Yale Running Game vs. Columbia Run Defense
Yale is coming off its two worst rushing performances of the season. But it still has the second best rushing offense in the Ivy League at 186 yards per game, while Columbia has the second worst at defending the run. Yale’s ground attack has been hampered by poor starts that force them to pass for time management reasons. If the Elis start on pace, expect them to grind out a 200-yard performance against a generally weak Columbia defense.
Yale Passing Game vs. Columbia Pass Defense
It doesn’t get any worse than this — literally. Columbia is dead last in Div. I-AA in passing defense and pass efficiency defense. Yale has thrown for over 290 yards in all but two of its six contests this year, and is in the top 15 in Div. I-AA in both passing offense and pass efficiency.
Quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04 has just been added to the Payton Watch — a list of players in contention for the Payton Award. The Payton Award is given to Div. I-AA’s top player each season. Cowan is sixth in Div. I-AA in total offense. His targets — Nate Lawrie ’04 and Ralph Plumb ’05 — are third and sixth in the Ancient Eight in receptions per game, respectively.
If this isn’t a mismatch then Harvard “Finals Clubs” throw better keg-parties than Lake Place–wait, aren’t kegs banned at Harvard? Exactly.
Columbia Running Game vs. Yale Run Defense
The Bulldog defense did not allow opponents to rush for more than 130 yards in the first three games of the season. In the last three Dartmouth, Colgate, and Penn have gained, respectively, 203, 161, and 212 yards — a disturbing trend. But not one that Columbia will be able to continue.
Look for the defensive line — led by Bryant Dieffenbacher ’04 and Don Smith ’05 — to regain its footing against the worst run game in the Ivy League. Though Columbia tailback Ayo Oluwole has the fourth most rushing yards in the Ancient Eight, the Lions simply don’t have any other threats to run. Quarterback Jeff Otis gains less than 20 yards per game at a turtle-like 2.5 yard per carry clip. No one else on the team is even in double digits.
Columbia Passing Game vs. Yale Pass Defense
For all its run deficiencies, Columbia still boasts the best passing offense in the Ivy League at just under 300 yards per game. Yale’s pass defense, which holds opponents to 230 yards per game, is mediocre at best and seems to have peaked after holding Cornell and the vaunted Holy Cross passing game to under 160 yards. The Elis have allowed over 250 yards in two of their last three contests.
Wideout Travis Chmelka is third all-time on Columbia’s career receptions list. He is fourth in the Ivy League this season, and teammates Zach Van Zant and Wade Fletcher are tied for sixth. Chmelka, Van Zant and Fletcher all average over 70 yards receiving per game.
Chmelka’s 15-yard average on punt returns places him first in the Ancient Eight and sixth in Div. I-AA. Given that the Elis have one of the worst net punting averages in Div. I-AA at 27 yards, and a propensity to having their punts blocked, Columbia has a definite advantage. Columbia has last season’s second team All-Ivy punter/kicker Nick Rudd, who this season is among the leaders in both punting average and field goals.
When Rudd lines up to punt, return man P.J. Collins has done a more than an adequate job for the Bulldogs. Yale’s kick return is tops in the Ivy League, and Rob Carr ’05 has broken over-40-yard returns in two of the last three games. When Yale kicks, however, the team has had difficulties. Still, the Bulldogs have been very successful in recovering onsides kicks.
Columbia’s offense is one-dimensional and its defense non-existent. Yale’s offense, which has just recently fallen below its 40-point clip, will run and pass circles around the Lions. When the Lions do have the ball, Otis and his receivers may have some success — but don’t forget the job that Yale was able to do on a similarly predictable passing attack (Yale 41, Holy Cross 16).
Yale’s two-game skid and first Ivy loss could leave them either chomping at the bit or deflated. A demonstrative victory here keeps their season on track. But underestimating a re-energized Columbia squad under new head coach Bob Shoop ’87 could send the season into a tailspin.
I don’t think it will happen. David Knox ’06 and Carr will combine for over 200 yards on the turf of Wien Stadium or Cowan will have another 300-yard passing day. Either way, Yale will score a lot — and a lot more than Columbia can, aerial attack be damned.
Yale 49, Columbia 17
— Alex Hetherington