Yale quarterback Kurt Rawlings has a vivid recollection of the last time he played a night football game. It was Week 6 of last season, when Yale prevailed 23-10 at Penn.
Rawlings’ memories of that game are less about the victory than what happened in the third quarter. That’s when he suffered a broken fibula in his right leg that cost him the rest of his junior season.
The injury occurred when he was tackled from behind on a running play in the red zone. He had surgery the following day.
Rawlings said he knew when he was being carted off the field that night that he had sustained a long-term injury.
“It was just a weird tackle,” Rawlings explained. “I was contemplating putting my shoulder down and getting extra yards or slowing up a little bit and maybe sliding. I just knew my junior season wasn’t going to be what I expected. I never thought for a second that I wouldn’t be able to get back for senior year. I knew I would be able to get back on the field for sure.
“It’s part of football I guess. It could happen on any play. I love football. Extremely thankful to be able to do it again.”
Rawlings will be back under the lights Saturday night when Yale (3-1, 1-1 Ivy League) plays a non-league game at Richmond (3-3, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) in the first game between the two programs. Yale is coming off a 42-10 loss to Dartmouth. Richmond upset Maine 24-17 last weekend.
“Excellent football team,” Richmond coach Russ Huesman said when asked about Yale. “Really good players on both sides of the ball. They were picked to win the league. Last year I think they were a .500 team with a lot of injuries and they beat Maine 35-14. Maine won our league last year.”
With the exception of last week’s loss to Dartmouth, when he was limited to 143 yards passing and was intercepted twice, Rawlings has looked like his old self this season. The injury didn’t prevent him from participating in spring practice, and he’ll enter the Richmond game having completed 63 of 101 passes for 857 yards and four touchdowns in 2019. He’s had four passes intercepted.
Rawlings, listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, is first in the Yale record book in career completion percentage (.633), tied for second in touchdown passes (37), third in total offense (5,974), fourth in passing yards (5,493), third in competitions (445), and fifth in pass attempts (703).
“I feel great,” Rawlings said. “I have a scar I can show off, but nothing else. I've felt faster since I’ve come back from it. I run the ball as much as I used to, and get yelled at by the coaches because I still don’t slide.
“I’m just enjoying every moment that I have. Right now I’m just trying to win football games here at Yale.”
Rawlings said he played baseball at a higher level than football when he was younger, and originally thought baseball would provide his path to college. He was a middle infielder, but said his love for the game faded.
His options to play college football included several Ivy League schools, and he made his final decision after narrowing his list to Yale and Harvard.
Rawlings’ strengths include exceptional accuracy. He completed 73 percent of his passes during his senior season at The John Carroll School in Bel Air, Md. He tossed 53 touchdown passes and was intercepted three times that year.
After starting the final three games of his freshman season at Yale, Rawlings set a school record for completion percentage when he completed 18 of 20 passes (including his first 14 attempts) during a victory at Fordham, and finished fifth among FCS quarterbacks in completion percentage that season (.673).
He was leading the Ivy League in completions per game, yards passing, and yards passing per game when he was injured last season.
“I love throwing the ball,” Rawlings said. “If you can complete passes it gives the coaches more incentive to call pass plays. Not saying that’s all I want to do. We have great running backs here and a great O-line. It’s just being smart about where you’re going with the ball. Trying to take what’s given to you. Not always trying to do too much.”
Yale will be facing a Richmond defense that’s No. 2 in the CAA in pass defense (194.3 ypg). Richmond defensive lineman Maurice Jackson is tied for the conference lead in sacks (seven) and Richmond linebacker Tyler Dressler was named the CAA’s Co-Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded 20 tackles during last weekend’s victory over Maine.
“When you go up against a CAA opponent you always know it’s going to be a tough challenge,” Rawlings said. “It’s a great conference all around. We played some teams from the CAA in the past and you know what you’re getting into as soon as you sign up. They’re very big. They’ve got a great front seven and they’re very athletic on the outside. Defensively I think they’re a very solid squad.
“Very much looking forward to this weekend. I love playing night games, so I’m excited about that.”