This Saturday, the Yale Bulldogs will play their most important game of the year so far. They can either improve their record to 2-1 in the Ivy League this weekend against first place Pennsylvania, asserting themselves as a true championship contender, or fall to 1-2 in the conference and find themselves falling rapidly behind the leaders. This game could be a potential turning point for the 2002 season.
However, after watching this past week’s game against Lehigh, a rash of bad coaching decisions is the main reasons behind the Bulldogs’ inability to pull out their close losses to Dartmouth and Lehigh this year.
So, coach Siedlecki, open your ears and your eyes. It’s equally frustrating for fans to watch a football game when they realize, as I did last Saturday, that their team could be doing so many more things to put the ball in the end zone against tough defenses:
1. Run the ball more than you did against Lehigh. It makes perfect sense to me to put the ball in the hands of your best performer so far this year, and the Bulldogs did this a respectable 22 times for 68 yards last Saturday with Robert Carr. The near-three-yard average per rush is not spectacular by any means, but it is also not an indication that you need to stop running the ball.
In the second half, Carr only rushed 8 times, and Pat Bydume only twice. I don’t understand why you have to take the ball out of the hands of Yale’s best offensive player in the second half when only down by two scores. The Bulldog coaching staff seemed to stray away from the run when key moments approached in the second half. After Mark Patterson recovered a huge fumble at the Lehigh 19-yard line, at 10:02 in the third quarter, the Bulldogs threw the ball three consecutive times, resulting in no points.
2. Give your quarterback some more options. Taking the ball from Carr and the running game in the second half, you put the game square on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Jeff Mroz. Mroz did a good job filling in for Alvin Cowan again this weekend, completing over 50 percent of his passes and throwing for 223 yards.
However, a large hole in the game plan made it easy for the Lehigh defense to know what was coming. Throughout the whole game, not one pass was attempted to the running backs. This is no fault of Mroz’s, as the back is often set aside the quarterback in the shotgun formation to block. Yale did not attempt one screen pass to Carr to get the defense off-balance. One completed pass to Carr would have put this option in the minds of the Lehigh defensive coaching staff, thus forcing them to spread their attention on defense and giving Mroz a better chance to get the ball downfield.
3. Improve your time management in the late stages. With time running down in the fourth quarter, Mroz completed a pass to Nate Lawrie and then proceeded to take a timeout with plenty of time left to attempt one more pass play to the sideline, or for that matter down the middle of the field. Most teams come into that situation having two plays called, so that after the first one (the pass to Lawrie) is completed, the offense can quickly run a second one to possibly catch the defense off-guard. It is the responsibility of the coaching staff to get the two plays into the quarterback before the first play is ever run. Instead, a timeout was called to get that second play, and the Lehigh defense was given a breather.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that the Quakers will try to stack men in the box this Saturday with the sole purpose of containing Carr. If you can find ways to get him outside into the open field with blockers in front of him, the Bulldog offense can then go back to its bread and butter, complementing the speed of its receivers with runs behind their talented offensive line.
Against Penn, the Bulldogs will have to play their best game of the year to come out on top. Let’s just hope that you, coach Siedlecki, will produce a game plan that will allow them to perform at that level.