Despite not intercepting any of Cornell quarterback Ricky Rahne’s passes last week, the Eli defensive backs played a key role in Yale’s 40-13 victory over the Big Red last weekend.
The Elis’ coverage of Cornell wide receivers wreaked havoc on the Big Red passing game all day, and if the Bulldogs are to be successful tomorrow against Holy Cross, they will need more of the same.
“Our secondary did an outstanding job last week,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “They were helped greatly by our pressure up front that kept Rahne on the run and disrupted his rhythm.”
But Holy Cross presents the Bulldogs with a different set of challenges and schemes than Cornell did.
“Holy Cross will dink and dunk the ball all over,” Siedlecki said. “They will throw for a high percentage on short throws and let their athletes make plays.”
The Crusaders’ junior quarterback Brian Hall completed 15 of 26 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns in Holy Cross’ 17-9 victory over Towson last week. Both touchdown strikes were for over 40 yards — senior wide receiver Steve Green hauled in a 41-yard pass while fellow senior David Thompson found paydirt from 43 yards out.
“We need to stop them from making big plays,” safety Ryan LoProto ’02 said. “Every one of their receivers can turn a short catch into a big gain. We have to tackle well. We have to make them earn every yard they get.”
Another challenge Holy Cross presents is its ability to force opposing defenses into trying to do too much on one play.
“After several short plays, they will take their shots down the field,” Siedlecki said. “Patience is important. If we get itchy on the short throws, you become susceptible to the long shot.”
In last year’s 33-27 loss to Yale, despite completing only 13 of 34 pass attempts, the Crusaders racked up 213 aerial yards against the Elis, an average of 16.3 yards per reception. The big play almost came back to haunt the Bulldogs in that game. While holding on to a 26-14 lead in the third quarter, Siedlecki’s squad allowed a 63-yard touchdown strike to Nate Robbins which brought the Crusaders to within seven points.
A promising sign for the Bulldogs is that, at least in the first two games, Holy Cross does not seem to be firing on all cylinders offensively. Against Towson last week, the Crusaders were unable to capitalize on five Tiger turnovers, and added a fumble of their own, resulting in only 17 points.
“We need to execute better,” Holy Cross head coach Dan Allen said. “In the first two games, we’ve had tremendous field position, but haven’t been able to take advantage of it. We are just not executing the way we should be.”
The Eli secondary’s aggressive nature should help force Holy Cross into making more mistakes, but LoProto knows the Elis will have to avoid taking unnecessary gambles.
“They like to spread the field,” LoProto said. “But if we force them to go 70 yards against us with a sustained drive and can avoid the big play, they will have a tough time scoring. That’s our major focus.”