The Yale football team breaks new ground this weekend, traveling to California for its first ever matchup against FCS No. 19 Cal Poly Mustangs.
Coming off of a dominant 38-23 victory over Cornell at the Yale Bowl last week, confidence is sky-high for the Elis (2-0, 1-0 Ivy).
“We are confident in our practice and preparation,” captain and defensive end Beau Palin ’14 said in an email. “Cal Poly is a very good team and we are excited for the challenge.”
In their two victories this season, the Bulldogs have relied on different facets of the offense. The freshly-minted no-huddle offense instituted in the off-season racked up 327 yards on the ground en route to a 39–22 victory over Colgate in week one. All-American candidate Tyler Varga ’15 posted the third-highest single game total in Yale history with 236 rushing yards.
Week two brought an aerial assault, as quarterback Hank Furman ’14 completed 29 of 36 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns against Cornell. Receiver Deon Randall ’15 was explosive, making 11 catches for 148 yards, catching a trio of receiving touchdowns and tying a school record. Returning from a season off due to injury, he won Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts facing the Big Red.
“I think the year off helped,” Randall said after the Cornell game. “It allowed our offense to get stronger and become one cohesive unit. We tried to make our presence felt. I think we did a good job as impact players.”
Varga in particular has been a stalwart for the Elis. He ranks second in the FCS in rushing yards per game with 170.5, and his presence gives Yale much more space to work on the sides of the field.
The Elis’ no-huddle offense also provides an advantage in its ability to wear down opposing defenses. Eight of the Bulldogs’ 13 scoring drives this season were eight plays or longer, and every scoring drive has taken less than five minutes.
Against the Mustangs (2-2, 1-0 Big Sky), however, Yale’s defense will need to step up.
Cal Poly’s offense is unlike any that the Elis have faced thus far. Their triple option attack, led by junior running back Kristaan Ivory, has averaged 278.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks seventh in the FCS.
“Every year is a new year,” Yale head coach Tony Reno said after the Cornell game. “The carry over that we had from last year is growth. I’ve spoken a lot about the cultural change. We’re very young still, so I’m very cautiously optimistic about where we’re going.
Both of Cal Poly’s losses this year have come against FBS opponents. The Mustangs played Fresno State and Colorado State, both members of the Mountain West Conference in successive weeks and lost 41-25 and 34-17, respectively.
Playing well from the get-go will be crucial to Cal Poly’s chances. In the team’s four games this season, opponents have outscored the Mustangs by a combined total of 92-34. The Bulldogs realize how important it is, especially this week, to try to continue that trend by getting a fast start.
“Starting quickly will be essential,” Palin said. “We must play 60 minutes of executing our kind of football to win this game.”
Of course, the Elis have experience against strong offenses this year. Last week the Elis forced two interceptions and a fumble against Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews, a potential NFL draft pick.
The Yale defense, led by Palin and defensive end Dylan Drake ’14, has truly shined on third downs. Opponents have only converted a combined five third downs in 23 opportunities.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 5:00 p.m. EST.