Under normal circumstances, college freshmen would see game action only as a fill-in for a veteran who goes down due to injury. But these are not normal freshmen.
While head coach Jack Siedlecki’s rookies were originally given opportunities due to injuries to starters, their immediate success has landed them more and more chances. And several, including Robert Carr ’05 and Ralph Plumb ’05 have delivered for the Bulldogs.
“We play the best players,” Siedlecki said. “The kids on the team know it’s an ongoing evaluation all the time. Some things happen because of injuries; that’s just reality. Other things happen because guys are performing in practice.”
They have been performing in the games, too.
Take Carr, who was forced into action against Cornell when running backs Jay Schulze ’03 and Pat Bydume ’04 went down in the game’s early stages. Carr racked up 82 yards on 16 carries against the Big Red, including a 45-yard touchdown run.
“It was a great experience,” Carr said. “I was just glad to be able to help the team out.”
Carr’s performance in the Bulldogs’ 40-13 victory that day turned many heads, including those of his teammates.
“He showed a high level of maturity for a freshman,” quarterback Peter Lee ’02 said. “Freshmen are hardly ever ready to play in their first game, but he showed he was able to perform at this level.”
Two weeks later against Dartmouth, Carr had a breakout day, gaining 185 yards on 29 carries and scoring two touchdowns. Carr attributes much of his success to running back coach Larry Ciotti.
“From the very beginning, coach Ciotti had us taking tests on all the different plays in the playbook,” Carr said. “I credit him and the rest of the coaching staff for making sure we knew what we were supposed to do come game time.”
While Carr’s wheels have been slowed recently due to injury, the Bulldogs seem to have found their running back of the future.
But Carr was not the only freshman to make an immediate impact once given the chance. Plumb, a wide receiver, got the starting nod against Brown last week. Having seen limited action in other games as a return specialist and on select passing downs, he wasted no time in asserting himself once the game began. His first collegiate catch came in the form of a 44-yard touchdown strike from quarterback T.J. Hyland ’02.
“He made some plays and that’s what gets you more opportunities,” Siedlecki said. “As with all freshmen, kids get opportunities in practice and in JV games. Any opportunity we’ve given [Plumb], he’s made plays and he’s been successful.”
Plumb’s performance is even more impressive when one considers that he played quarterback in high school and has had to convert to wideout at Yale.
In addition to Carr and Plumb, offensive tackle Rory Hennessey ’05 and defensive end Harry Flaster ’05 have filled in admirably for banged-up starters at their respective positions. Flaster has seen regular action on the defensive line, recording two sacks on the year. Three of his 10 tackles have gone for a loss.
“Overall, I have been pleased with the young guys who have gotten opportunities,” Siedlecki said.