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The Big Four

Diana, Rogan, Grieve and Leone Lead the Elis

By Michael Bass

You don't have to buy a program at The Game on Saturday to follow the guys in blue. There are really only four numbers you need to know. If you keep your eyes peeled for 33, 19, 81 and 92, you won't miss a moment of action. Because, and remember you heard it here, those numbers are going to be involved in every single key play in The Game.

When Yale has the ball, don't let halfback Rich Diana (33), quarterback John Rogan (19) or split end Curtis Grieve (81) slip out of your sight. Because just as quick as you lose them they can slip into the end zone.

And when the Eli defensive unit takes to the field, run your eyes along the line until you come to the right end, Fred Leone (92). The team captain, Leone is actually a linebacker in the Yale defensive formation, but may line up in any number of different sets. That makes him especially hard to keep track of, for both the opposing offense and the people in the stands. It's important for each to know where Leone is, however--he's the one the Eli defense turns to for the big play in crucial situations.

"Those four guys have been as responsible as anyone for our success," says Yale head coach Carm Cozza. "They're outstanding players. They have meant a great deal to this team because of their leadership as well as talent."

To talk about Yale football in 1981, you have to start with Diana. He is a slashing runner, with quickness and power. A lot of the time, the 5-ft., 11-in., 215-lb. back is into the secondary before you know it, something that doesn't overly please defensive backs--since first they have to catch him, and then they have to bring him down.

Last season he became only the third Eli back to break the 1000-yd. barrier, rushing for 1074 in ten games. In addition, he ranked second in the nation in all-purpose running (which includes returns) with an average of 174.9 yards per game. This year, Diana has been even more impressive. He's already broken the Yale records for carries (265) and yards gained (1355) and has scored 13 touchdowns--all in nine games. Last weekend during the loss to Princeton, Diana carried 46 times for 222 yards and three TDs. That's a pretty tough day, even for a back of his epic proportions.

"I think the more times you carry the ball, the more chances you have to be effective," Diana says. "I'm the style of runner where people get tired of seeing me carry the ball, and they let down a little bit. If a team gives me running room, we're going to keep giving me the ball."

Unlike its team of two years ago, Yale no longer depends only on the run to move the ball. "Offensively, we're a more balanced team," Diana says. "We're passing a lot more, and that's helped the running game." Quarterback Rogan adds, "We're a run first, pass second team. But now when they shut down our running game, we have confidence going to the air. We're not going to be hesitant to throw the ball."

The Rogan-Grieve combination--probably the most feared in the Ivies--is the main reason for a more balanced Eli offense. Rogan has thrown 176 times and completed 90 (51 per cent) for 1041 yards and ten touchdowns. Grieve has caught 47 passes, for 701 yards (15.1 average) and ten TDs. The fact that they have been a team for two seasons now has only served to increase their ability to pierce opposing defenses for big gains.

"Curtis makes the big catch," Rogan says. "Lots of times I'll put the ball right to him when he's covered and he'll somehow get to the ball and catch it. Or when he's open, I'll throw a pass that's a little off and he'll help me out, making a diving or leaping catch."

"We know each other real well. I know how he runs his patterns. He knows how I like to throw."

The 6-ft., 5-in. Grieve has no qualms about having Rogan as his quarterback. "He helps me a great deal. A lot of times I'm not even open and he gets the ball right to me."

"Rogan is a very fine thrower," Cozza says. "He's a winner. He's a gutsy kid. He always makes something happen out there. And Curtis Grieve is one of the finest receivers I've had here. His leaping ability is incredible."

The Elis' offensive power is a given; it was the defense, however, that collapsed in last week's 35-31 loss to Princeton. "On defense we are not nearly as consistent," says the 6-ft., 2-in., 217-lb. Leone. "We do make a lot of big plays though."

No one player has made so many big plays this season as Fred Leone. Although his tackle stats aren't that impressive in comparison to some of his teammates, Leone's value to the defense is tremendous. He's had one interception, he's recovered five fumbles and caused three others, he's sacked the quarterback five times and on five other occasions he forced the quarterback to throw an incomplete pass. He is the epitome of a defensive and team leader.

"He's been a big play guy for us, no question," Cozza says. "He's been a great captain. Not a rah-rah type guy, but one who leads by example."

"My thing has been to make the big play," Leone says--"cause a fumble, make an interception. My role is getting us the ball so the offense can take it from there."

So you've got your four numbers to watch, numbers you can bet the Harvard team will be watching as well. Forget about that program. You'll save two bucks anyway.

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