Defensive back Drew Baldwin ’12 has been one of the football team’s most consistent players since his first season in the Blue and White, when he won the Charles Loftus Award as Yale’s most valuable freshman. Since then, Baldwin has been a constant fixture in the secondary and has become one of the team’s most experienced defensive players. His interception on Saturday against Georgetown helped the Bulldogs pull away from the Hoyas en route to a 37–27 victory. Baldwin sat down with the News to talk about the defense’s first forced turnover of the season, his role as a young secondary and his expectations for the defense as a whole.
Q: On Saturday, you recorded Yale’s first interception of the season. Could you talk about what happened on that play and how you were able to make the catch?
A: Honestly on that play, our line got a good push up front and we were just sitting back in the right coverage. The quarterback overthrew the man he was trying to hit with the pass and I was able to just step in and make the catch.
Q: It was your first pick since your sophomore season. How excited were you afterward?
A: I was really excited because getting an interception is really important for our team. We are always preaching, “Turn the other team over.” So it was just a really great feeling getting an interception.
Q: After making a big play like that, what is your mentality like?
A: Just excited. You celebrate right after the play with all your teammates. It’s a really good feeling, being able to get our offense on the field and our defense off the field.
Q: That interception ended Georgetown’s second drive in the second half less than a minute after it started. How does a turnover like that affect the other team, especially the quarterback?
A: You can see the momentum shift a little bit. Like I said, an interception like that just gets everybody on the team excited. And when your team gets excited, the other team can see the momentum coming to us. That’s really important for us.
Q: Georgetown’s starting quarterback, Isaiah Kempf, seemed to be throwing a lot more often during the first half than he did in the previous two games. Did that throw the secondary off a little bit in the first half?
A: No. We knew he was going to throw the ball and [the Hoyas] were getting on the ball pretty quick. It was our first game and they were trying to use the fact that they already had two games to their advantage.
Q: What kind of adjustments did you guys make in the locker room during halftime that essentially stifled the Georgetown offense in the second half?
A: We were just trying to get everybody to calm down and to just play like we all know how to play, just flying around like we were doing the whole game. The adjustments we made really helped out during the second half as you can see.
Q: A lot of players talked about how coming out strong in the second half is a big goal for you guys this season. Do you think that you will be able to keep making those adjustments this season?
A: Yeah, I mean it’s an emphasis on our team from top down, from the head coach to all the players. We always preach coming out fast in the beginning of the game and coming out fast in the third quarter. I definitely believe it’s something we can keep up for the entire season.
Q: You are one of the more experienced players on the defense. How does that affect your game play as well as your responsibility on the team?
A: I guess as far as responsibility on the team, there are guys who are going to look up to you a little bit. They want to see what they should be doing. I feel like I have to show them, with my actions, what they should be doing. And as far as on the field, it’s all about getting a comfort level, knowing the type of things that I can do on the field and knowing the type of things that other teams are going to try to do.
Q: You guys lost two very talented defensive backs in Adam Money ’11 and Chris Stanley ’11. Do you think the secondary is prepared for the loss and new players are ready to step up and take their place?
A: Not a question. We have great depth and even last year, we had a rotation as far as in the secondary to get people more experience. That’s what it’s all about, you get that game-time experience and that helps you out tremendously. It was a big loss for us to lose Money and Stanley, but the guys who came back this year are definitely ready to fill those shoes.
Q: With so many returning starters on the defense, is there an expectation to go out there to perform and make the big plays?
A: Well it’s not necessarily the expectation to make the big plays, but making the plays you are supposed to make. And that’s what the coaches are always preaching, just make the plays you are supposed to and every now and then, you will get a big play.
Q: How do having Patrick Witt ’12, Chris Smith ’13 and other offensive playmakers help you as a defense?
A: We go against our offense everyday in practice and they are an explosive offense, so it helps us out going against great receivers, great running backs and great quarterback. You get to see what great players will do and what kind of tendency they will have. It makes us a better defense as a whole.
Q: Who’s the toughest receiver on the team to guard?
A: We have really great receivers. It’s tough to single any one receiver out. You have Chris Smith with the vertical threat because he’s just explosive. He’s fast and he can run past you. You got Deon Randall ’14, he’s really shifty as well as Gio [Christodoulou ’12], he’s really shifty as well. And Allen Harris ’13 will go up and try to make a play on the ball. Having a great core of guys — there are other guys as well — like that, it’s really difficult to pick out one receiver who’s the best.
Q: What’s your and the team’s expectations for the rest of the year?
A: I’m not really looking at the rest of the year just yet. We focus on one game at a time, one week at a time. Right now, we have Cornell on Saturday and that’s all I’m really worried about.