The Bulldogs need no reminder of how important special teams will be tomorrow.
In their game against Cornell last year, the Elis found themselves trailing by a single point late in the fourth quarter after failing to hold on to a 23-17 lead. With only 45 seconds on the clock, quarterback Peter Lee ’02 marched Yale down to the Cornell 15-yard line, setting up an apparent 32-yard “chip shot” for Mike Murawczyk ’01. The kick sailed wide left by the narrowest of margins, handing Yale a stinging defeat in its Ivy opener.
And that disappointment came from Murawczyk — the school’s career leader in both field goals made and scoring. This year, Yale will rely on the leg of Justin Davis ’02 to handle the place-kicking duties. Davis has been the Bulldogs’ kickoff specialist for the past three years, and while he has been practicing field goals his entire career, he has never attempted one in a game situation. To improve on both aspects of his game, Davis went to kicking camp this summer.
Davis kicked under the tutelage of Paul Assad, who has taught the likes of Oakland Raider Sebastian Janikowski. Assad teaches a “center at impact” form of kicking that emphasizes bringing all the force of the body to the center of the ball at impact to maximize both distance and accuracy.
But Davis said the camp’s benefits will reach beyond the technical aspect of kicking.
“Training with 25 other kickers and listening to Coach Assad has helped me better understand the mental aspect of kicking,” Davis said.
Davis said that he expects to be very consistent from within 40 yards and can connect from 55 or 60 yards away in favorable conditions.
On the opposite sideline, the return of senior place-kicker Peter Iverson, who connected on seven of nine field goal attempts last year, bolsters Cornell.
Both squads have lingering questions at the punter position. Cornell will rely on freshman Mike Baumgartel to perform those tasks, while the Elis will look to Nate Lawrie ’04 to fill the shoes of Eric Johnson ’01 — who averaged 38 yards per punt last fall.
Lawrie — who will see regular action at tight end as well — has steadily improved since practice began in late August.
“He has done a good job adjusting to the position,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “We expect him to perform well for us.”
An indication of Siedlecki’s confidence in his kickers will come when the Bulldogs are faced with fourth-down situations that would normally call for a punt or a field goal.
“We have practiced [kicking] a zillion times,” Siedlecki said. “We feel confident in what both [Davis] and [Lawrie] have done. Now they just have to do it in a game.”