FOOTBALL | Keys to the game: Yale vs. Columbia

RUN EARLY AND OFTEN

Columbia has one of the worst rush defenses in the league while Yale has been on par with the best rushing teams in the conference. The Bulldogs should exploit this advantage. The Lions have allowed 171.5 yards of rushing per game and were gouged for 157 yards and three scores by Dartmouth back Nick Schwieger last weekend.

The Bulldogs have shown that they know how to execute the running game after exploding for 232 yards of rushing against Penn, the third-ranked rush defense in the league. Alex Thomas ’12 led the way for all Yale rushers with 204 yards and a touchdown, averaging nearly seven yards per carry en route to a spot on this week’s Ivy League football Honor Roll.

But injuries to two key players on the offensive line may make running the ball a more difficult task this weekend. Offensive tackle Wes Gavin ’14 will miss his third game in a row and fellow tackle Roy Collins ’13 is day to day with an ankle injury suffered in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss against Penn, and will likely be a game-time decision. No matter the offensive line the Elis put on the field Saturday, they should look to jumpstart the offense by running the ball early.

DON’T LET UP

In last season’s matchup against Columbia, the Bulldogs led 31–7 at halftime but were outscored 21–0 in the second half, barely pulling off a 31–28 victory. A similar collapse occurred last weekend against Penn, but the Bulldogs were not able to hold on as Penn scored 27 fourth-quarter points to generate a 37–25 victory.

The Elis have not consistently played four good quarters of football on Saturdays. Failing to do so this weekend could lead to an unexpected loss against Columbia.

GO FOR BIG PLAYS THROUGH THE AIR

The Bulldogs have shown that they have one of the stronger passing games in the conference. Quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 is third in the league in passing yards with 1,377 and has thrown for 11 touchdowns.

Although Columbia’s pass defense in at the middle of the conference, it has struggled to create turnovers. It ranks last in the category with only two interceptions. Witt should take advantage of the Lions’ lack of playmaking ability and take shots down the field.

Witt and Smith have hooked up for three touchdown plays of at least 40 yards in each of the last three games. But Smith will be a game-time decision after suffering a hamstring injury against Penn last week. The two should continue to take shots down the field against a defense that will struggle to capitalize on mistakes.

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