Many Yale fans are excited that the 2004 football season is beginning soon, but no one is as excited as the players themselves.
“It’s been an especially long preseason,” defensive end Brandon Dyches ’06 said. “It’s not that it’s any longer in terms of days, we’re just more ready to play this year. We’re ready for results.”
This Saturday, the Elis will have their first opportunity to reap the fruits of months spent in the weightroom and on the practice fields when they take on the University of Dayton (2-0). This will be the first time that the Bulldogs travel to Dayton, Ohio, to play the Flyers. The only previous match-up between the two teams was at the Yale Bowl in 2000, when the Bulldogs resoundingly beat the Flyers 42-6.
After finding success against Princeton in a preseason scrimmage Sept. 4, the consensus among the Bulldogs is that they are prepared for this weekend’s contest. Yale captain Rory Hennessey ’05 said they have worked hard this fall.
“We are getting there,” Hennessey said. “The defense is flying around, looking great. The offense is still coming together. We are trying to get everyone out there together.”
It has been a struggle for the Bulldogs to put complete lines out in practice because they have been hampered by mostly nagging injuries in the preseason. The only injury that is serious enough to affect the line-up is junior tailback David Knox’s injury from last season. Wideout Ralph Plumb ’05, who has been the biggest question mark for this weekend with a strained hamstring, seems to be doing fine and should play, according to Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki.
Siedlecki also said the team does not have the cohesion yet that he wants for it because of these “dings and bangs” from training.
Wide receiver Chandler Henley ’06, who has been dealing with a strained quadriceps and some cramping, said he is healthy and ready to go now but that it does take some time to get one’s sense of timing back after resting.
“We’ve been working hard,” Henley said. “I am confident [quarterback Alvin Cowan ’05] will hit me. The ball will be there as long as I get to the right spot. He’s a hell of a QB.”
Besides needing to work out various issues caused by the injuries, the Bulldogs will also be challenged by a team whose head coach, Mike Kelly, has a record of 217-43-1 with the Flyers and who has won his first two decisions this season. Kelly attributes his success to the continuity of his 24 years at Dayton, and to recruiting high-caliber athletes.
The Flyers will also be throwing a tandem of signal callers at the Eli defense. Quarterbacks Brandon Staley and Kevin Hoyng have alternated drives with success for the Flyers so far this fall. Kelly said he has never been opposed to rotating two guys behind center.
“At this point, we are doing equally well with both of them,” Kelly said. “One is the returning starter [Staley], the other is a young man challenging the starter [Hoyng]. We don’t have to change the structure much.”
Siedlecki said it is hard to make any comment on this dynamic duo of quarterbacks until he sees them in action, but that he has confidence in his pass rushing defensive ends.
“We have some specialized guys,” Siedlecki said. “Brandon Etheridge ’07 comes off the edge, [Brandt] Hollander ’08 is an inside pass rusher. Don Smith ’05 is situational, Dyches plays in all situations.”
Siedlecki also said there should be no surprises for the Elis when they step out onto the AstroTurf at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
“They will run some option, they are pretty run-oriented,” Siedlecki said. “They have a big receiver [Ryan Wrobleski] who is their go-to guy.”
The Bulldogs also hope to take advantage of what Kelly has described as “a major nightmare” — the Flyers’ kicking game. Punter Derek Hall is averaging 23.4 yards and place kicker Jason Resch has missed three out of four field goal attempts. Siedlecki said these are things to go after.
Many of the Elis are probably not thinking about exploiting this weakness or about the stats. They are probably thinking about taking the field.
“You only get 10 days to prove yourself and your team,” Hennessey said. “You only get 10 days to enjoy yourself.”
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