FOOTBALL | Eli O-line knows woes

It is time to right the ship.

After last week’s demoralizing loss at home against Penn, the football team will look to bounce back this weekend when the Bulldogs host Columbia on Saturday at the Yale Bowl. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m.

Last week’s 9-7 loss versus the Quakers (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) virtually eliminated the Elis (3-3, 1-2) from Ivy League championship contention — the Bulldogs are now two games out of first place with just four remaining. In what has become an underachieving campaign, the Elis will go into this coming weekend’s contest against the Lions (1-5, 1-2) with a certain level of desperation.

“We need a win and we need to play well,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said.

The way the squad fell to Penn sure did not make it any easier to swallow. The defense played superbly, but for the second consecutive week its efforts didn’t translate to a win due to an inept Bulldog offense.

Yale was held to just 92 total yards on offense and what was once one of the nation’s top rushing attacks, continued struggling. The Bulldogs could only muster 15 net yards on the ground.

Preseason All-American Mike McLeod ’09 had 18 carries for 28 yards — his lowest total this season — and failed to score a touchdown for the third time this year. Last season the Walter Payton Award candidate scored a touchdown in every game except in the season finale against Harvard.

Although quarterback Brook Hart ’11 was efficient, he saw constant pressure and didn’t have time to look downfield. The southpaw was sacked four times and received a number of other hits.

After the loss, Siedlecki pointed out there is only so much the backfield could do when facing constant penetration. The veteran offensive line needed to step up, he said.

“I do agree with him that unblocked guys have plagued our offense all year,” tackle Darius Dale ’09 said. “Sometimes they are guys who are accounted for in the blocking scheme. Others times, safeties and support players are just coming up and making great plays in the run game. Regardless, we need to get people blocked for our offense to have a chance. Our offense is pretty basic and sometimes predictable, so flawless execution is an absolute must if we are to have any success.”

Things should be a little easier for the offensive unit this time around. Penn, along with Yale, has one of the two best defenses in the Ancient Eight. Columbia, on the other hand, is in the middle of the pack in the Ivy League. The Lions are fifth in scoring defense (21.3 points per game) and third in total defense (297.7 yards per game).

With that, the Lions do have more sacks on the year (10) than the Quakers (9), with which the Bulldog offensive line will need to contend.

But Dale doesn’t think the line will have much trouble this time around.

“[Their] running the 4-3 defense makes them pretty easy to identify pre-snap,” he said. “I don’t think blocking schemes will be an issue on Saturday.”

The Bulldogs will need to pay special attention to Columbia linebacker and two-year captain Drew Quinn. The senior leads the Ivy League in total tackles (66) and is a disruptive force in the middle for the Lion defense.

According to Siedlecki, keeping Quinn at bay will be a key to the Eli success.

“[He] is a four-year starter, and along with Bobby [Abare ’09], you are probably seeing the two best inside linebackers in the league this week,” Siedlecki said. “We must get a body on Quinn in every run play and throw effectively versus their man-to-man coverage.”

Hart will be back under center for the Bulldogs. Ryan Fodor ’09, the usual starting quarterback, will be out again this weekend for the second consecutive game. Fodor injured his throwing shoulder in the loss against Fordham two weeks ago and was forced out of last weekend’s contest. He was ruled out of Saturday’s game after throwing just two passes in Wednesday’s practice.

Columbia’s quarterback situation is also in flux. In last week’s 21-13 victory over Dartmouth, junior M.A. Olawale replaced Shane Kelly late in the third quarter with the Lions clinging onto a 14-13 lead.

Olawale held his own and more. The Los Angeles native completed all of his seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 52 yards — all in barely over a quarter of play.

The Bulldog defense knows stopping whoever is at quarterback will be key in another successful effort.

“Both of their quarterbacks are so versatile that they can be good in the run and the pass,” captain and linebacker Abare said. “We have to be careful and not give them too much open space or they can do some damage.”

The Lions are second in the Ancient Eight in rushing (126.2 yards per game) and fifth in total offense (319.7 yards per game), but that hasn’t translated to points — Columbia is second from the bottom in the league in scoring offense at 17.3 points per game.

The Yale defense, on the other hand, is one of the nation’s best and will look to continue to wreak havoc on the opposition. The Bulldogs are currently tied for second in the country in points allowed at 13.3 points per game. (Penn — at 13 points allowed per game — sits in the top spot.)

The team will now look to put last week’s difficult loss behind it.

“[This week’s practices have] been upbeat and positive while upsetting at the same time,” Abare said. “We’re all looking forward to getting back on the field Saturday and having some fun.”

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