Adversity breeds excellence. Despite the incidents and rumors surrounding last weekend, the Yale football team appears unfazed, eager to get back on the gridiron and forget any off-field disputes by racking up another road win.
Having won back-to-back road games on consecutive weeks for the first time since 2000, an unfamiliar sense of excitement and momentum surrounds the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) as they prepare to travel to New Hampshire this Saturday to take on winless Dartmouth (0-3, 0-1). Though a three-game road trip to begin the season had once seemed a daunting task, now the opportunity to make it a clean sweep is well within Yale’s grasp.
“The last two wins have created a very positive atmosphere and we need to build off it,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “The team is excited to get back to an Ivy League opponent.”
The Elis have undoubtedly improved steadily since their disappointing week one loss to San Diego. After allowing more than 500 yards of total offense in that game, the Bulldogs defense held one of the nation’s top tailbacks Jonathan Hurt to only 47 yards rushing at Cornell and forced four turnovers in the first half alone against Lafayette.
“On defense, we have been working on understanding each other’s roles and knowing where each position will be on every play,” cornerback Kevin Littleton ’07 said. “The past few weeks in practice, we have picked up the intensity and focused on hustle.”
Yale’s improvement has been evident on both sides of the ball. First-year starting quarterback Matt Polhemus ’08 appears to gain confidence with each snap and had his most efficient game last weekend. Polhemus threw for 196 yards on 10-for-16 passing and added a 28-yard touchdown run to boot. His fine passing led to a break out day for wide-out Ashley Wright ’07, who accumulated a season-high 151 yards, including two game-changing receptions against the Leopards.
Despite their recent progress, the Bulldogs know that every game in the Ivy League is a difficult one, especially on the road. After losing its first three games, including last week’s Ancient Eight loss to Penn, the Big Green will be hungry to get on the right track this Saturday. The biggest threat on the Dartmouth squad comes from senior quarterback Mike Fritz. Though the Big Green have only rushed for 254 yards in three games, the mobile Fritz accounts for more than half of that yardage himself. Against the Quakers, Fritz threw for 255 yards, while registering a team-high 68 yards on the ground.
“We just need to play our game defensively and not let the quarterback scramble and make plays for himself,” linebacker Bobby Abare ’09 said. “We also have to concentrate on getting off the field on third downs and holding them to as few first downs as possible.”
Following the Dartmouth game, Yale enters the bulk of its Ancient Eight season. If the Bulldogs have aspirations to bring home the title this year, they must take care of business at Memorial Field this weekend.
“We know the importance of every game,” defensive lineman Brandt Hollander ’08 said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to go 3-0 on this road trip and come back home with a lot of momentum.”