With a lineup of veterans looking for redemption and inexperienced skill players looking to make an impact, the Yale football team got what it needed most in Saturday’s scrimmage against Union — confidence.
In a tuneup before the Sept. 21 opener against the University of San Diego, newly anointed starting quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04 broke in his new go-to receivers, throwing for 192 yards and two touchdowns in leading Yale’s 38-0 thrashing of the Division III Dutchmen. The more veteran defense, led by lineman Jason Lange ’03 and Luke Mraz ’03, was equally impressive, holding Union to 69 yards of total offense. The gaudy numbers do not mean as much considering the inferior competition, but players hope the dominating performance is a sign that this team can right the ship after last year’s dismal 3-6 season.
“Saturday proved to us that we are a very good team when we play mentally sound football,” said Lange, the team’s captain.
In his first game as Yale’s starting quarterback, it did not take long for Cowan to get comfortable in the pocket, as he led the Elis to three touchdowns in their first three possessions. Overall, he completed 12 of 18 pass attempts.
“We kept the game plan simple and [Alvin] executed it very well,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “Production is what we are looking for, and he certainly was productive.”
Ron Benigno ’04, who steps into one of the two vacant spots at wideout this year, was the recipient of Cowan’s two touchdown passes, strikes of 51 and 42 yards. For the game, Yale’s aerial attack, of which quarterbacks Jeff Mroz ’05 and Eric Ramsay ’03 were also parts, racked up 380 yards and three touchdowns, a good sign considering Yale graduated its top two signal callers and wide receivers from a year ago.
“The scrimmage was a very good chance to allow inexperienced players [to] get rid of their first-game jitters,” Lange said. “Hopefully, this was a good game to settle some of those nerves, so when San Diego comes here we will be able to focus on winning instead of just being ready to play.”
Yale’s backs churned out 211 yards on the ground, led by John Ryan’s ’05 97 yards on 14 carries. Siedlecki said he was pleased with the performance of Yale’s top two running backs of a year ago — Robert Carr ’05 (12 carries, 76 yards) and Jay Schulze ’03 (five carries, 24 yards) — both of whom are coming off injury-plagued seasons in 2001.
On defense, it was Yale’s experience that led the way. Lange and Mraz led a thoroughly dominating performance from the defensive line, which gave up only 32 running yards. Barton Simmons ’04, a potential All-Ivy safety, was the star in the secondary, picking off two passes and returning one of them 44 yards for a touchdown.
“Because the front seven was so dominating, I really didn’t get a chance to make a lot of plays,” Simmons said. “But when I did get my opportunities, I made the plays, which is really something that I’ve got to do this season.”
The game was not a flawless performance, though. Simmons noted blown coverages in the secondary that on Saturday did not amount to much, but against better competition they could have been very costly. Lange had different concerns.
“Our conditioning could have been better, and will be come San Diego,” Lange said. “We need to continue to make sure that everyone on the field is doing everything they can to make a play at all times.”
The worst result to come out of the scrimmage was a broken leg suffered by Tate Rich ’04, who had 40 tackles and two sacks as a starting linebacker a year ago. Rich will miss four to six weeks, Siedlecki said.