Linebacker Matt Oplinger ’18 received the Asa S. Bushnell Cup for Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year on Monday at a ceremony in New York. The senior, who led the Ivy League with 11.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss this season, is the first Bulldog defender to win the Bushnell Cup since nose guard Kevin Czinger ’81 took home the honor in 1980.
Oplinger carried a Yale defense that led the Ivy League in giving up less than 16 points per game. The Summit, New Jersey native was also the emotional leader on an improved Yale defense that had given up 33.9 points per game during his junior campaign.
“Defense isn’t a one-man show out there. It’s a team award,” Oplinger said at the award ceremony in New York. “It’s good to be able to walk away as … a Yale defensive player to see we got some acknowledgement for what we did this season and I know this award isn’t just for me. It’s my one eleventh [of the award and the rest goes to] the 10 other guys out there.”
Oplinger finished the season ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision in sacks per game. The postseason could get even sweeter for Oplinger, who is also a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player in the FCS. The Buchanan Award will be presented on Jan. 5.
The first-team All-Ivy linebacker stepped up in the biggest games of Yale’s run to its first outright Ivy title since 1980, recording a two-sack performance in The Game. Oplinger’s 11.5 sacks this season rank him second in Yale history in sacks per season.