The Yale offense needs a jumpstart. If history is any indication, the Columbia Lions might just have the jumper cables.
A week after the team’s worst offensive performance in three and a half seasons — they managed only a field goal against a punishing University of Pennsylvania defense in a 21-3 loss — Yale (3-2, 1-2 Ivy) looks to rebound versus Columbia (1-4, 1-2) in a 12 p.m. contest Saturday in New York. The Elis have taken three straight from the Lions, scoring at least 37 points in each affair.
“We are looking to blow someone out every week,” running back Jay Schulze ’03 said. “After losing last week, especially getting shut down, you want to come out firing.”
For the Elis’ guns to blaze, the team must put behind it the painful memories of last weekend. Penn aggressively blitzed the Elis, causing Yale’s offensive backfield to get well acquainted with the Franklin Field turf.
Returning from an ankle injury against Penn, Peter Lee ’02 was sacked 10 times and hit a dozen more. Lee toughed it out and stayed in the game but was ineffective, completing 19 of 44 passes. This weekend, Lee does not expect Columbia to bring the same kind of pressure.
“They changed their defense from last year,” Lee said. “They are not quite as aggressive as they were then. If they do blitz, we’ll be ready.”
Last year in a 41-0 Eli rout of the Lions, Lee overcame swirling winds to turn in a tidy effort — 15 of 20 on passing attempts for 164 yards and four touchdowns. After missing the game against Fordham two weeks ago and getting banged up at Penn last week, a quality effort would get Lee back on track.
The Eli running game also needs to regain its footing after rushing for minus-19 yards against Penn. Yale has had success at times this season running the ball early, so Schulze and Robert Carr ’05 could get the call often at the onset.
“Hopefully we can establish our running game again early on,” Schulze said. “We are going to do it this week. I have a lot of confidence in us.”
Schulze had a breakout game against Columbia last year, rushing for 128 yards on 21 carries in place of the injured Rashad Bartholomew ’01.
His counterpart, Columbia running back Johnathan Reese, did not fare quite as well in last year’s contest. Reese, the Ivy League’s leading rusher in 2000, was held to 86 yards, his second lowest output of last season.
“We probably did as good a job as anyone in the league against [Reese],” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “They really tried to ram him down our throats, and we stopped him.”
Reese, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound back with the speed to make defenders miss, is averaging just under 100 yards per game this season, 33 yards below his 2000 mark. He had his best game of the season last week, churning out 139 yards against Dartmouth.
The Eli defense showed it has the ability to restrain a good running back last week, effectively containing Penn’s Kris Ryan — Reese’s biggest rival for best back in the Ivy League.
“Since Fordham we have definitely been working on tackles because we weren’t tackling well,” defensive lineman Luke Mraz ’03 said. “If you don’t tackle well, [Reese] will get 5 or 6 yards after you first hit him.”
While the Lions have relied heavily on Reese in the past, they have been working hard this year at establishing a fully balanced attack. Columbia had the most success toward that end last week, rushing for 187 yards and throwing for 243 more in their 27-20 win at Dartmouth.
Quarterback Jeff McCall was good on 23 of 34 passing attempts for 213 yards and two scores, but he will be facing a Bulldog pass rush that is hitting its stride.
After going without a sack in two straight games, the Eli defense erupted for seven sacks against Penn’s Gavin Hoffman, one of the less mobile signal-callers in the league.
“[McCall] is a slippery quarterback,” said Mraz, who recorded one of Yale’s septet of sacks last week. “[But] if we run and tackle, we can take down anybody.”