Upon a quick glance at the Eli football schedule, Saturday’s contest against Fordham hardly seems like a pivotal game.
Preceded by a stinging loss to Dartmouth and followed by two critical Ivy League road games, the Fordham contest is an opportunity for the Elis to regain their momentum as they head into the season’s stretch run.
“Our focus is to just put the [Dartmouth] loss behind us,” wide receiver Keath Reams ’02 said. “We are definitely using it as some motivation to come back and show the rest of the league that we are going to rebound.”
If the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1 Ivy) are going to rebound from Sunday’s 32-27 loss to Dartmouth, they may have to do it without their offensive leader, quarterback Peter Lee ’02. The senior signal-caller suffered a high ankle sprain against the Big Green and is questionable for Saturday’s game against Fordham (2-2). As of Thursday, Lee had not practiced this week.
“If Peter is able to play, he will,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “T.J. [Hyland ’02] has taken all the snaps with the first offense in practice.”
Hyland’s presence in the backfield could give the Elis a slightly different look on offense. While Lee is more of a drop-back passer, Hyland offers more mobility in the pocket.
His only career start came against San Diego two years ago. Hyland completed one of seven passes and threw three interceptions while filling in for Joe Walland ’00.
Despite Hyland’s lack of game experience, his teammates are confident in the senior’s ability and his knowledge of the Yale offense.
“We are all very confident in T.J. He knows the system well and he can utilize all [its] parts,” running back Pat Bydume ’04 said. “It is not like we are working with a younger player who hasn’t been there before.”
In addition to Lee’s potential absence, the backfield will be without running back Robert Carr ’05, sidelined with a groin strain.
After exploding for 210 all-purpose yards on 32 touches against Dartmouth, Carr said a groin strain prevented him from practicing earlier this week and was advised to sit the game out.
“I hate being out any time,” Carr said. “It is tough just going to practice and watching.”
Bydume and Jay Schulze ’03, both of whom suffered injuries in the season opener against Cornell, will return to the lineup and share the duties at running back.
“I am not at 100 percent, but I think I’m well enough to be effective,” Bydume said.
The early-season losses of Bydume and Schulze, compounded by Carr’s more recent injury, have prevented the Elis from gaining stability in the backfield.
But discontinuity in the running game is not a concern, said Schulze, who added that his two week lay-off should not affect his performance.
“I was active last week — I was out there in practice,” Schulze said. “I am excited to be playing again. I am tired of being on the bench.”
Schulze and Bydume return to face a Fordham defense that has been victimized by the run. The Rams have given up an average of 177.8 rushing yards per game. Last Saturday they surrendered 286 on the ground in their 40-23 loss to Brown.
The Bulldogs ran for 209 yards last year against Fordham — a 24-17 come-from-behind win in the Bronx.
“They probably feel we took one from them last year,” Schulze said. “They want to come up here and take one from us.”
The Rams’ offensive charge is led by senior quarterback Mark Carney. After losing the starting job during his sophomore year and falling to third on the depth chart last year, Carney has reemerged this season to average 265 passing yards per game.
“He didn’t give up,” said Fordham head coach Dave Clawson of Carney’s struggle to return to the starting lineup. “He has really worked hard.”
The Bulldogs’ pass rush will have to make Carney work hard Saturday.
Last week, Dartmouth picked apart the Eli defense with a sharply-timed passing game that prevented Yale from mounting an effective pass rush. But the Elis are expecting a different approach from Fordham.
“Fordham is more balanced. There will be a lot more play-action, and a lot more running game,” said defensive end Stuart Satullo ’03, last year’s Ivy League sacks leader. “You will see a lot more [pass] rush against them.”
While Carney has done an admirable job in leading the Fordham offense, Clawson said his team has not executed well enough in the red zone this year — a trend that the Bulldogs hope to exploit.
Yale’s defense has been at its best with its back to the wall this year, with a number of goal-line stands and forced turnovers to its credit.
“We have to stop the big plays,” safety Ryan LoProto ’02 said. “[It is] the main goal on defense.”