October 26, 2007

From the Broadcast Booth: Special Teams

Oct. 26, 2007

Getting set to call tomorrow's tilt with Columbia, I can't help but think back on last week's 26-20, three overtime, cardiac-challenging-thriller, defeat of Penn. And, though it has already received some play, to me, the moment that sticks out most was Alan Kimball's field goal in second overtime, which saved the game. The snap bounced to holder Rich Scudellari, who, together with Kimball, did a great job of ensuring a successful kick. It was a shining moment for Yale's special teams unit.

Let's talk about Yale's special teams. With so much focus on the overwhelming offense and bruising defense, the special teams -- and I'm not just talking about the specialists -- sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Well, they shouldn't be. I've been following Yale Football since the 2000 season, and in that time I could go back and point to many instances when a poor special teams play cost Yale the chance to win a game. Whether it was a fumbled return, or allowing an opponent to return a kick into the endzone, special teams were a sore spot for a few years in a row.

Not so in 2007 (or 2006, for that matter. It's no coincidence that Yale's special teams were stellar in last year's co-championship season). Kimball hasn't missed an extra point. Tom Mante is one of the top punters in the nation. Beyond that, the unit as a group has been extremely solid. Opposing returners are being punished when tackled -- and they're not racking up many yards. Yale's return game has often put the offense -- which doesn't need much help to begin with -- in ideal situations, with short fields, and lots of momentum.

At 6-0, this has the makings of a magical season for the Elis -- a feat that goes well beyond the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

And special teams could play a vital role in tomorrow's game. Sure, Columbia has just one win on the season (and is winless in the Ivy League). But, Yale is banged up. And, the weather -- rain expected with a chance of thunderstorms -- has a chance to be the great equalizer. The FieldTurf surface should be ok, but if the ball is slick, turnovers can be the key. And special teams. If the rain keeps the scoring down, special teams can prove to be the difference. Yale will need to once again ensure that it wins that battle - it could be the key to the war tomorrow.

Stay out of the rain and join Carm Cozza and I for the call tomorrow on News/Talk 960 WELI-AM and online at 960Weli.com. Kickoff is at 12:30, and we'll be on the air with complete pre-game coverage starting at 12 Noon.

Ron Vaccaro '04 is the voice of Yale Football on News/Talk 960 WELI-AM.

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