“We have a bunch of good players — you just don’t know their names yet.”
Yale football head coach Jack Siedlecki uttered these words so often in the preseason that he was beginning to sound like a broken record. But in Yale’s 40-13 win over Cornell Saturday, Siedlecki’s statements rang resoundingly true. When injuries reared their ugly heads — either prior to or during the game — there was always at least one Bulldog to pick up the slack.
The Eli defense lined up against the Big Red without two of its best players — linebacker Ken Estrera ’04 and defensive end Stuart Satullo ’03.
Satullo, who led the Ivy League in sacks last season, injured his knee during one of the Elis’ first summer sessions, and Estrera broke his leg last Thursday while chasing after a loose ball in practice. And while both are expected to return before the season’s end, their absence created some holes in need of plugging.
Saturday, the Bulldogs employed a “defense by committee” scheme to replace Estrera and Satullo. Several players stood out, including linebacker Tate Rich ’04, who led the Elis with eight tackles, six of which were unassisted.
Team captain Tim Penna ’02 faced many questions as to how effective he would be after missing the entire 2000 campaign. He answered them with an exclamation point on Saturday, leading the team with 1.5 sacks, two tackles for losses, and a blocked field goal four minutes into the game that began the digging of Cornell’s grave.
“I am real proud of how our defense played,” Siedlecki said. “To win championships, you need to play some defense.”
In the third quarter, the Eli offense coughed up the ball deep in its own territory, presenting Cornell with a golden chance. Yet after three plays, the Big Red could only muster three yards and had to settle for three points.
“That sequence was a real big step for us,” Penna said. “Even though we turned the ball over, it was a big psychological lift to hold them to a field goal.”
The offense faced its share of injuries too, though most of those came during the game. Injuries to running backs Pat Bydume ’04 and Jay Schulze ’03 gave rookie Robert Carr ’05 an unexpected chance for game action. He did not disappoint, recording 82 yards on 16 carries, including a 45-yard breakaway touchdown run.
“[Carr’s] run was the knockout play in the game,” Siedlecki said.
Carr’s performance surprised him as much as any one of the 20,269 at the Bowl.
“It was unbelievable,” Carr said. “I didn’t realize I would get as many carries as I did. I am just glad I was able to step in and help the team win.”
It is believed that Carr is the first running back to score a touchdown as a freshman since 1946, assistant athletics director Steve Conn said at a post-game press conference.
And, with uncertainty lingering as to when Schulze and Bydume will return, Siedlecki knows how important depth is.
“We have come a long way from a few years ago when we were just hoping that [Rashad Bartholomew ’01] wouldn’t get hurt,” Siedlecki said. “We now have four quality tailbacks. Today [Carr] had the big play. The rest of our backs will get more opportunities as the season progresses.”