's junior varsity game. The Bulldogs have been hit especially hard at the running back position. Freshmen Alex Thomas of Ansonia and Josh Kozel of Westport should see the majority of time in the backfield for the 1 p.m. JV game at Harvard.

The recruiting process is beginning to intensify.

Likely letters, which is basically the admission's department giving the thumb's up that Yale's football recruiting targets' applications have been approved, have been sent to John Runk, a receiver out of Anderson High in Cincinnati, Greenwich linebacker Will McHale (the team's leading tackler a a junior who missed his senior season with a knee injury), Hopkins quarterback John Powers (who projects as a safety at Yale) and Buckingham, Brown and Nichols kicker Philippe Panico (who kicked a Massachusetts high school record 58-yard field goal in a 57-6 win over Middlesex on Oct. 25).

Runk and the defending Division II state champion Anderson will face top-ranked Columbus DeSales in the Division II semifinals on Friday at 7:30 p.m. DeSales defeated Anderson 38-17 during the regular season. Runk leads the run-orientated Anderson team with 22 receptions and 356 receiving yards.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Backed into a corner?

Yale could have both of its starting corners when it goes against the most dynamic offense in the Ivy League or could be without either of them for Saturday's game at Harvard.

Paul Rice has been on the field for one play - a punt - in the last two weeks because of a troublesome knee. At Tuesday's media luncheon, Yale coach Jack Siedlecki said Rice is better than he was a week ago when Rice was ruled out for the Princeton game by mid-week but Rice may not know if he can go or not until he attempts to go full speed during pre-game drills on Saturday.

The case of Casey Gerald is not injury related. Gerald will fly to Houston on Thursday and will undergo interviews in an attempt to become the eighth Yale football player to be named a Rhodes Scholar. The hope is to have Gerald on a flight from Houston to Boston Friday night but the exact details are still being worked out. Gerald wants to play in the Harvard game enough that he reached out to the committee to express his intention on being with Yale as he plays the final game of his football career. In Wednesday's edition of the Register, there will be more on Gerald's remarkable journey from a rough childhood where both of his parents left the family because of their drug addictions and became not only a three-year starter at Yale, but has a chance to become one of the most decorated student-athletes to ever suit up at Yale.

Yale back in poll

After a four-week absence, Yale has returned to the "other teams receiving votes" in the Sports Network's Football Championship Subdivision poll. Yale, winners of its last three games to improve to 6-3, received three points. Harvard remains at No. 19. Brown, with 10 points, is the only other Ivy League representative. Holy Cross just missed cracking the top 25 meaning the overtime loss to the Bulldogs pretty much kept the Crusaders out of the top 25.

One interesting thing I noticed is that three of the teams ranked ahead of Harvard receive key contributions from former New Haven high school stars.

Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Martin Parker, who was on Yale's recruiting radar for a bit while he was at Hyde, has 38 tackles and two sacks for No. 7 Richmond.

Former Hillhouse star D.J. McAulay, a junior receiver, leads 16th-ranked William & Mary with 37 catches, 701 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions.

Senior defensive back Lionel Nixon Jr., who played scholastically at Hyde, is fourth on No. 17 Maine with 69 tackles including a team-best 40 solo hits. Nixon also has two sacks and an interception.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yale/Princeton: The Morning After

Just some thoughts off Yale's 14-0 win over Princeton at a rainy, waterlogged Yale Bowl on Saturday.

Once again, the defense was the story with four turnovers (should have been five as replays showed that Brady Hart did indeed intercept the pass in the fourth quarter that one official came in, overruled the initial call of a good interception).

I know teams do what they do on offense but I question the play call that led to the first Princeton turnover. Running an option on a field in the condition the Yale Bowl was in seems like a high-risk move to me. Sure enough, on Princeton's second offensive play Jordan Culbreath mishandled the pitch. Larry Abare recovered the fumble to set up Yale's first touchdown.

The Abare brothers, playing together at the Bowl for the final time, were once again in the middle of things. Not only did Larry have a fumble recovery and interception but Bobby Abare's 10th career interception set up Yale's second touchdown.

Mike McLeod ran like the Mike McLeod of old, displaying wonderful vision and making decisive cuts en route to a season high 138 yards as he upstaged Culbreath, the Ivy's leading rusher.

The Columbia football team's fan base should reach an all-time high this week as supporters of the Yale, Harvard and Penn teams will be pulling for the Lions to upset Brown. Brown and Harvard currently lead the Ivy League race by a game over Penn and Yale. If Brown loses, Harvard is guaranteed no worse than a share of the title while Yale can also secure a piece of the championship with Brown and Harvard with a win and Brown loss. Penn will need a win over Cornell and wins by Yale and Columbia to share the title. This is the first time in league history that four teams are still in the championship race heading into the final week.

An intriguing item off the game was the Kyle Hawari and Brady Hart each recorded their 100th career tackles making them the fifth and sixth members of the senior class to reach triple figures in career tackles. With Bobby Abare (261 career tackles), Larry Abare (164), Steve Santoro (115), Casey Gerald (110), Hart (104) and Hawari (101) all with more than 100 career stops it is no wonder that Yale leading all Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense, interceptions/per game and red zone defense.

Anybody who is free Tuesday night might want to consider swinging by The Arena at Harbro Yard as the proceeds from the ticket sales at the Fairfield/Sacred Heart men's basketball game will go to the American Diabetes Association in honor of Bill Gonillo, the former voice of Yale football, who died last year after falling into a diabetic coma. Ticket prices are $5, the game begins at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good news, bad news

So are you a good news first or a bad news first type of person?

I admit to having the preference of getting the bad news first so here goes. Don't expect to see starting cornerback Paul Rice against Princeton on Saturday. The knee which Rice injured against Columbia two weeks ago will keep him out of action. Rice was limited to one play in last week's win at Brown and that came while covering a punt. Sophomore Adam Money, who played the entire game at corner and had a brilliant game, will take Rice's spot.

Now for the good news, it appears as if the other starting cornerback Casey Gerald will not have to choose between playing in next week's Yale/Harvard game and staying in Houston as part of the Rhodes Scholar interview process. As a Rhodes finalist, Gerald is flying to Houston Thursday for the final round of interviews on Friday. The fear was he would have to stay in Houston on Saturday in case the selection committee wanted to conduct any follow-up interviews but both Yale coach Jack Siedlecki and Gerald's older sister and legan guardian Natashia confirmed that the scheduling conflict has been averted and Gerald should be able to play in the 125th meeting between Yale and Harvard a week from Saturday. Look for more, much more on Casey Gerald's remarkable story in Tuesday's edition of the Register.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ivy honors Mante again

Yale junior punter Tom Mante was named the Ivy League's Special Teams Player of the Week for the second straight time.

Mante had field goals of 39 and 27 yards, kicked an extra point and averaged 41 yards on his seven punts in Saturday's 13-3 win at Brown.

Sophomore quarterbach Brook Hart (292 yards, one touchdown pass) and sophomore defensive back Adam Money (nine tackles, two passes broken up) were named to the Ivy League weekly honor roll.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Milestone for McLeod

Midway through the third quarter of Saturday's 13-3 win over Brown, Mike McLeod joined some select company when he became just the eighth Football Championship Subdivision player to have 1,000 career rushing attempts.

Carry No. 1,000 was hardly one for the record books, however as McLeod was thrown for a six yard loss. He finished the game with 1,011 career carries. He will not catch current Colgate star Jordan Scott, who has a record 1,191 carries but with 36 carries in his last two collegiate games McLeod would finish four on the FCS career list for rushing attempts.

Although a disappointing and injury-plagued senior season will prevent McLeod from leaving Yale as the Ivy League's all-time leading rusher, his name will be all over the Ivy record book.

Here's where he stands on the Ivy League career lists. Record holder is in parenthesis.
Rushing attempts (all games): 1,011 1st
Rushing attempts (Ivy games): 658 4th (Ed Marinaro, Cornell: 707)
Rushing yards (all games): 4314 5th (Clifton Dawson, Harvard: 4841)
Rushing yards (Ivy games): 2818 6th (Marinaro, Cornell: 3391)
Rushing TDs (All games): 54 2nd (Dawson, Harvard: 60)
Rushing TDs (Ivy games): 36 2nd (Dawson, Harvard: 39)
Touchdowns (All games): 55 2nd (Dawson, Harvard: 66)
Touchdowns (Ivy games): 37 2nd (Dawson, Harvard: 45)
Points (All games): 330 2nd (Dawson, Harvard: 398)
All-purpose yards (All games): 5,114 3rd (Dawson, Harvard: 6,138).

Points (Ivy games): 222 2nd-tie (Dawson, Harvard: 270)

Sunday morning quarterback

Just finished watching the YES broadcast of the Yale/Brown game and here are a few observations.

The game-clinching touchdown pass from Brook Hart to Peter Balsam was a perfect play call. All game long and all season long the Bulldogs have relied on screens. On the play, Hart's pump fake drew three Brown defenders toward Patrick Sedden. Balsam was uncovered 18 yards down field and took care of the rest during the 78-yard scoring play.

I broke down the amount of times Brown quarterback Michael Dougherty tried to take advantage of the inexperience of sophomore cornerback Adam Money. Of Dougherty's 54 pass attempts, 14 went in Money's direction. Money, starting at cornerback because Paul Rice was injured while covering a punt, allowed eight receptions for 66 yards. Allowing less than 5 yards per pass attempt is a pretty impressive ratio at any level, especially playing against a Brown team with a veteran quarterback, the two most productive receivers in the Ivy League and a gifted tight end. What might be surprising is that linebacker Jay Pilkerton received the second most amount of action on pass defense. The 11 targets against Pilkerton resulted in seven catches for 87 yards. Defensive end Brady Hart was next with seven passes thrown against his man. Hart's strong game is proven by the fact that he allowed just three receptions for 25 yards. Casey Gerald gave up 3 catches for 35 yards and he was targeted seven times including the final pass of the game which resulted in his first career interception.

The fact that 24 of Dougherty's 54 attempts came against either linebackers or defensive ends speaks volumes about how effective the Bulldogs' defensive scheme was. For most of the game the Bulldogs rushed the passer with only their three interior defensive linemen and dropped eight players into coverage. Yale was willing to give up getting free runs at Dougherty and rely on its pass coverage abilities. The strategy worked as Brown only managed one field goal and that came while senior linebacker Bobby Abare was out of the game with back spasms.

If statisticians review the tape, Kyle Hawari will be credited for a forced fumble which was given to Joe Hathaway. If the change is made, it will be the third forced fumble in the last two games for Hawari.

Of all the numbers from the final box score, none may be more surprising than Yale failing to recover any of Brown's four fumbles. Yale did intercept two passes and are tied with Grambling among the Football Championship Subdivision stats with an average of two interceptions per game but dropped the fifth in turnover margin after finishing the game at plus one in the turnover department. The normally sure-handed Pilkerton dropped an interception which was significantly easier to corral than the remarkable one-handed pick he had earlier in the game and the Bears altertly fell on all four of their own fumbles. Yale did extend its lead in the FCS scoring defense category as the Bulldogs' average of 11.9 points per game is a full two points ahead of second place Prairie View. Yale is also tied with Grambling in red zone defense, giving up scores on just 60 percent of opponent's drives inside the Yale 20. Of the 25 drives into the red zone, the Bulldogs have given up just eight touchdowns and seven field goals. Grambling has allowed 15 touchdowns and three field goals in 30 red-zone possessions.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Brown/Yale post-game ramblings

Just got back from the game and now that there is no fear of booted off the internet at a moment's notice, I will share some of my thoughts.

First, appearances can be deceiving. As I normally do, I watched the pre-game warmups to see which of the injured players are in uniform or going through the drill. Junior cornerback Paul Rice was one of the first players to go through warmups and he looked fine. Meanwhile, senior running back Mike McLeod walked onto the field and headed straight to the bench to sit down. All I saw him do to get ready for the game was a brief period of light running nearly the goal line. So what happens? Rice gets injured on a punt after Yale's initial drive stalled and doesn't play a down on defense. McLeod plays nearly the entire game and rushes 24 times for 63 yards.

If I were picking a player of the game, I would split it between sophomore Adam Money who stepped in for Rice at cornerback and led the Bulldogs with nine tackles while providing blanket coverage against the dangerous Brown receivers and sophomore receiver Peter Balsam, who had 5 catches for 181 yards including a 78-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter. Other candidates would include senior linebacker Jay Pilkerton (7 tackles, 1 interception, another interception dropped), junior tight end John Sheffield (9 catches for 48 yards) and sophomore quarterback Brook Hart (22 of 32, 292 yards) who was more impressive than Brown's senior quarterback Michael Dougherty.

The most compelling images from the game would have to be senior cornerback Casey Gerald being mobbed by his teammates after making the first interception of his career and Bobby Abare racing out of the lockerroom and onto the field after receiving treatment after back spasms knocked him out of the game.

The call to throw the ball on Balsam's TD was a risky one. Faced with a 2nd-and-9, an incompletion would have stopped the clock, saved Brown from taking its final timeout and put Yale in a dangerous 3rd-and-long situation holding onto a three-point lead with just under 4 minutes to go. Obviously the Bears were expecting McLeod to get the ball as they led Balsam run unchecked down the field. Hart floated the ball to Balsam - careful not to overthrow his wide-open receiver. Balsam did the rest.

The immediate ramifications of the game is that Yale knows that a win over Princeton this coming Saturday will mean that the Bulldogs would go into the season-ending game at Harvard still having a chance - albeit a slim one - of winning the Ivy League crown. A loss to Brown would have eliminated Yale from the Ivy League race. The Bulldogs still need Brown, Harvard and Penn to lose to have a chance to earn a share of the Ivy League title. Harvard and Penn play this coming Saturday. The best scenario for Yale is to have Harvard win and then if Yale beats Princeton and Harvard, the Bulldogs could earn a share of the title if Brown loses to either Dartmouth or Columbia.

One last thought, I will think twice before I criticize the Connecticut media for its lack of coverage of the Yale football team after what happened on Saturday. Outside of a writer from the Associated Press, there was not one member of the Providence or Brown media in the post-game press conference. Brown coach Phil Estes wasn't even summoned to the press conference because there was no local media there to cover the event. That's pretty hard to believe considering that the Bears were in first place in the Ivy League playing a huge game. I know times are tough in the newspaper business with layoffs and early retirements happening at an alarming rate, but I believe the Brown team deserved better from its local media.

McLeod banged up

While I have received no official word, Mike McLeod is acting like he is not playing. When he came onto the field about an hour before the game, he didn't warm up and headed to the bench.

McLeod separated his shoulder in last week's win over Columbia and other ran a couple a minutes running near the goal line, McLeod was a non participant in pre-game drills. Ricky Galvez would get the start if McLeod is indeed out.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yale trio honored

Senior cornerback Casey Gerald, defensive tackle Kyle Hawari and fullback Shebby Swett were all named to the 2008 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District team making them eligible for academic All-American status.

Gerald, one of 15 candidates for the Draddy Award given for academic excellence to a senior college football player, has started the last 27 games at cornerback for the Bulldogs. Gerald, a political science major, has a 3.70 grade point average. He also is one of 10 finalists for the Awards and Recognition Association Sportsmanship Award. Gerald is the only Ivy Leaguer on the list of finalists.

Hawari, who moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, leads Yale and the Ivy League with six sacks this season. Hawari is a history major with a 3.65 GPA.

Swett, the lead blocker for record-breaking Yale tailback Mike McLeod, has not carried the ball this season but he does have two catches for 10 yards including a 5-yard TD reception in a season-opening win over Georgetown. Swett is a history major with a 3.72 grade point average.

Yale, Dartmouth, Holy Cross and Syracuse lead the way with three players each named to the 24-player squad. Steve Tedesco, a junior receiver who has a team-best 65 catches for Sacred Heart University, is the only other Connecticut player on the first team. Tedesco is a history major with a 3.38 GPA.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Media luncheon recap

I would have to say that today's media luncheon was easily the most entertaining of the season. Credit for livening things up goes to the engaging duo of seniors (offensive tackle Darius Dale and linebacker Jay Pilkerton) who accompanied Yale coach Jack Siedlecki to the event at The Course at Yale.

Perhaps the most intriguing portion of the event came when Dale spoke about the "freshman only" meeting the current group of seniors had back in 2008. Turns out the chemistry, especially between the seniors and freshmen, was not a strength of the 2005 team. Dale and his classmates wanted to change the culture and atmosphere in the program. Despite disappointing losses to Cornell, Fordham and Penn, the seniors believe they have made major strides in that area.

Dale also said that attempting to play in the NFL is not in his future plans.

"I can barely walk up and down stairs right now," Dale said. "I am just focused on getting my health back and getting to the real world, the NFL has never really been an option or goal of mine."

Siedlecki said that about 20 NFL teams have visited Yale this season. Although senior running back Mike McLeod, Yale's all-time leading rusher, is usually the player they come to scout, invariably it is junior punter Tom Mante who leaves the biggest impression with the pro scouts.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mante honored

Yale junior punter/kicker Tom Mante was named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 41 yards on five punts, putting four punts inside the 20 including three inside the 10 and kicked two field goals.

Senior defensive tackle Kyle Hawari did not get the nod as the league's defensive player of the week despite making eight solo tackles with two sacks and two forced fumbles. Hawari and senior running back Mike McLeod (85 yards rushing and three touchdowns, 25 receiving yards) did make the Ivy League honor roll. Senior safety Larry Abare's 13 tackles weren't enough to secure him at least a mention on the honor roll.

Yale, which plays at Brown on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., is now ranked first among Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense (13.1 points per game) and second in turnover margin (1.43).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Opportunistic JV squad wins

The unofficial final offensive numbers added up to just 163 yards including 48 yards passing but it was enough for the Yale junior varsity team to defeat Bridgton Academy 27-17 at Clint Frank Field on Sunday

Yale forced five turnovers, blocked a punt and would have also been credited for a blocked field goal if not for an inadvertent whistle.

Dawson Halliday threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Chris Morris (Halliday's only completion of the game) while Bryan Farris had scoring strikes of 9 yards to McConnell Smith and 3 yards to Alex Birks. The other score came on a 1-yard run by Josh Kozel.

Jake McCrary led Yale with 60 yards rushing on 10 carries and fellow freshman Alex Thomas has nine carries for 42 yards, 33 coming on one carry. Thomas did lose a pair of fumbles and both he and McCrary left the game with injuries. Kozel finished the game at tailback and had nine carries for 24 yards.

Defensively, Nick Schneider had a team-high 10 tackles and also blocked a punt. Reed Spiller and Andrew Pappas had eight tackles each while Matt Battaglia made seven tackles. McConnell Smith, Dan Walsh and Marcus Wallace each had fumble recoveries while Colin Kruger and Bedford Booth had interceptions - the second in the last two weeks for Booth.

Former Notre Dame-West Haven standout Sean Bostic-Sealy had a fumble recovery and former Hand High star Joe Robichaud had six catches for 64 yards for Bridgton Academy which outgained the Bulldogs 354-163 according to my unofficial tabulations.

The Yale JV squad improved to 3-2 and will end the season with a game at Harvard on Nov. 21.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Taming the Lions

It would have been a tad bit ironic if Yale had a 92-yard drive to ice its win over Columbia Saturday since the Bulldogs managed a total of 92 yards in last week's loss to Penn. Although it didn't quite work out like that, there were few complaints to be heard from the Yale camp after the blue-collar 27-12 win.

Mike McLeod ran for 57 of his 85 yards in the second half and his three touchdown runs moved him into second place in Ivy League history in both rushing TDs and points scored.

Although McLeod was named the player of the game, my vote would have gone to senior defensive tackle Kyle Hawari who had eight solo tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. At a point of reference, Columbia had allowed a total of one sack in its three previous Ivy League games and a total of five sacks this season.

Outside of a botched hold on a field goal try and a kickoff which bounced out of bounds, Yale's special teams were indeed special. Junior punter Tom Mante continued to impress by placing four of his five punts inside the 20. Mante did get one gift when Mike Stephens fielded a punt on the Columbia 1 and was stopped by Joe Dennison and Brian Stephenson at the 3. Columbia began three drives inside its own 10 and the average starting spot was the 19. Facing a defense as good as Yale, that is not a recipe for success.

Mante also kicked two field goals, Peter Balsam blocked a punt leading to one of McLeod's three TDs and Adam Money averaged 25 yards on three kickoff returns.

With the win, Yale is still in the Ivy League race. It's pretty simple, if the Bulldogs win at Brown next week they still have a chance. A loss and Yale will be eliminated from the race.

Columbia's decision to move out to the hashmark for the meeting between the team captains at the start of the second half was not well received by Yale. Seeing the Lions hooting and hollering got the attention of the Yale players who promptly made their way to their own hashmark. The officials stepped in, at the request of Yale captain Bobby Abare, to keep tempers from flaring.

"I didn't think much of it," Abare said. "Any time a team comes out like that, it doesn't really show a lot of class but I think we handled it well. We didn't talk back."

The Yale JV team will be back in action Sunday at noon when it hosts Bridgton Academy at Clint Frank Field. Bridgton features six Connecticut players including receiver Joe Robichaud of Madison, offensive lineman Patrick Miller of Wallingford and linebacker Sean Bostic-Sealy of Hamden.