This weekend, the football team showed they can stand the heat.
In the blistering heat and stifling humidity this Saturday, the Bulldogs scrimmaged Princeton in Princeton, NJ.
“We got to drill against different people in the early phases,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “Our first group played the first half. It was very hot and while it was tough on the players, it was good for game type conditioning.”
Although the game was not officially scored, in five quarters of play the Bulldogs managed to hold the Tigers to a mere field goal while scoring two touchdowns. Tailbacks Jordan Spence ’07 and Matt Murray ’07 each perforated the end zone. Placekicker Andrew Sullivan ’05 chipped in a 45-yard field goal in the overtime fifth quarter. The Elis used many of their players in this preseason match-up, giving the younger members a chance at more playing time and an opportunity to work out some of the kinks that arise from putting together a new team for a new season.
Last season, the Bulldogs had a prolific offense that held the statistical leads in total offense by a player, average passing yards per game, and field goals, while the defense struggled to click as well at times.
At Princeton, however, it was the Eli defense that stole the show.
“Our defense played very well and our off-season emphasis of getting to the QB with the front four really showed in their last possession before the half when we got to the QB three times,” Siedlecki said. “With great pressure on the QB, [the Tigers] found it tough to challenge our corners.”
Over a four-play stretch, defensive ends Brandon Etheridge ’07 and Brandon Dyches ’06 each got through the Tiger offensive line. The pair of penetrations would have resulted in sacks, but the scrimmage rules do not allow tackles on the opposing signal-caller.
Captain and left tackle Rory Hennessey ’05 expressed similar sentiments.
“The defense is looking great with the new leadership,” Hennessey said. “It’s great to have [safety] Barton Simmons [’05] back.”
Simmons, who missed the entire 2003 season due to an injury, was an All-Ivy defensive back in 2002 with the third most tackles on the team.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs had the opportunity to fully test their depth at positions like wide receiver and running back. Quarterback and last season’s captain Alvin Cowan ’05 said it was good to get game experience with players besides the starters.
“We’re going to have to rely on [other receivers] some this year and it’s good to start developing timing with them,” Cowan said. “Our run game was really good, especially getting some guys to go in there after Rob [Carr ’05], as we’re going to need the depth.”
Cowan’s best play Saturday was a 38-yard pass to wideout Chandler Henley ’06 on the second possession of the game.
Cowan said he was a little disappointed, though, because he threw one interception during the first quarter. The play Cowan threw the pic on was a fairly new addition to the playbook.
“I haven’t really had a chance to get completely comfortable with [the new play],” Cowan said. “We’re still working the kinks out of it. It’s a good play and has the potential to work against a lot of the teams we face.”
Hennessey also felt that some kinks needed to be worked out on his part of the offense.
“As a whole, the offensive line is still coming together,” Hennessey said. “In the next few weeks, we need more time playing next to each other and bonding.”
As the Bulldogs head into the start of the regular season in Ohio Sept. 18 versus the University of Dayton, Siedlecki said the most important thing is to get fully healthy.
“We have a lot of nagging strains and pains from preseason that we need to get taken care of,” Siedlecki said. “We have two more weeks to prepare for Dayton and we need to get better every day.”