In Saturday’s matchup between the Elis and the Quakers — two of the Ivy League’s most balanced squads — special teams may tip the scale for the victor.
Both teams have seen their share of hardships in their kicking and punting games, with some problems already solved and others still lingering.
The Bulldogs’ strength lies in the right leg of punter/place-kicker Justin Davis ’02, who is reaping the benefits of attending a kicking camp this summer. Davis has nailed all four of his field goal attempts, including the game winner against Holy Cross and a 40-yard attempt last week against Fordham. Since assuming the punting duties against Dartmouth, Davis — who was coached by former Yale football player Lew Roney ’70 at Central High School in Cheyenne, Wyo. — has averaged 42.2 yards on five punts, including one 59-yard boom.
Davis, however, had two extra points blocked last week against Fordham.
“The first kick was very low,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “It hit the defender on the elbow, and he was just standing up — he didn’t jump or anything. I don’t know that it would have gone through the uprights anyway.”
The Bulldogs hope to have things straightened out against the University Pennsylvania, a team that is well aware of the difference an extra point can make. In the Quakers’ Ivy opener against Dartmouth, the Big Green scored a late touchdown and closed the score to 21-20 in the final seconds. But the Quakers blocked the extra point and escaped with the victory.
Penn has not gone without its share of kicking problems. Despite using three different kickers — Roman Galas, Bryan Arguello and Peter Veldman — Penn has made only two of seven field goal attempts this season, with their longest kick of only 29 yards.
While field goals have posed problems for Penn, the Quakers have benefited from their return game, averaging 23.3 yards per kick return. The Quaker return game will challenge the Bulldog kickoff unit, which has yielded an average of 20.1 return yards per kick.
Yale’s return game has benefited from the emergence of P.J. Collins ’04. Collins has averaged 18 yards per kickoff return and ran back three kicks for 100 yards against Fordham.
“He showed last year he had potential,” Siedlecki said. “He has real good speed. His return on the opening kickoff of the second half [against Fordham] was exceptional.”
Collins also serves as the punt returner, but has not looked as comfortable as on kickoffs.
“You will see him get better and better with punt returns,” Siedlecki said. “He is getting more and more confidence in that area.”