I’ve been torn for days. On the one hand, this is Super Bowl week. In my opinion, every sports columnist deserves three things:
• A catchy nickname (Still waiting. I told my editors that if they use “couch-bound cowboy” again I might go on a killing spree.)
• A snazzy columnist photo (Again, still waiting, probably forever. I haven’t been photogenic since I was two.)
• AND … to write about the Super Bowl!
But this is a Yale sports column, right? And I managed to drag myself out in the frigid cold all the way to Ingalls on Friday, and again to the gym for basketball on Saturday. And I have a legitimate gripe with both teams I saw this weekend.
Thus, I give you … (wait for it) … a Yale sports-Super Bowl fusion column! Get excited.
Friday, the Yale men’s hockey team lost 2-1 to RPI. The Engineers have allowed an ECACHL-high 89 goals this season, 3.42 per game. And yet the Elis, former No. 14 team in the nation, only managed to score once. What gives?
One scene stands out among many from the men’s hockey’s embarrassing loss to RPI on Friday. The Yale men were in the Engineers’ zone, as happened several times, looking for an opening. The puck came over to Yale defenseman Ryan Donald ’10, who stood just inside the blue line with a clear path to the goal ahead of him.
Donald faked the shot once, twice … and then fell down. An RPI player swooped in for the puck, and the Engineers had one of their 97 or so odd-man rushes of the night.
My apologies to Donald, because his fellow defensemen weren’t much better. Too many turnovers led to too many fast breaks for RPI. I spent a considerable chunk of the second period contemplating what Alec Richards ’09 puts in his water bottle to keep him from chasing after his teammates with his stick whenever they screw up.
The solution is simple: Stop being so slow and methodical on offense. When you have a clear look at the net, wind up and let it rip. Good things happen when you actually take shots.
Just to clarify, “don’t be deliberate” doesn’t mean “don’t think.” The men’s hockey team averages an ECACHL-high 24.1 penalty minutes per game. Jean-Francois Boucher ’08 accounts for a solid 4.3 penalty minutes each contest, and was whistled for a costly interference penalty late in the third period on Friday. So, clearly, the Bulldogs can be thinking more on the ice. It’s just that they haven’t been doing it.
A brief caveat before I jump into women’s basketball: These Elis actually won their games this past weekend. And they beat historically solid teams. The Yale women are 3-1 in the Ancient Eight, and already have 10 wins this season — more than their total from the previous two seasons combined.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the Elis suffered from a distinct lack of pace at times on Saturday. More often than not, the ball was moved slowly around the perimeter until the shot clock ran down and someone was forced to launch an off-balance three-pointer. When the ball was given to Erica Davis ’07 in the low post, where few defenders in the Ivy League can handle her one-on-one, the pass was often so telegraphed that by the time she touched the ball, three Big Green defenders were all around her.
Less ice, same story: Don’t think so much. When you move the ball around, you get more open looks at the basket. If you get the ball to the post faster, your dominant center will shoot high percentage shots and score a lot. And if she doesn’t like the look she’s getting, she’ll have more time to kick the ball back outside, where someone will have left her man on the perimeter to collapse on the post. The Bulldogs shot a more than respectable 50 percent (8 for 16) from beyond the arc on Saturday despite not getting many open looks; imagine what might happen with a little bit less lethargy on offense.
And finally, I get to the Super Bowl. I’ve been going nuts all week with Super Bowl coverage, mainly because none of it has to do with the Super Bowl. I understand that Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy are black. I understand that Tank Johnson is crazy. I don’t understand why Prince is performing, but that’s a separate issue.
So let me wrap up this column by explaining the intersection of this year’s Super Bowl and Yale sports. A word of advice for Peyton, Rex and their offensive coordinators: Don’t think too hard.
The ability of Sunday’s starting quarterbacks to choke under pressure is well documented. As recently as a month ago, Peyton was well on his way to becoming the next Dan Marino, a statistical wonder who could never win the big one. And Rex is … well, let’s just say he has his good days, and his atrocious, 0.0-quarterback-rating days.
If I were running the Bears offense, I’d be orienting the playbook toward quick reads and three-step drops. Putting Rex Grossman in high-pressure decision-making situations is asking for trouble. Peyton is too trusted to run the Colts offense for Indy to do the same thing, but I hope someone is reminding him that a 6-foot-5-inch laser-armed quarterback who puts up gaudy numbers can afford to wing it a little and not think himself into the ground.
Final word: Colts 27, Bears 17. Enjoy the game!
Dan Adler is a senior in Pierson and a former Sports Editor for the News. His column appears on Thursdays.