You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and the Bulldogs’ weakest link this season may be injuries.
In last week’s Lehigh game, wide receiver P.J. Collins ’04 suffered a compound fracture to his clavicle. Doctors said the injury will probably keep Collins off the field for the remainder of the season.
Fortunately for the Elis, wide receiver Ralph Plumb ’05, who was shaken up during the Lehigh game, will return to the lineup Saturday.
Collins suffered the injury in an aerial collision with a Lehigh defenseman in an attempt to catch a pass.
“[Collins] went up for a pass and [the Lehigh defenseman] landed right on [Collins’] shoulder,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “There was no way for [Collins] to get out of the way.”
Siedlecki also said he did not believe the injury was intentionally delivered.
Collins has been a crucial component of Yale’s passing game. Until his injury last Saturday, he tallied nine catches for 200 yards and a touchdown this season, ranking him third among Yale receivers.
“It’s always disappointing to lose a player of P.J. [Collins’] caliber,” Siedlecki said. “We have a couple of young receivers that will need to step up when their opportunities arise.”
But Collins’ numbers and ranking fail to paint a complete picture of his importance to the Yale offense. Many of Collins’ catches came at critical points, including a breathtaking 40-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Jeff Mroz that put Yale ahead for good during the Cornell game.
“P.J. [Collins] made a lot of big plays in the past games,” Mroz said. “His loss is going to be felt. But injuries are a part of football. You have to move on. There are people out there who can make plays as well. They’re not really proven yet — we knew P.J. [Collins] could make big plays — but it’s time for them to step up.”
In addition to Collins, Yale also will play without runningback Jay Schulze ’03 this weekend. Schulze is suffering from a bulging disk in his spine and will be out for an undetermined amount of time. Schulze already missed the Lehigh game because of the injury.
But the injury that has hindered Yale the most hit starting quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04 in the second game of the season against Cornell. On the game’s second offensive play, Cowan was hit after releasing the ball and suffered a fibula fracture to his left leg.
Although there had been hopes that Cowan would return for the Penn game, Siedlecki decided not to let him return yet.
Siedlecki does not know when Cowan will be able to return and the possibility exists that Cowan may remain out for the rest of the season.
“There comes a time when you’re so out of practice and when you’re so out of shape that it might take you two weeks to get back, and by then the season might be over,” Siedlecki said.
Cowan had a breakout performance in the Bulldog’s season opener against the University of San Diego, passing for three touchdowns and running for another three. Cowan ended that game with 114 yards rushing and 283 yards passing.
Besides Collins and Schulze, Yale also has been plagued by injuries to linebacker Tate Rich ’04, linebacker Alex Faherty ’05, defensive line Bryant Dieffenbacher ’04 and offensive line Nick Sinatra ’03.
Despite the spat of injuries, Siedlecki remains optimistic about the team’s prospects.
“I don’t think we have had this many total in the previous five years,” Siedlecki said. “Injuries are a part of the game. We need players to step in and perform well in their place. Like I’ve said before, I’ve got a real good feeling about this team, and a big part of it is the way they’ve reacted to adversity.”