From zeroes to heroes.
Although much of the attention went to tailback Mike McLeod ’09 and quarterback Matt Polhemus ’08 after Saturday’s 51-12 blowout against Cornell, the most important stat of the game belonged to the offensive line. For the second straight game, the big guys in the trenches put up zeroes across the board, sending the vaunted Cornell defense home without a single sack.
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Considering that the Elis have four new starters on the offensive line since their last Ivy League contest, the Bulldogs’ performance has been particularly impressive. Heading into the game against the Big Red, the Elis placed heavy emphasis on containing Cornell’s blitz packages and limiting their penetration. Big Red junior linebacker Graham Rihn entered the game as the reigning Ivy League Defensive League Player of the Week after an impressive performance against Bucknell that included a sack and two tackles for a loss. But against the Bulldogs, Rihn was mostly a nonfactor, finishing with five tackles and zero sacks.
“Cornell tried to do some different things, but [the offensive line] played well,” said assistant head coach Keith Clark. “The biggest thing for me as the offensive line coach is their effort. Good things will happen if they play hard.”
There are plenty of good things happening. In addition to not allowing a single sack, the offensive line has also helped pave the way for a potent rushing attack currently averaging 249 yards per game on 5.4 yards per carry. The Bulldogs’ domination at the line of scrimmage against the Big Red was one of the key reasons that McLeod was named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week. On each of his three touchdown runs, McLeod trotted into the end zone standing up.
“We’re well-conditioned right now, and we’re going to wear defenses down,” McLeod said. “Stephen Morse [’08] and Bryan Kana [’09] — they’ve just been playing really well. Ty [Davis ’09] is also playing really well. He’s playing great.”
Morse and Kana were converted to offensive linemen after playing different positions last year. Despite being new to the line, both have stepped in capably. In addition, center Ty Davis has exemplified the Bulldogs’ superior depth on the offensive line. Davis filled in admirably for All-Ivy center Nick Wachtler ’08 midway through the game against Georgetown and recorded his first career start last Saturday against Cornell.
The consistent play of the other two linemen, left tackle Darius Dale ’09 and right guard Jeff Monaco ’08, is no surprise. Although Dale was limited to four starts last year due to injury, he started eight games at right tackle during his freshman year. Monaco was a first-team All-Ivy selection last year and has started 22 straight games for the Elis, including four at tackle.
After last week’s historic win against Cornell, Yale moved up one spot in the FCS poll to No. 20. Not only is Yale drawing attention from the collegiate ranks, but scouts from the NFL are also paying attention. The Colts, Falcons and Dolphins all had representatives at the game last Saturday.
“Everyone really trusts everyone on the team,” Polhemus said after last Saturday’s rout of Cornell.
The trust begins with the offensive line.