Monday, October 31, 2011

Cargill honored by Ivy League

Yale junior running back Mordecai Cargill was named the Ivy League's Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a career-high 230 yards including scoring runs of 19 and 4 yards in a 16-13 win at Columbia on Saturday.

Cargill's effort was the fourth best rushing total in Yale history and just five yards shy of the school record in an Ivy League game as Robert Carr ran for 235 yards against Cornell in 2002. Cargill, who had 153 of those yards in the second half, allowed the Bulldogs to make some Ivy League history. With Alex Thomas running for 204 yards the previous week against Penn, it is the first two an Ivy team had two different runners top the 200-yard rushing mark in consecutive games.

Cargill's 42 rushing attempts is four shy of Yale's single-game record set by Rich Diana against Princeton in 1981.

Cargill was also on the six Football Championship Subdivision players named by the College Football Performance Awards as "running back performer of the week."

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some info from Yale on upcoming home games

Yale's athletic department has sent out some info pertaining to the last home football games of the year. First, military veterans, active service members, police officers, and firefighters along with their families will get free tickets to Saturday's game against Brown.

There will be a Heroes Tailgate located in the Hospitality Village to pick up the tickets. For information, contact Jennifer O’Neil at (203) 432-1414 or

Also, for the second straight time there will be no general admission parking passes sold for the Nov. 19 Harvard game.

Here is the part of the release from Yale regarding the parking passes.

All parking at the Bowl will require a purchased pass. Parking passes must be purchased in advance and are available on a first come first served basis. In order to purchase a parking pass, fans must purchase at least two game tickets; two purchased tickets will then entitle them to buy one parking pass. Yale students and Yale employees can purchase one parking pass by visiting the Yale Athletics Ticket Office and providing proper identification. Fans without Yale Bowl parking should plan to park downtown, in the new subsidized option described below, or make other arrangements for transportation and parking.

There are approximately 4,000 available parking spaces around the Yale Bowl and these will be sold until they have been allocated. Yale does expect to sell out the parking passes in advance. Parking passes for regular-sized vehicles are being sold for $20.00. A limited number of oversized vehicle and bus parking passes are on sale for $25.00. All parking passes can be purchased online at the Yale Athletics Tickets website or by calling the Yale Athletics Ticket Office at (203) 432-1400. All Yale Bowl parking lots will open at 8:30 am on Nov. 19.

Yale and the City of New Haven will have shuttle bus service for fans. As the game gets closer, I will post the locations or you can head to Yale website for the details.
Tickets for the Yale Harvard Game are available. Premium Reserved Tickets are $30, Side Reserved Tickets are $15 and General Admission Tickets are $8. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Yale Athletics Tickets website or by calling the Yale Athletics Ticket Office at (203) 432-1400.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snow, Yale offensive line dominate Columbia

When the Ivy League announces its weekly player of the week, it would be fitting for one or more of Yale's offensive linemen to get the nod. Of course, there would have been a better chance of finding a sun bather at Saturday's Yale/Columbia game.

In a game played in a surprisingly potent storm, Yale made some Ivy League history.

After paving the way for Alex Thomas to run for 204 yards in a loss to Penn, the Yale starting offensive line of Ben Carbery, Gabe Fernandez, John Oppenheimer, Colin Kruger and James Talerico were at it again as Mordecai Cargill ran for 230 yards in the 16-13 win over Columbia.

I went through the record books for the Ivy teams and as far as I can tell, it is the first time an Ivy team had two backs rush for 200 yards in consecutive games. What makes the feat so impressive is that the Bulldogs were playing without both starting tackles as both Wes Gavin and Roy Collins were out with ankle injuries.

"Our O-line has really come together," said Cargill, who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in career rushing yards late in the game. "It was (unfortunate) that Roy and Wes went down but we have a lot of solidarity up front. Our O-line is starting to mesh and we are looking to build momentum going forward."

I asked Columbia coach Norries Wilson how impressive it is to have two backs run for 200 yards in back to back games and I had to laugh at his response.
"I think Nebraska does it every week," Wilson said. "I think just looking at the stats, they have been intermixing the two backs. I don’t know what’s wrong with 41 (Thomas, who missed the game with a knee injury), we didn ‘t know he wasn’t going to play but (Cargill) made the most of his opportunity and they did a good job blocking for him.

"They are a real good group. They are playing Carbery as a freshman, they have a freshman who played last year (Gavin) who is a really good player. I really like 57 (Roy Collins). I think they have done a good job of playing some athletic kids who can play offensive line. They can reach block on the second step, they do a real good job of protecting their quarterback."
It is NOT the first time Yale had a 200-yard rusher in consecutive games as Robert Carr accomplished the feat in games against Cornell and Holy Cross but it is the first time it was done by different running backs.
A few defensive details thanks to Jordan Haynes since it was extremely difficult to make out many of the plays. On the fumble recovered by Will McHale which led to Panico's field goal, McHale deflected a pass which was caught by a Columbia lineman. Cliff Foreman then jarred the ball free and McHale recovered. Haynes recovered a fumble after a huge submarine tackle. Again, I couldn't make out the player and he said it was Kurt Stottlemyer. Because of the conditions made passing extremely difficult, Yale was able to aggressive blitz its defensive backs on obvious passing situations. Collin Bibb led the way with two tackles for a loss including a sack.
Wilson was asked whether he felt the play before Nick Okano's game-clinching interception should have been called pass interference.
"You have to ask the official on that side, it doesn’t matter what I think," Wilson said.
The Yale players heard that Brown beat Penn 6-0 as the Bulldogs were running the final few seconds off the clock. Now Yale can clinch no worse than a share of the Ivy League title it it wins its final three games. Had Penn won out, Yale would not be able to catch the Quakers in the standings.

The main focus on my game story is on Cargill's monster effort and the fact that Yale did not attempt a pass in the second half. I have a notebook with reaction from Yale players about the winter wonderland they played in as well as Philippe Panico somehow getting a 38-yard field goal through the uprights.
Speaking of the snow, Yale history buff Bob Barton (a former New Haven Register copy editor and regular at Yale games for years) came up with a list of other Yale games of the last 50 years impacted by snow.
Temple 1953 (Yale 32-6) early November, probably 4 inches

Harvard 1955 (Yale 21-7), probably 2-3 inches

Princeton 1967, there were snowflakes but rain, thunder, little of everything, no accumulation

Think there was also a little snow at Princeton in 1985, but nothing serious.
I am thinking that if you said this was the most serious snow during a game in more than half a century, you'd be right.

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Info on live blog

As promised, here is the link to the live blog.

The blog is up and running with Chris Hunn providing updates from the UNH game. I will start posting to the blog in about 30-45 minutes

I'll be blogging live from Columbia tomorrow

I will be blogging live from the Yale/Columbia game beginning around 11:45 a.m. I'll be putting up a link when I get to the stadium tomorrow or you can check the website for a link to the blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Update on Alex Thomas

It was a bit of good news mixed in with some bad for Alex Thomas regarding his knee injury.

The senior running back from Ansonia, who ran for a career-high 204 yards in Saturday's loss to Penn, underwent tests on his injured knee on both Sunday and Tuesday.

While the results of Sunday's tests were inconclusive, the second examination revealed an injured posterior cruciate ligament. As a result, he will be forced to miss Saturday's game at Columbia. It could have been worse and put him on the sidelines for the rest of his senior season.

Thomas spoke about the situation after Thursday's practice.

"There is not a tear, it is just a PCL injury," Thomas said. "I am going to sit this weekend and hope to be back next week. I have a brace on and I am just rehabbing like a maniac right now trying to get back to where I need to be."

Thomas, who is third in the Ivy League with an average of 99.5 rushing yards per game, was understandably concerned about his availability for the rest of the season after falling awkwardly in the fourth quarter of the Penn game.

"You never know, you know something doesn’t feel right but you don’t know what it is until the doctor tells you," Thomas said. "At the beginning of the week, I was just playing the waiting game and hoping and praying for the best. This is not the best news, I have to sit a week which is not what I want to do but (realizing) that I get to play three more games here at Yale, it means a lot."

While Thomas may not consider missing this week's game "good" news, Yale coach Tom Williams believes that is about the best possible outcome.

"It is as positive as it could be hearing from the doctors that he is going to have the chance to get the strength back and continue playing," Williams said. "Obviously he has been a great player for us this season but him being able to finish his senior season would be important for him and important for us."

Mordecai Cargill is an experienced tailback for Yale with 769 career yards including 73 in the 2009 win at Columbia. Deon Randall may see more snaps at running back, although he may also be called upon to pick up the slack for injured receiver Chris Smith. Other options figure to be fullback Elijah Thomas, who was a tailback as a freshman, and freshman walk on Wynston Bouknight.

"Mo (Cargill) knows what he is doing and Wynston and Elijah both know what they are doing, they have a good grasp of the offense," Thomas said.  "I am here to answer any questions they have, I am here on the sideline each and every play. I am pretty confident in the guys that we have. I know they are pretty confident and excited to get out there on Saturday."

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Witt named finalist for Campbell Trophy

Yale senior quarterback Patrick Witt was one of 16 players named as finalists for the Campbell Trophy, often referred to as the academic Heisman Trophy.

Of the 16 players honored as part of the National Football Foundation's recognition of the nation's top scholar-athletes, Witt was the only Ivy League player to make the list.

Witt will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and will be honored along with the other finalists at the 54th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The winner of the Campbell Trophy will be announced at the dinner.

Witt is a history major with a 3.89 grade-point average. He has completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 1,377 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is Yale's all-time leader with 463 completions, needs three attempts to become the Yale leader in that category. Witt needs 440 passing yards and 11 TD passes to become Yale's career leader in those categories.

Former Yale fullback/h-back Shane Bannon whirlwind rookie season took another turn when he was placed on the practice squad's injury list by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bannon was drafted by the Chiefs in the seventh round but was a late cut before being placed on practice squad. Bannon was cut from the practice squad last month only to be brought back a few days later.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Officially, Tom Williams not a happy camper

In his 2 1/2 seasons at Yale's head coach, Tom Williams has gained a reputation for not sugar coating things and speaking his mind. So it should not have come as a surprise when he didn't pull any punches when he was asked about the 10 penalties Yale was called for in Saturday's loss at Pennsylvania and if it was a concern heading forward.

Williams categorized the officiating in the game as "poor." He was especially perturbed at - among other things - what he perceived to be three uncalled helmet to helmet hits by Penn defenders on Yale quarterback Patrick Witt. The flagging of helmet to helmet hits has been a particular point of contention since the Ivy League suspended Yale sophomore safety Nick Okano for the Lafayette game for a hit he made in the fourth quarter of the Dartmouth game.

Here is what else he had to say about the officiating in the Penn game at Yale's weekly media gathering with Williams and a couple of his players (senior defensive tackle Jake Stoller and sophomore receiver Cam Sandquist were the players present on Tuesday).

"I am taking issue with it because every big game I have coached in since I have been here has been like that and it hasn't been very good. And I have video evidence of it. It is not great. My hands are up in the air right now because I am not exactly sure what can be done with it but I know there were some bad no-calls which are sometimes worse than the ones that are called. We have not been a very heavily penalized team since the first game of the season and we had 10 on Saturday which is unheard of for our football team. Most of them were questionable. I have a real issue with that. I don't know what is going on but I do know that it affected the outcome of the game. We have to do our part, don't get me wrong. We have to field the sky kick, we have to not fumble the kickoff return, we have to execute the 3rd and 1 and do all the things that we have to do to win the game but we don't need any help from the officials. We do enough on our own. Those are real concerns that I have. I think a lot of those calls are bogus to be quite honest with you, that is my answer to your question about penalties."
There will be those who will view Williams' words as sour grapes but the fact is that he has voiced his dissatisfaction with the officiating with me after wins and he is quick to give Penn credit for the victory. I believe he feels that his complaints about the officiating in the Ivy League have fallen on deaf ears so he is going public with his thoughts. I am sure his quotes will not be well received at Ivy League headquarters but I am also sure he will not back off his words even if discipline comes from the league.

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Not much to report on injury front

Injured offensive starters Roy Collins (tackle), Chris Smith (receiver) and Alex Thomas (running back) did not take part in Tuesday's practice but none of them have been ruled out for Saturday's game at Columbia.

Yale coach Tom Williams said that Collins, who injured his ankle, and Smith, who reaggravated a hamstring issue he had earlier this season, are considered to be day to day. Both Collins and Smith were at practice in uniform but did not take part in drills. I did not see Thomas there and his situation is a little more up in the air.

Williams said that tests on Thomas' injured knee were "inconclusive" and he was undergoing further tests today.
Williams is hoping that Smith can return to practice as early as tomorrow.

"I think he wil get some more opportunity tomorrow to practice," Williams said. "We gave him Tuesday to get an extra day of healing. AT (Thomas) is going to see a doctor today. We didn't get the clear information yesterday. (Tackle Wes) Gavin (who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury) probably be out for another couple of weeks."

What this means is that Yale could play at Columbia on Saturday without both of its starting offensive tackles, leading rusher and leading receiver.

"This is the time of the year when teams get beat up," Williams said. "We are coming off a difficult couple of weeks. It does erode your depth but fortunately we have guys who are ready and willing to step up. We have good running backs so Mo (Cargill) will have a chance to step up, Wynston Bouknight - a young guy, Deon Randall will get a chance to play some running back as well. The depth issues are very challenging but I think if we prepare like we are capable of preparing, those guys should be ready to play."

In my opinion, the most intriguing story to emerge out of Yale's loss to Penn on Saturday was the performance of sophomore offensive lineman James Talerico.

Talerico started at guard against Cornell before suffering an Achilles injury that was feared to be of the season-ending variety. He returned to practice last week and took part in two practices including one at tackle. When Collins went down, freshman William Chism got the call but after getting beaten for a sack bringing the end to an offensive series. Talerico was in there on the next series and played the rest of the game at right tackle. Talerico was with right tackle with the first unit at practice and if Collins can't play, Talerico should get his first career start at tackle.

I spoke with Talerico following practice and he will be the focus of the story in tomorrow's paper.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Mante reflects on UFL experience

Ever since graduating from Yale in 2010, all Tom Mante wanted was a chance to prove he was good enough to punt at the professional level.

Although he failed to stick following a tryout with the NFL's Chicago Bears, Mante finally got his wish when he beat out two other punters to earn a spot with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.

The UFL's financial instability and an elbow injury limited Mante to just three games but he hopes it was enough to draw interest from the NFL.

Mante struggled in his first game, averaging just 30.4 yards on five punts including a 17-yard effort. Mante chalked that effort up to a case of first-game jitters.

"The first game that we played against Virginia, I was nervous and a bit anxious," Mante said. "I was doing too much thinking instead of just going out there and punting. After that, I took a step back and realized I was putting too much pressure on myself. After that week of practice, I got a lot more comfortable with our snapper and our protection. I think that showed because in the last (two) games that I played, I averaged 43 yards a punt."

Mante only punted once for 39 yards in the next game against Sacramento. Against Las Vegas, Mante had punts of 50 and 53 yards and finished with an average of 43 yards on the five punts. In the three games, Mante averaged 39.3 yards on 17 punts.
"I was happy with the way I finished the season, being at the 43-yard mark but there is definitely room for some improvement," Mante said. "That is what the offseason is for and hopefully I can start making the corrections now.

"It is obviously something I have been preparing for a long time, since graduation," Mante said. "It was a feeling that I definitely relished. Playing for four years at Yale, you kind of take it for granted being out on the field. When you have the opportunity to compete with all of these pro caliber players, it is quite the experience. I took in every single moment of it. I didn’t let the moment get ahead of me. The first day, I was pretty nervous after not playing for about a year and a half. That first practice was a little nerve wracking but after hitting the first couple of punts, everything kind of came back naturally to me. It was validation of all the hard work I put in over the last year and a half so that was a great experience for me. It was one thing to get the job but another to hold onto it."

The UFL canceled its final two weeks of the regular season as a cost-saving move so there is no guarantee the league will even be around in 2012. After getting a taste of pro football, Mante isn't ready to abandon his dreams of a pro football career just yet.

"It is up in the air.," Mante said in reference to his football future "That is kind of out of my control. I was waiting for my next opportunity whether a guy goes down in the NFL. I am going to send my agent all the film I had from all my practices and games. We are going to do the best we can to throw it out to teams. It is just a matter of staying ready. I am hoping something is going to happen, it is just a matter of when and be prepared for it. The next step is to wait for a workout whether it is mid season or after the season as a futures contract."


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Opportunity lost

With Alex Thomas running wild and Penn unable to cover Chris Smith, all indications pointed to this being the day when Penn's Ivy League winning streak would be coming to an end.

With a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, a confident Yale team believed it was on the verge of a breakthrough victory. However, it all unraveled in a mistake-filled fourth quarter.

Penn took advantage of two special-teams miscues to score 27 points en route to a 37-25 victory.

"Obviously a disappointing loss for us," Yale coach Tom Williams said. "We felt we did enough good things to give ourselves an opportunity to win the ball game. I thought the key play in the game was the sky kick they recovered. It gave them some life and gave them an opportunity to score quickly during that stretch. It is a play we need to execute and we need to keep possession of the football. Give Penn credit, they are champions for a reason. They execute down the stretch and do a nice job making the plays they are supposed to make."

Former Cheshire High star Billy Ragone had just thrown a 16-yard TD to Luke Nawrocki to pull the Quakers within four points. Connor Loftus chipped the ensuing kickoff into the air. A couple of Yale players retreated and Penn recovered.
"The wind was blowing in and the ball hung up," Williams said. "It had started to drift away from him and I think he didn't react accordingly. We knew because we think we are a good return team, whether it is a squib or a sky kick, rarely do they kick it of deep and if they do, we think we have a chance to make people pay."

With Smith out of the game with a hamstring injury, Deon Randall fumbled a kickoff leading to another one of Penn's four fourth-quarter touchdowns. So instead of Yale remaining in first place in the Ivy League, it is Penn which improved to 3-0 in league play.

"It is a crushing loss but that is what happens when you don't make the plays when you need to," Thomas said. "You have to credit Penn they did a great job of finding a way and that is what champions do."

It could be a costly loss in other ways as starting right tackle Roy Collins (ankle), Smith (hamstring) and Thomas (knee) were all knocked out of the game. Smith and Thomas are hoping to play next week against Columbia although Collins' injury looked the most severe of the three as he was on crutches on the sidelines.

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We'll be live blogging from the Penn-Yale game

Beginning at around 11:30, I'll be live blogging from Franklin Field. Feel free to check it out and/or ask questions. The link is below

Friday, October 21, 2011

2009 Penn game bring back painful memories for Smith

As if suffering a shutout loss at the hands of Penn wasn't a bitter enough pill to swallow, Chris Smith saw his freshman season come to an end when he suffered a hip injury in the 2009 game at Penn.

Earlier this week, I asked Smith to look back to his last experience at Franklin Field.

"I remember coming back with a broken hip," Smith said. "It wasn't exactly what I had planned. It was my freshman year, I was kind of just getting the hang of college football. I remember catching a post and a guy's helmet came in, kind of popped me and ended my season a little early. I am definitely going down there looking to get a 'w' this time and come back healthy.

"I've made that ride back from Penn once after not winning and kind of ending our season at that point. I think a lot of guys remembered how that tasted, how that felt taking that 3-hour bus ride back after a loss. We are going to do all we can to make sure that doesn't happen."

Yale coach Tom Williams vividly recalls the injury Smith suffered against Penn in 2009 and how it preventing him from continuing to develop as a go-to receiver for the Bulldogs as a freshman.

"That was difficult because we was just starting to come on as a freshman," Williams said. "Gio (Christodoulou) had gotten hurt against Cornell, Chris had started to really emerge as a go-to guy and then he gets hurt. I think that devastated for our football team because at that point we didn't really have anyone to be a threat down the field. He used that to get his body stronger and when he came back he was physically stronger, bigger, faster. As painful as it was at the time, I think it has made him a better football player."
Picking up a victory and remaining in first place in the Ivy League is No. 1 on Smith's priority list this week as Yale plays at Penn Saturday at noon on a game being televised by VERSUS. But he does have a chance for some personal milestones.

With one catch, he would move into a tie for eighth on Yale's career charts and he needs just three catches to tie former teammate Jordan Forney's for seventh place on the all-time list. He needs 131 receiving yards to break into the top 10 in that category while he is 100 yards away from Robert Carr's Yale career record for kickoff return yardage. The remarkable part of all of this is that Smith has done all of this and he still has as many as 15 games left in his Yale career.

More than any individual statistics, it is Smith's toughness that stands out when Williams thinks of his star receiver. It was an attribute Williams noticed when Smith took a recruiting visit to Yale shortly after Williams was hired at Yale. Williams jokingly questioned whether Smith was a glamour boy and wondered how important football was to him. Smith looked Williams in the eye and told him he lives to play football. Williams has discovered that wasn't just idle chatter on Smith's part.

"He's one of the toughest guys I have ever been around at any position," Williams said. "I think the reason why is that he is mentally tough but he is also physically tough. He worked to put himself in great condition. He really works hard at that but he is just a gritty, hard-nosed guy who loves to play the game. He really enjoys being around it, loves everything about it. He is one of the few guy who I have been around who really likes practice. Those guys are few and far between. I think the combination of all those things is what makes him such a tough football player."

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Emotions riding high at Tuesday's practice

The first practice of the week did not lack for intensity but after seeing a few scuffles between teammates and some chirping back and forth did not sit well with Yale coach Tom Williams.

Williams began his post-practice address by challenging his players to talk the talk only if they can walk the walk, something that did not happen enough in Saturday's loss at Lafayette.

"I made that point after practice that the line is drawn when the play on Saturday is not a result," Williams said. "When you can talk the game on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and not play that way on Saturday, it is just talk. They have to make sure they back it up. That is my whole point. If you want to be a tough guy, you have to be a tough guy on Saturday. Don't be a tough guy Tuesday-Thursday, be a tough guy on Saturday. I am anxious to see if we can do that."

It was a pretty productive practice other than the stuff after the whistle. Chris Smith, whose 174 receiving yards against Lafayette was the 11th best performance in Yale football history and most since Peter Balsam's 181 yards against Brown in 2008, made some impressive catches including a sweet grab of an underthrown ball which resulted in an enthusiastic greeting from his position coach Kefense Hynson. His fellow receivers were not having as much luck holding onto the ball.

Defensively, Jake Stoller (who has 3 1/2 sacks in the last two games) and Jordan Haynes came away with turnovers with Stoller bringing a fumble back about 50 yards for a score.

Wes Gavin, who started the first four games of the season at left tackle, remains on crutches with his injured left ankle protected by a walking boot. It doesn't look promising for Gavin to be back for Saturday's game against Penn. Freshman defensive back Nick LaTesta, a special teams standout, missed Tuesday's practice with a shoulder injury but Williams is hopeful LaTesta will be ready for Saturday's game.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Williams to appear at New Haven's NFF meeting

Yale coach Tom Williams will be a guest at the next meeting of the New Haven Chapter of the National Football Foundation on Thursday  at the Knights of St. Patrick, 1533 State St. New Haven, beginning at 6:30 p.m. UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone as well as University of New Haven coach Peter Rossomando are also expected to speak at the event.

Tickets are available at the door. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-menses.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Okano suspended for Lafayette game

The Ivy League announced that it has suspended Yale's starting strong safety Nick Okano for tomorrow's game against Lafayette.

Okano was whistled for a 15-yard penalty as he left his feet and hit Dartmouth receiver Ryan McManus on the Big Green's first offensive play of the fourth quarter which I felt was a fair call.

Here is a portion of the release from the Ivy League explaining  why Okano was suspended.
Rule 9, Section 6, Article 2 of the 2011-12 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations Manual states when a foul is called for initiating contact/targeting a player "that does not result in a player disqualification, there shall automatically be a video review by the conference for possible additional sanctions before the next scheduled game."

Additionally, as outlined in the Ivy League presidents’ July 2011 series of recommendations aimed at lowering the incidence of concussions and sub-concussive hits in football, the video review of helmet-to-helmet and targeted hits conducted by Executive Director Robin Harris includes taking appropriate but firm action in response to such hits, including suspension when appropriate.

My first thought is the release should specify targeting a player in the head because every defensive player targets the player with the ball, it's what is known as tackling. I'm not sure why this ruling couldn't have come earlier in the week. Does it really take six days to rule that Okano launched himself at McManus? The good news for Yale is that players like John Powers and Chris Brady see plenty of snaps during a regular practice week so they should be prepared for additional duties.

Okano has started all four of Yale's games and has 15 tackles, an interception and a team-leading three pass breakups. Powers is likely to start in Okano's place. Powers, a special-teams standout, is one of Yale's most physical players so the Bulldogs won't take a step back in that department but it will be interesting to see if Lafayette tries to isolate Powers in pass coverage.

Okano is the first player to be suspended under the new Ivy League guidelines. He will be back for next week's game against Penn.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sacred Heart doubling its pleasure

 A quick peek at the Ivy League standings will show the perennial contenders Harvard and Yale are currently tied for first with 2-0 Ivy records. However, the Crimson and Bulldogs are not the only teams with 2-0 marks against Ivy League competition.

Nationally-ranked Lehigh beat both Princeton and Yale, hardly a surprise. However, Sacred Heart's wins over Dartmouth and Columbia certainly opened some eyes.

"We are 2-0 in the Ivy, we are tied for first but that's not our goal," said Sacred Heart coach Paul Gorham with a laugh on Wednesday morning.

Sacred Heart was 0-2 when it hosted Dartmouth on homecoming weekend on Sep. 24. After almost knocking off the Big Green last year on the road, the Pioneers were hoping to finish the deal this year.

Freshman running back Keshaudas Spence ran for 129 yards and scored twice while Matt Linnehan blocked a potential game-tying 53-yard field goal as time expired to give the Pioneers a 24-21 victory.

"We knew we could play with those people so we had an opportunity to play them down here this year and we won it with a field goal," Gorham said. "We broke the ice, it was our first win of the season. We gained a lot of confidence from it. We know the tradition from those schools and where we are coming from, we are a 22-year-old program growing from (Division) III to II and to I-AA. It was big for us and to back that up two weeks later on the road against Columbia, a program that has had football for over 100 year. It has been a good shot in the arm for the kids and the program."
Using the momentum from the victory over Dartmouth, Sacred Heart snapped a seven-game losing streak to fellow Northeast Conference foe Central Connecticut. This past weekend, the Pioneers traveled to Columbia and came away with a 34-25 victory.

"The administration here is aware of it and very happy for it," Gorham said. "I know they when they started the program that they had any thoughts that they'd be playing Ivy League school, not only competing against them but having the opportunity to beat them. It has been a positive all the way around."

The Columbia game looked like a one-game deal but Gorham said the series with Dartmouth will be continuing.

"We play Dartmouth again next year, I think there is another two-year contract with them," Gorham said. "We are playing Colgate next year and we are looking to pick up others. The Ivy League schedules are so far out, I believe somebody dropped Columbia or Columbia dropped somebody which allowed us to pick them up. I was talking with (Dartmouth) Coach (Buddy) Teevens before the game with Dartmouth. He wants to continue to series. It is not that bad a trip, 2 1/2 hours, 2:45 and it is pretty evenly matched. It is good for both teams, I think."

Win or lose, Gorham likes the idea of playing Ivy League teams or any squad which will prepare his team for conference play.

"In the past we were playing programs, some no longer even have football and it was hard motivating kids for those games," Gorham said. "We didn't always get as much out of them as he had playing teams that are as well coached at Columbia and Dartmouth. It is much better for you when you get against our league which is very difficult, getting more difficult as the years go by. We think we can compete with the Ivy League and Patriot League. We'll compete with them, I won't say that we will always beat them. It might be a little bit long for us to get up against those CAA teams but that is what we want to do. It makes it an easier week of preparation as a coach knowing that you have a quality opponent."

As Gorham, a former assistant coach at Brown mentioned, Ivy League's non-conference schedules tend to be completed years in advance. A couple of days after Sacred Heart's win over Dartmouth, I asked Yale coach Tom Williams if Sacred Heart's name ever came up in non-conference scheduling talks. He said he had not heard of any chatter of attempting to get the Pioneers into one of the non-conference slots. Obviously, Sacred Heart have proven its willingness to play Ivy League competition so if a previously contracted non-conference game were to fall through, a Sacred Heart/Yale game could be an intriguing one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Strong game for Mante

Former Yale punter Tom Mante had the best game of his young UFL career on Saturday. Mante had punts of 48 and 49 yards and punted six times for an average of 43.7 yards in Omaha's 30-10 loss to Las Vegas on Saturday. Mante also had a tackle.

In Mante's first two games as a pro, he averaged just 31.8 yards per punt.

Omaha will play Las Vegas again on Saturday.

With 2010 Yale captain Tom McCarthy having been released from the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad last month, I believe Mante is the only former Yale player playing professionally in this country.


Injury update; the loss of a legend

Starting left offensive tackle Wes Gavin was on a crutches with his injured left ankle in a walking boot while holder Jake Semones had his arm in a sling at this morning's practice. Obviously, neither of them took part in practice although according to Yale coach Tom Williams there is a chance both could play Saturday at Lafayette.

"Gavin's got an ankle, we don't know how severe it is but we have it is the walking boot just to make sure," Williams said. "We are going to keep him out today and will reevaluate him this afternoon to see how he feels. The MRI came back negative so there is no ligament damage or anything like that so it is just an ankle sprain. Semones shoulder contusion so I think today he is going to be in the sling, tomorrow he is going to get out of the sling and Thursday he'll be ready to practice.

"Wes' (injury) on tape looked like it could have been a lot worse. He was able to pull his foot out at the last minute but it looked like it could have been bad. With Jake's, he just have to fall better. He just didn't know how to take that shot and got hit right on the point of the shoulder."

If there are any questions about Gavin's injured ankle, Yale is likely to err on the side of caution to make sure he is good to go for the remainder of the Ivy League schedule. If Gavin can't go, freshman Ben Carbery would likely get the start at left tackle.

Carbery got the call after Gavin went down with 3:15 left in the third quarter. Although he was whistled for a holding penalty (which was declined) on his first play, Carbery drew raves from his coaches for his performance.

"He came in and played very well when Wes went down," Williams said. "We have been trying to get him into the game the last couple of weeks. He has played some spot duty but he is ready and we are ready to give him an opportunity. If he is pressed into action, I have no doubt that he will be ready to go."

The kicking game is always a popular topic when I receive e-mails from readers. With Philippe Panico's extra point being blocked after the Bulldogs' second touchdown, this week is no different. After watching the tape, Williams said the block was a result of a protection breakdown and not because Panico's kick was too low.

:That was a missed protection, a protection issue," Williams said. "It was the first time we had a protection issue. It was my own fault. Nick Schneider had gotten hit and we weren't sure what his status was but he ran out there and just kind of blanked out. That's (on) me, we should have made sure he was on the sidelines By the time we looked out there, he was already lined up in the huddle. We wanted to see if he could do it and he couldn't. (Matt) Battaglia is his backup and he came in and did a nice job the rest of the game.

Just moments before Saturday's game against Dartmouth, Williams was stunned to hear of the death of NFL icon Al Davis.

Although Williams served two years on the staff of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, his dealings with Davis actually dated back to his days at Stanford when Davis would occasionally stop by to meet up with good friend Bill Walsh.

After Tuesday's practice, I asked Williams to reflect on the legacy of Davis, who died on Saturday at the age of 82.

"I got to know him through Bill Walsh, those guys were really good friends," Williams said. "He would come by the Stanford facility every now and then to say hi to Coach Walsh so that was how I was introduced to him. He was very nice, a very genuine guy, a real football guy. You tell that, his passion for the game and obviously he has been an innovator for a long time in the NFL. He will be sorely missed, he is kind of the last of the old guard."

Like so many others, Williams admits it wouldn't take long for him to mention Davis' name when rattling off the most influential figures in NFL history.

"I think he is going to be up there, certainly in terms of hiring" Williams said. "(He) hired one of the first black coaches in the NFL, a woman administrator, first lLatino coach in Tom Flores so as far as I am concerned, he ranks pretty high in terms of being an innovator. I know Coach Walsh spoke very highly of him as somebody who was very instrumental in the development of the league. I would say he is going to be in the top five of all of those guys in terms of his effect on the game.

While he did not know Davis as well as he did Walsh, who was one of Williams' mentors, Williams admitted he flashed back to his emotions after Walsh's death in 2007 when he heard the news of Davis' passing.
"Right after the national anthem I put my head set on. Coach (Kefense)  Hynson was up in the press box and he said that Al Davis had died so right before kickoff. I thought of Coach Walsh actually because I remember my first year in Jacksonville, we were on the practice field and I had found out that he had passed away. That was obviously a crushing blow for me. I thought of some of the old guard, some of the guys who have been leading the league for a long time are starting to die. It is sad, obviously. Those guys have made their impact and hopefully the younger generation can keep it going."

Williams believed it was fitting that the Raiders honored Davis the best way they knew how, with a 25-20 win over Houston.

"(Raiders head coach) Hue Jackson is a friend of mine and I saw the emotion he let go after the game," Williams said. "I know he and Al were very close. I know that Al loves his players. If you play for the Raiders and you are part of that organization, he takes care of his people. I know those guys wanted him to go out with a victory. I think that is going to propel them on for the rest of the season, I really do."

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Christodoulou honored by Ivy League

Yale senior Gio Christodoulou has been named the Ivy League's special team player of the week after returning a punt 53 yards for a touchdown and later becoming Yale's career leader in punt-return yardage in Saturday's 30-0 win over Dartmouth.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Gio gets a record; lines dominate Dartmouth

Before Saturday's game, Yale coach Tom Williams challenged Gio Christodoulou to prove that he, and not Dartmouth senior Shawn Abuhoff, is the best punt returner in the Ivy League.

After the game, Christodoulou received a ball from his head coach after he became Yale's all-time leader in punt return yardage, breaking Todd Tomich's record which has stood since 2000.

"That is just (about) the guys who have been here before me, guys have taught me and just coaches having schemes to put me in (position) to be successful. I have to call Todd Tomich. I heard he was a legend, I heard so many stories about him. I am happy I get to leave and have my mark on Yale football."

Speaking of leaving a mark on Yale football, the Bulldogs front four on defense and front five on offense put Yale in position to head into the game at Penn in two weeks in first place in the league.

The defensive line not only shut down Dartmouth running back Nick Schwieger, the Ivy League co-MVP as a junior, but made life unbearable for the Dartmouth quarterbacks.
"We came into the game knowing that it was going to be a battle in the trenches" said Yale defensive tackle Jake Stoller, who had two sacks and a forced fumble. "They wanted to run the ball and it was the first game this year when they were going to try to run it down our throats. We appreciated that and we hadn't faced that.

"I think we did our job today. We they started throwing the ball, we were getting after it. Our goal today was to get after the run and stop that. I think we are pretty happy with the goose egg."

All the offensive line did was allow Yale to run for 269 yards. Sure, Alex Thomas (130 yards), Mordecai Cargill (83) and Deon Randall (43) played a key role in the gaudy rushing numbers, the fact is that Yale's offensive line wiped out the Dartmouth front with alarming regularity.

"It is the best line I have had since I have been here," Thomas said. "It has continued to get better and better. I am so impressed with their performance, they opened holes for Mo and I and made our jobs easier."

The win could be a costly one, however as starting left tackle Wes Gavin suffered an apparent right ankle injury in the third quarter. Williams was not sure of the severity of the injury. Holder Jake Semones was also knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury.

Yale leads Dartmouth 16-0 at halftime

Scoring runs of 74 yards by Alex Thomas and 40 yards by Mordecai Cargill and Philippe Panico's 39-yard field goal has given Yale a 16-0 lead at halftime.

The stars of the half for Yale have to be the offensive and defensive lines, who are dominating Dartmouth. The first quarter was one of the best I've seen a Yale offensive line have in the last couple of years.

Dartmouth's Nick Schwieger became the school's all-time leading rusher in the first half.

Yale holder Jake Semones was injured on a fake field goal and John Whitelaw was holder on Panico's field goal

No live blog today

There won't be a live blog from the Yale/Dartmouth game but you can follow me on twitter@NHRJimFuller for updates on the game.

Some pre-game thoughts:
I saw Parker Toms taking kickoffs and it will be interesting to see if there are any changes in the kicking game, something that Yale coach Tom Williams hinted as being a possibility.

I looked for Dartmouth senior receiver Tim McManus, who suffered a concussion in last week's loss to Penn, and did not see him out there.

On Yale's side, I didn't see any surprises among the players not in full pads.

We're less than 10 minutes from kickoff and the crowd is - to be kind - sparse. We'll see if it fills in a bit as the day  goes on.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Trio of SCC stars being eyed by Yale

Friday night's Cheshire/Xavier game drew attention for a variety of reasons. One thing that intrigued me was seeing a pair of players pretty high up on Yale's recruiting radar in action.

Xavier senior offensive guard and defensive tackle Sean Marinan and Cheshire linebacker/receiver Sebastian Little are both expected to be in attendance when Yale hosts Dartmouth on Saturday. But their attention was squarely focused on Friday's matchup of Southern Connecticut Conference unbeatens.

Marinan and Xavier emerged with a convincing 42-20 and moved back into the No. 1 spot in the Register's Top 10 poll.

Marinan played a key role in the Falcons piling up more than 400 rushing yards in the victory.

"We have a new offense this entire year," Marinan said. "We hear that we are supposed to be the best line in the state. We started off shaky because we had new guys but I thought we did really well working together today.

"We love when they gain yards, they run hard and they never stop. If there is a little hole, they will get 10 yards."

Marinan and his father, Xavier coach Sean Marinan Sr., visited with Yale coach Tom Williams during the summer and dad would certainly give his blessing if his son chose to head to Yale.

"I like the coaches there, I think they do a great job," Sean Marinan Sr. said. "I think the program is headed back in the right direction. One of the things we talked about and I think I got away with it because I am a coach (was asking) ‘what happened?’ Two of the other guys, Rick Flanders and Duane Brooks were on the staff with (former Yale coach Jack) Siedlecki. They told me exactly what had happened, what the problem were. I think they’ve got it fixed. My wife would be thrilled and my dad went there so it is not the end of the world for me."

Marinan Jr., admits that Yale is the only school actively pursuing him but he sees plenty of similarities between the Xavier program and the one at Yale.

"I have to get my SATs up (he retook them on Saturday). I need 30 more points on my math and they said they’d come through with something but I have to do that. They are the only ones interested in me. If they show interest in me, I will show interest back.

"I like that they are about. They are a good team and they have the same mentality as us. It is just like (Xavier)."

Another state player being looked at by Yale is Notre Dame of West Haven defensive tackle Ludovic Richardson.

"I have visited there unofficially, I watched a game," Richardson saod. "If they ask me at the end of the season, maybe there will be an official visit but I haven’t talked to the coaches about that yet. I am still talking to every other school that is interested in me at the time and that is about it."

Richardson said that Princeton, Dartmouth, Army, Sacred Heart, Stonehill, Maine and Bates are other schools recruiting him.

Richardson's main focus is Notre Dame's big game with West Haven on Friday night.
"This is really a deciding factor for us to see if we are going to be one of the best teams (in) the SCC and depends how our season is going to go as well," Richardson said. "West Haven is a good football team. We need to play our best and see how we compare to them.
"It is definitely more intensified because it is the battle for the town, it’s a crosstown rivalry and really split so we are trying to see who’s the best in West Haven. I think Notre Dame is, to be honest."

This is a big recruiting weekend for Yale as about 10-12 prospects are expected to be visiting campus including Little, Marinan and Berlin receiver Tom Undercuffler. Also expected to be in attendance are Tyler Drake, brother of Yale junior defensive end Dylan Drake, and Cole Champion who are teammates at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, the second-ranked team in the latest USA Today national poll.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Some good news on Talerico

Sophomore offensive lineman James Talerico, who started at guard against Cornell, suffered an ankle injury in the first half of that game and the fear was that he would be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

However, Yale coach Tom Williams said he was told that Talerico could be cleared to return to practice next week.

Staying on the subject of the offensive line, freshman Ben Carbery was seeing extended action as the starting right tackle in Tuesday's practice. Roy Collins is still listed as the starter and was in there for long stretches at the same practice but Williams has been talking about getting Carbery some time in a game. He did see play a few snaps in last week's loss to Lehigh and perhaps this is the week Carbery's playing time increases.

"It is time for him to get a chance to play," Williams said. "He has earned it. We think he is an emerging player. We want to get him out there, let him play."

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

More on Yale's calling off next two JV games

Updating a previous entry, a string of injuries to Yale's younger players led to the decision to cancel upcoming junior varsity games against Milford Academy on Sunday and Bridgton Academy on Oct. 30. As a result, Yale's only remaining JV game is on Nov. 18 against Harvard.

Freshmen Ethan DaSilva (knee), Max Fink (hip), Victor Hicks (shoulder), Tyler Hutchison (eye) and Kahlil Keys (knee), sophomore Michael Leunen (knee) and juniors Michael Anderson (shoulder) and Scott Williams (knee) are all out for the season. Also, Dez Duron left Yale to pursue a singing career leaving Yale a bit thin at certain positions. Add in the uncertainty surrounding freshman  Chris Coyne because of a concussion and the number of injured players who likely would have suited up in the JV games is staggering. Perhaps the moment of truth came when the JV squad played Dean College. Yale has just four quarterbacks on its complete roster. Henry Furman and Jake Semones were expected to split time at quarterback before Semones was knocked out of the game early with a concussion. Not only did Furman have to play the rest of the game but Yale came very close to losing the services of Semones, who is the regular holder on field goals and extra points for the varsity squad.

"Our numbers are really thin and it is difficult to ask guys to play 75 snaps in a row without a break," Yale coach Tom Williams said. "We don’t want get those guys hurt too so we are trying to be judicious about the exposure we give those guys. I know we are going to play the Harvard JV game but to play those other two would be fruitless at this point with the guys we have banged up."

Yale looking to move forward after first loss

It's safe to say that the bus ride down to Lehigh wasn't nearly as emotionally-wrenching as the return trip.

The Bulldogs went into Saturday's road opener looking to improve to 3-0 and remain the only undefeated team in the Ivy League. With a win, Yale figured to move up the ladder and be on the verge of breaking into the top 25 in the national Football Championship Subdivision rankings.

Instead, the Yale players and coaches are left licking their collective wounds following a humbling 37-7 Lehigh victory.

With a much-improved Dartmouth squad, which nearly knocked off two-time defending Ivy League champion Penn on Saturday, coming to the Yale Bowl on Saturday there is little time for the Bulldogs to feel sorry for themselves.

"We put it to bed," Yale senior quarterback Patrick Witt said after Tuesday's practice. "We watched the film yesterday, it wasn’t good but there were a lot of plays out there that we made. We made some critical mistakes and against a good team, you are going to get beat by 30 points. Against a bad team, you are going to get beat by seven. You just can’t do that. We come out here today and really want to put it behind us, the quickest way to forget about that game is to go out and have a great game against Dartmouth and that is what we intend to do on Saturday."

Yale football coach Tom Williams has been known to utilize props to motivate his team and Tuesday was no different. In the first practice of the week, Williams had a couple bottles of Febreze he sprayed on his players because "we have the smell of not playing very well on us." I used (Pittsburgh Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin’s line after they lost to Baltimore. He said until we get a chance to play some more football games right now, we just stink and we have to get that stink off of us.

"We have a bad taste in our mouth and the only way you can get it out is to play and win a game. I wouldn’t say that we have any extra pressure to do that but we are anxious. We could play the game today and be OK but with a week’s preparation, I know we will be hungry to go play a game. It doesn’t matter who it is but it happens to be a conference opponent at home and we will be ready to play."

Yale committed five turnovers and by the coaching staff's count, dropped eight passes. That led to the score getting out of hand and also putting the beleaguered Yale defense back on the field against the potent Lehigh offense.

"The two things that stood out to me the most were the turnovers and the dropped passes," Williams said. "I think we counted eight dropped passes and at least two of those would have been potential touchdowns. Another two of them would have been first downs, would have kept the chains moving. It is demoralizing because we are moving the ball and we had opportunities to score points. All of a sudden, we have these drops and we are saying ‘what is going on?’ You talk about making plays, those are plays that we made the first two weeks and then we didn’t make them in this game. As I said to the team, when you have the combination of turnovers and missed opportunities against any team, you are putting yourself in jeopardy of losing. When you are playing a team as good as Lehigh, that is when the score ends up being a 30-point difference."

The good news is that everybody who should have been practicing was on the field. That includes junior receiver/kick returner Chris Smith who missed the Lehigh game with a strained hamstring.

Switching gears, a rep from the Oakland Raiders was at Tuesday's practice. Now 20 NFL teams have sent scouts to Yale's practices. Speaking of the pros, Williams believes 2010 Yale captain Tom McCarthy has a chance to get promoted from the practice squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars have been hit hard by injuries at defensive end although reports have Aaron Kampman likely to return to the practice field this week. Still, Williams believes McCarthy (who was in attendance at the Yale/Lehigh game) could get a shot.

"He has a chance to get back up there with injuries," Williams said. "The season is long and he has an opportunity to step up. If you are ready to play, they will put you out there. Aaron Kampman hasn’t practiced or played all season so I would imagine Tommy’s opportunity is coming soon."

Also, former Yale punter Tom Mante had one punt for 39 yards in his second game with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League as Nighthawks defeated the Sacramento Mountain Lions.

I've gotten some questions about Yale's future schedules. Here's the deal for the next three seasons.

In 2012, Yale opens by hosting Georgetown on Sept. 15 and also host non-conference games against Colgate (Sep. 29) and Lafayette (Oct. 13).

Yale will travel to Colgate for the 2013 opener on Sept. 21, play at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo on Oct. 5 and hosts Fordham on Oct. 19. The highlight of the 2014 non-conference schedule is a Sept. 27 home game against Army. The contest was set up as a way to honor the 100th anniversary of the Yale Bowl. The Bulldogs also host Lehigh on Sept. 20 and Colgate on Oct. 18.

Speaking of the schedule, Yale has called off its JV games against Milford Academy on Sunday and Bridgton Academy on Oct. 30. No official word was given although I would imagine that the number of injuries suffered by Yale's freshman class could have played a role in the decision. I will get a definitive answer when I head off to Yale's weekly press gathering in about an hour.

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