After a stellar season last year in which they lost their one and only game in the NCAA Div. I-AA finals, the Colgate Raiders (2-1) appear to be right back on track for a repeat.
Despite a slow start this year, including a 30-20 to the University of Massachusetts in the season opener, Colgate, when it takes the Yale Bowl this Saturday, will bring its most powerful weapon: Branch.
Raiders tailback Jamaal Branch, who led Colgate last year to a record-breaking 21-game winning streak, is here for his final season, and he’s looking to leave an impression.
“We must contain Branch in the run and at the same time not let [quarterback Chris] Brown make big plays in the play action pass game off the run plays,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said.
Branch finished his junior year holding the ninth-place spot for highest career scoring with 192 points, and led Division I-AA with 168.8 rushing yards and 12.5 points per game. He also has several 2003 Colgate records under his belt, including yards (2,026), touchdowns (25), rushes (338), 100-yard games (11) and consecutive 100-yard games (11).
Needless to say, Branch may be somewhat of an obstacle for the Elis to overcome. This proved to be the case during the two teams’ last encounter last fall, when Branch scored four touchdowns while leading the Raiders to a 54-40 victory over Yale at Andy Kerr Stadium. This year, Branch has moved up to fifth place in career scoring with 211 points.
“Branch is one of our greatest tailbacks of all time and I believe he will be first or second in career scoring by the end of the year,” Colgate head coach Dick Biddle said.
Colgate’s offense has another threat in star signal-caller Chris Brown, who also has one more season left in him. As one of the co-captains of the team, Brown knows how to get his squad revved for Saturday’s game.
“[Colgate] is not one for pre-game rants and long-winded speeches on the practice field — Each man knows his job and performs it to the best of his ability,” Brown said.
As a junior, Brown completed 223-of-395 passes and averaged 205.3 offensive yards per game. He is currently seventh on Colgate’s all-time passing list with 4,017 yards.
Last weekend, he posted a career-high 272 yards on 27-for-48 passing.
Yale quarterback Alvin Cowan may be able to meet Colgate’s offensive standards, as he compiled 3,428 offensive yards last year, including a record-breaking 466 offensive yards against the Raiders.
But the Elis cannot depend on their signal caller alone. Tailback Robert Carr ’05 will need to step up if the Bulldogs are to come away with a win. Carr’s job will be made harder by the fact that Colgate has only allowed two 100-yard rushers in its last 22 games — Joshua Johnston of Cornell (109) last season and Steve Baylark of Massachusetts (115) this season.
“We need to run a balanced offense and our offense needs to be productive and keep out defense off the field,” Siedlecki said.
The Eli defense may not have the capability to withstand the Colgate offense, though in Yale’s last two matchups, the Eli defense was a major part of the loss and close call.
The Raiders defense does not fair much better, as it let Massachusetts gain 417 offensive yards in this year’s season opener.
“Our defense has been inconsistent over the years, but I feel that we’re improving each game and we will be working hard to use it against Yale on Saturday,” Biddle said.
With both teams possessing a strong offense and an evenly matched defense, the forecast for Saturday afternoon looks to be high on scoring and low on defensive stops. Better bring an umbrella.