The Yale football team (3-1, 1-1 Ivy) will face one of its biggest challenges this Saturday when the Bulldogs host Lehigh (4-1, 1-0 Patriot League) in Yale’s final non-conference match of the season. Throughout the 15-game series between the two teams, which started in 1890, the Elis have won 12 games, six of which were shutouts. But the Mountain Hawks have been victorious in the past three match-ups, the most recent a 14-7 Lehigh victory at Goodman Stadium in 2002.

“Their recent success versus Yale is a direct reflection of their record overall success over the last ten years,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said.

The Mountain Hawks have come a long way since their first game against Yale and are now ranked 18th in Division I-AA. Leading the Patriot League in every defensive category and most of the offensive statistics, Lehigh will not be the pushover it was several decades ago.

The Mountain Hawk defense this season will prove to be the biggest threat, even against the Bulldogs’ strong offensive line. Aside from leading its league defensively, Lehigh is ranked third in the nation in turnover margin (1.80) and last Saturday held Holy Cross to just 162 offensive yards for a lopsided 42-14 win. On top of that, this season the Mountain Hawks defense has made 13 interceptions and allowed an average of only 13.6 points per game.

“Alvin [Cowan] and Robert [Carr] need to have good days for us to be successful,” Siedlecki said.

This should be a good workout for some of the Elis’ leading offensive men including tailback Robert Carr, who is currently second in the nation in all-purpose yards (204.25). Yale quarterback Alvin Cowan will also have to play cautiously this Saturday against a team that’s ranked fifth in Division I-AA in average defensive scoring (13.60). Cowan will have to keep an eye out for Lehigh defensive end Tom Alfsen, who already has seven sacks under his belt, and team captain and defensive back Kaloma Cardwell, who has made three interceptions, including two against Holy Cross.

“Cardwell is a great leader who is expected to contribute greatly to the defensive backfield and special teams on Saturday,” Lehigh head coach Pete Lembo said in a press release.

The visiting team’s offense may be just as serious of a threat. Mountain Hawk leading signal-caller Mark Borda has had an impressive season so far. Last week he had a career game against Holy Cross, throwing for a career high 295 yards and five touchdowns. This season Borda is averaging 217.2 offensive yards per game while Cowan averages 177.0.

The rest of the offense is just as dangerous as Borda. So far this season, the team is averaging 361.8 offensive yards and 32.2 points per game. Yale’s yardage is fairly close to Lehigh with an average 314.2 yards, but the Elis only score about 21.5 points per game.

The Bulldogs will be playing as the underdogs Saturday against a team they had no problem beating in past years. But that feeling could be just the edge Yale needs to come out with the win.