In 1999, when head coach Jack Siedlecki’s squad last captured an Ivy championship, the Elis had just one blemish: a one-point loss to the Brown Bears in the season opener.
Making matters worse was the nature of the loss. Brown scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs blocked the extra point that would have tied the game.
“I remember being on the sidelines when we blocked that kick,” Derek Goeriz ’03 said. “Everybody was going crazy — our whole sideline, all our fans. –“
But the elation went as quickly as it had arrived when Brown’s Mike Powell picked up the block and lateraled it to Rob Scholl, who ran the ball into the end zone for a two-point conversion, giving the Bears a 25-24 win and leaving Yale players and fans in a state of utter disbelief.
“That loss really hurt,” Goeriz said. “We wanted to beat them last year, but we went up there and they just flat out beat us.”
Indeed, last November’s game was not nearly as close as the 1999 season opener, with the Elis falling 28-14, and the combination of the two losses has left many of the Bulldogs with a bitter taste in their mouth.
“Harvard is the natural rivalry when you come to Yale, but Brown has developed into a rivalry over the past three years,” Billy Brown ’02 said. “We are looking for revenge against them, and we want to win this game and get ourselves squared away.”
For Yale safety Ryan LoProto ’02, the Brown contest means more than any other game — including The Game itself.
“I dislike Brown more than anyone else,” LoProto said. “I know I am supposed to hate Harvard most, and I don’t like them either, but Brown is really important to me personally.”
LoProto attributes his contempt for the Bears to a number of factors, but last year’s game is a paramount reason for his sentiments.
“We just did not play well defensively,” LoProto said. “A lot of us on defense have seen their offense do pretty well against us. It will be a pretty big challenge for us. Hopefully we can make a lot of their mistakes count.”
Loproto is particularly irked by the manner in which Brown’s offensive players carry themselves. They are not bashful in their success.
“They are a gloating team,” LoProto said. “They win with a smile on their face, and they’ll tell you about it. I’ve heard it the last two years now, and I don’t want to hear it again.”
But LoProto — who is known as quite a talker as well — said that what makes games between the two squads so intense is the strong personalities of both sides.
“They have a lot of personality on their team,” LoProto said. “But so do we. And the past two years, they have been games with a lot on the line for both of us. Put that together, and you get a clash of personalities.”
But while Brown’s players may be loquacious, their coach, Phil Estes, is not. In perhaps another indication of the rivalry that the Brown-Yale game has become, Estes did not make himself available to the media during Yale’s weekly press conference Tuesday, and did not return phone calls Thursday.