Despite having to replace two of their best players, the Bulldogs — with a roster full of talent from top to bottom — lead the Ivy League in both points scored and points allowed.
The Elis’ depth has allowed the team to overcome key injuries to All-Ivy center Nick Wachtler ’08 and All-Ivy defensive end Larry Abare ’09 on the way to an impressive 4-0 start. After Wachtler suffered an injury in the season opener against Georgetown, backup center Ty Davis ’09 was pushed into a starting role for the first time in his career. Davis turned in an impressive performance against the Hoyas and then shared the Bulldogs’ weekly team award for best offensive lineman with All-Ivy right guard Jeff Monaco ’08 after the Elis’ rout of Cornell on Sept. 22.
“It’s a great thing for us, how deep we are,” captain Brandt Hollander ’08 said. “It allows us to play the type of style we play. When we can go two or three deep and play with their ones it gives us an edge. It gives us a lot of camaraderie top to bottom when everyone on the team is contributing.”
The Bulldogs’ depth has allowed them to remain aggressive in the later stages of the game and wear down their opponents’ offensive line. Against the Big Green, seven different Bulldogs recorded a tackle for a loss and four different players picked up a sack. In comparison, in last year’s game against Dartmouth, only two players recorded stops behind the line of scrimmage.
One of the biggest contributors to the Elis’ increased aggressiveness is strength and conditioning coach Emil Johnson, who joined the Bulldogs before the 2005 season.
“I think people that have watched us play for the past few years notice how much more physically dominant we are now than we’ve ever been and that’s the result of our strength coach Emil Johnson,” Hollander said before the season opener. “Emil’s transformed our team and our newfound physicality has enabled us to have the success that we’re now enjoying. Our schemes aren’t complicated on either side of the ball, but we’ve developed the type of strength and conditioning base where we can now wear down opposing teams.”
After both victories against Cornell and Dartmouth, the opposing coaches commented on how their teams were physically dominated by the Bulldogs. Through two conference games, the Elis have given up only one sack while rushing for 565 yards on the other side of the ball. In comparison, the Bulldog defense has recorded seven sacks and held their opponents to just 124 rushing yards.
The Elis are dominating the game on the line of scrimmage despite having to rebuild a line that features four new starters from the end of last season. Against Dartmouth, five different Bulldogs recorded rushing touchdowns behind the imposing O-line. The defensive line has shown similar resolve, even after the loss of one of their best pass rushers in Abare.
“Our strength and conditioning program has been very, very good,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “I get the reports from [Emil Johnson] when we do the testing. Our lifts are going up, our percentages are going up. If you look at our team physically, we don’t have a lot of fat guys. Our guys are well-conditioned and we’re a tall, lean football team.”
The Bulldogs have gotten better as the games have gone on. The Elis have refused to give their opponents opportunities to get back into games, outscoring Dartmouth and Cornell 63-19 in the second half.
“That’s what a good team will do,” linebacker Bobby Abare ’09 said. “I think the biggest thing right now is we’re just a focused team. We’re not going to let anyone sneak up on us. We have to play 10 games and we understand that. Every week we have to make the most of every chance we get.”