Football: Keys to the game against Columbia

Yale, now 0.500 on the season, has a chance to bounce back from its three-game losing streak when it faces Columbia in the Yale Bowl tomorrow. In last year’s loss to the Lions, the Bulldogs snapped a nine-game winning streak against Columbia. The Bulldogs will look to avenge last year’s 25–22 loss and return to their winning ways.

Turn down the turnovers

In the first three games of the 2013 season, the Bulldogs gave up the football just three times. In Yale’s most recent three loses, however, the Elis have turned the ball over 11 times. The Bulldogs have fumbled the ball seven times while throwing four interceptions, and as a result Yale’s average time of possession has been 7:23 less than that of its opponents during the losing streak. Columbia has fumbled the ball 12 times this season, but has recovered five of them. With fewer turnovers, Yale would give itself more opportunities to get on the scoreboard. Columbia averages fewer than 25 minutes of possession per game. If the Bulldogs want to get back in the win column, they will need to force turnovers while limiting how often they give up the football.

Keep the Lions on the ground

While quarterback Brett Nottingham, a transfer from Stanford and Andrew Luck’s former backup, was supposed to take charge of Columbia’s offense this season, he has been sidelined with a wrist injury. Despite his absence from the field, the Lions have gained 66 percent of their offensive yards through the air. Columbia has gained 1056 yards throughout its 2013 campaign and scored a total of six touchdowns. The Bulldogs will need to cover Columbia’s receivers downfield and force the Lions to try and improve on their average 59.7 rushing yards per game.

Break up the offensive line

The Columbia offensive line has let a plethora of defenders through the line this season for 25 sacks totaling 191 yards in losses. The forceful Bulldog defensive line will have yet another opportunity to shine if it can pressure the quarterback. In the Lions’ season opener against Fordham, the Rams sacked Nottingham in the end zone and recovered the fumble for a defensive touchdown. The Elis have an opportunity to shift the momentum on defense and help Yale carry it over to the offense against Columbia. If the defense continues to break up offenses like it did against Ivy opponent Cornell, where the Bulldogs sacked reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year Jeff Mathews twice and kept him off balance the whole game, it will return to forcing more turnovers than the offense gives up.

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