Yale has a tall order ahead of it to bring down Harvard. Here’s what the Bulldogs will need to do to put the Cantabs back in their place.
No quarterback has started back-to-back games for Yale since Eric Williams ’16 went down with a separated shoulder against Penn in October. That lack of continuity has shown — Yale has fumbled three times on routine handoffs and snaps since that date. The Elis also struggled to move the ball through the air, going a combined 8–30 passing with two interceptions against Columbia and Brown. Yale found its saving grace last week, however, in fifth-string quarterback Henry Furman ’14. Converted to a wide receiver when Tony Reno took over as the 34th head coach of Yale football in January, Furman stepped smoothly back under center for the Bulldogs last weekend against Princeton. Furman was 18–28 for 184 yards and a touchdown pass while adeptly managing Yale’s offense. Better still, Furman showed the arm strength, accuracy and presence in the pocket required to throw the ball downfield and stretch the defense. Even if quarterback Derek Russell ’13 can play through his separated throwing shoulder, Reno should still call Furman’s number because he has logged more practice time with the first team recently and has the stronger arm. With Furman back at quarterback tomorrow, the Elis can build on last week’s offensive production and show Harvard the most balanced attack Yale has had in 2012.
Turnover a new page:
At the risk of beating a dead horse, Yale must try to hold on to the football to have a chance at silencing the 10,000 Men of Harvard. Yale leads the Ivy League in turnovers by leaps and bounds above the second-worst team. The Elis’ 26 giveaways is seven more than Columbia, which ranks second in total turnovers. The Elis’ turnover troubles cannot be traced to one particular problem – Yale tops the Ancient Eight in both interceptions thrown (15) and fumbles lost (11). The consequences of turnovers were never more evident than in last week’s 29–7 loss to Princeton. With the score tied 7–7, the Bulldogs were sitting pretty with second and goal on the Princeton 5-yard line and 1:01 remaining in the first half. Then disaster struck when Reno called for a running back pass and Mordecai Cargill’s ’13 toss across the field was jumped by cornerback Trocon Davis, who returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. That 14-point swing was made worse in the third quarter when Cargill fumbled into the end zone as he tried to stretch the ball across the goal line. Yale had two turnovers on the goal line and all three of its giveaways happened within 30 yards of Princeton’s end zone. Yale lost by 22 points and arguably gave up a 21-point swing because of turnovers. Last week’s outcome was changed because Yale could not hold on to the football when it counted. This week, the Bulldogs must hold on for their lives.
Thin Red Line:
The Crimson are overwhelming favorites over Yale, but they are not without weaknesses. The Harvard Athletic Department canceled the JV version of The Game that was to be played in Boston today because of a slew of injuries on Harvard’s offensive line. Yale’s defensive front is used to playing against larger offensive linemen, but the newly found lack of depth on the Cantab’s front line creates an opportunity to disrupt a Harvard offense that has averaged 40 points per game this season. Yale’s defensive line is also better prepared to attack Harvard’s weak front line than ever before. Despite registering just three sacks through Yale’s first four games, the Bulldogs’ pass rush has turned it up in recent weeks; sacking the quarterback a total of 12 times in the past five games. Defensive end Beau Palin ’14 has led Yale’s assault on opposing quarterbacks with a team-high four sacks for 32 yards this season. No Bulldog has disrupted offenses behind the line of scrimmage more than nose guard Nick Daffin ’13. He paces Yale’s defense with 6.5 tackles for a loss in 2012. Stopping the Crimson attack before it starts will give Yale its best chance to keep Harvard off the scoreboard and pull off the upset.