Fresh off its first Ivy League win of the year, the football team will attempt to match that success in non-league play this Saturday, traveling to Easton, Pa. to take on the Lafayette Leopards.
Having already played Penn and Princeton this season, Lafayette (2-2) has more Ivy League experience this year than Yale (1-1, 1-0 Ivy) does and faces off against the Bulldogs for the first time in 16 years. The Leopards had their 10-game winning streak snapped against Penn, and the Princeton loss made for the team’s first consecutive defeats since 2003, so they may be extra hungry for a victory. But this weekend, Yale aims at helping Lafayette on its way to a new streak — consecutive losses in the Ivy League.
Though the Eli defense proved it has the ability to make big stops against Cornell, it will have its hands full with a potent Leopards offense this week. Senior quarterback Brad Maurer is the school’s all-time leader in single-season and career completion percentage and his 225 yards of total offense per game ranks 16th in the nation. He has a total of 12 career rushing touchdowns, including one in each of Lafayette’s first three games this season.
“They have an athletic quarterback and solid skill position players,” defensive lineman Brandt Hollander ’08 said. “They’ve been to the I-AA playoffs the last two years and know how to win. We can’t let them get into a rhythm offensively.”
But the Lafayette offensive assault relies on more than just a solid quarterback. Before the Princeton game, senior running back Jonathan Hurt had seven consecutive games with more than 100 all-purpose yards. During that span, he was averaging an impressive 139 yards per game and registered 11 touchdowns.
The defense realizes that it has multiple threats to contain.
“Lafayette is a very skilled team on the offensive side of the ball,” cornerback Casey Gerald ’09 said. “It gives us an opportunity to see where we stack up against a quality opponent, and I think we have the tools to compete.”
After a strong performance last week and a big win against Cornell, the Bulldogs certainly have momentum on their side heading into the second game of their three-game road trip. The team looked more polished at virtually every position and hopes to continue its improvement this weekend.
“I am very confident coming into the Lafayette game because I felt a lot more in control and comfortable last game,” quarterback Matt Polhemus ’08 said. “I made some connections and also mistakes that I’ll learn and get better from.”
Running back Mike McLeod ’09, linebacker Bobby Abare ’09 and safety Steve Santoro ’09 had arguably their best games as collegiate players against Cornell, all understanding their roles and filling them beautifully. The relatively young Yale squad seemed to be more comfortable with each week. If this chemistry grows, success will likely follow.
Though Yale starts the season with three of its first four games on the road, players seem not to see this as a disadvantage, but rather enjoy it as a challenge.
“The only thing you have on the road is your team and a few fans that travel to come see you,” Gerald said. “You’re playing in front of a hostile crowd that treats you pretty badly and there’s nothing better than being able to silence the crowd and get a win on the road.”