FOOTBALL | Keys to the game

1. Find an offense.

Against Penn, the Bulldogs limped to 92 yards of total offense. Ninety-two yards. That’s just six more yards than what linebacker Bobby Abare ’09 gained in his interception return against Fordham. When your team’s best offensive weapon is your middle linebacker, it’s time to consider a serious change in offensive philosophy. Right now, the Yale offense is an absolute disaster. After scoring a touchdown on their second possession, the Bulldogs put together 11 straight “drives” that combined for exactly one first down and 36 total yards in 34 plays. That means the Elis averaged just over a yard per play. It takes effort to be that pathetic.

2. Get creative.

Despite his team’s absolute offensive ineptitude against Penn, head coach Jack Siedlecki still refused to think outside the box. A single successful trick play — think a wide-receiver reverse, a flea flicker, or a Statue of Liberty — could have given the Elis some life and gotten the crowd back into the game. Instead, the Bulldogs mindlessly ran the ball 30 straight times for just 15 total yards — the football equivalent of banging your head against the wall over and over again. The Elis will have to abandon the plain vanilla approach if they want to move the ball against a surprisingly stingy Columbia defense that enters the weekend ranked third in the Ivies in total defense.

3. Get the big guys going.

You can’t entirely fault Siedlecki and Mike McLeod ’09 for the offense’s poor performance. The O-line hasn’t given them much room to work with. Last Saturday, the Quakers seemed to have a defender in the backfield on nearly every play. In fact, Brook Hart ’11 was sacked every fourth time he dropped back to pass. It was a sack at the Penn 32 with just minutes left to play that effectively sealed the victory for the Quakers. If defenses can consistently get penetration like Penn, it will be impossible for the Elis to get into any kind of offensive rhythm.

4. Maintain containment.

If the Bulldogs want to keep their six-game winning streak against perennial doormat Columbia alive, they’re going to have to contain Lions quarterback M.A. Olawale. The junior picked up 57 yards on the ground during Columbia’s final scoring drive against Dartmouth last weekend, clinching the Lions’ first victory in the past 14 games. If the Bulldogs don’t stay in their rushing lanes against the Lions, Olawale will turn the Elis’ aggressive defense into a liability.

5. Stop the bleeding.

Although the Elis’ are two games behind in the Ivy League standings with just four matchups left, all hope isn’t lost. And the team isn’t nearly as bad as it’s looked in the past two weeks. To put things in perspective, the Bulldogs’ three losses have been by a combined seven points. Yes, it would take a miracle to get back into the championship conversation — Yale would have to win out and Brown and Penn would both have to lose two games — but it’s still a possibility, especially with a defense as talented as this year’s edition. If the Elis can get things rolling against Columbia Saturday, they may be able to salvage what has so far been an incredibly disappointing season.

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