Only one game remains before the Yale football team begins its pursuit of the elusive Ivy League championship.
The Bulldogs (3–1, 2–0 Ivy) will travel to Pennsylvania for the second time in three weeks to take on Lafayette College (1–4, 0–1 Patriot), their final nonconference game of the season. The Leopards’ campus is less than 10 miles away from the site of the Elis’ only blemish this season, a 30-point loss to Lehigh. But the Bulldogs quickly bounced back by dismantling Dartmouth, 30–0, at home last weekend.
“We are just trying to keep the momentum rolling from the Dartmouth game,” safety Geoff Dunham ’12 said. “Like last week, we want to stay balanced on offense, solid in the kicking game, and stingy on defense.”
The Big Green was held scoreless for the first time since 2006 and could not stop a rampaging Yale offense, led by tailbacks Alex Thomas ’12 and Mordecai Cargill ’13.
The duo combined for 216 yards on the ground on just 24 carries. Their long touchdown runs in the first quarter gave the Blue and White a lead that it never relinquished.
“[The early touchdowns] kind of stunned us and we had to play uphill from that point forward,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said after the game.
Thomas and Cargill could be off to a running start again this weekend. The Leopards’ rush defense allowed 11 touchdowns on the ground this season, giving up an average of 170 yards per game.
However, the Blue and White offensive line will be missing one of its key components on game day. Left tackle Wes Gavin ’14, who has started all but one game since last season, will not play this weekend due to an ankle injury. Ben Carbery ’15 is expected to get the nod for his first collegiate start this weekend.
By comparison, Lafayette’s running backs have yet to reach the opponents’ end zone this season, averaging a meager 81 yards per game. The Leopards’ struggle on the ground started during training camps. Sophomore Pat Mputu, the team’s second-leading rusher, was suspended for five games before taking a single handoff. Recurring concussion symptoms forced Jerome Rudolph, the expected starter in Mputu’s absence, to end his football career.
The Leopards’ backs should expect no mercy from a stout Yale defense that shut down the Ivy League’s best rushing attack last Saturday. Taking the three sacks it gave up into account, the Big Green gained just 55 net rushing yards on 32 attempts, averaging a pitiful 1.7 yards per carry.
The Bulldogs’ front seven harassed Dartmouth’s quarterbacks all game long and never allowed the Big Green to move the ball consistently through the air.
Lineman Jake Stoller ’12 registered two sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble that pinned the Big Green inches away from its own end zone. Three drives later, Dawson Halliday ’12 stripped the ball again on a fake punt. Fellow defensive back Drew Baldwin ’12 recovered the loose ball near the midfield to deliver the final nail in the coffin.
Turnovers have been a boon for the Elis this season, stunning their opponents’ momentum and creating favorable field positions for the Yale offense.
“We spend a lot of time practicing takeaways,” head coach Tom Williams said. “They don’t just happen, we try to make them happen.”
After committing just one turnover in its first three games, Lafayette has struggled to secure the football in the last two contests against Stony Brook and Harvard, throwing four interceptions and fumbling the ball four times. Both games ended up in lopsided losses for the Leopards.
With its ground attack fizzling, Lafayette has turned to quarterbacks Andrew Shoop and Ryan O’Neil to carry the offense. After a concussion knocked O’Neil in the team’s second game of the season, Shoop took over as the starter and notched seven touchdowns in his last four games.
“Lafayette’s quarterbacks are athletic and have the ability to scramble and extend plays with their feet,” Dunham said. “So we must be prepared to cover their receivers for a longer period of time.”
Despite its 1–4 record, Lafayette has the potential to be a dangerous opponent for the Elis. The Leopards staged a 37–12 upset of two-time defending Ivy champion Penn four weeks ago. Shoop threw four touchdowns in his first start while the Leopards’ defense took advantage of turnovers and special team miscues to hold the Quakers’ offense in check.
But Williams said that Lafayette’s record and nonconference status will not affect how the Bulldogs play on Saturday.
“We want to win. That’s always our goal, to win as many [games] as we can,” he said. “We don’t look at our opponents as conference or non-conference.”
Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Fisher Stadium.