With one last tune-up before the Ivy League season swings into full gear, the Bulldogs are revving on all cylinders heading into Saturday’s game against Lehigh.
After last week’s 50-10 rout of Dartmouth, the Elis moved up to No. 16 in the Football Championship Subdivision poll. With four games already in the books, the Bulldogs have shown that they are one of the best teams in the country and are putting up the statistics to prove it. The Elis are currently ranked second in rushing yards per game, fourth in scoring, seventh in scoring defense and eighth in total defense in the FCS.
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“I’ve watched a lot of tape of Yale, and I think Yale is the best football team that we will have played this season to date,” Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said. “They’ve got big-play capabilities in all their skill positions. I’ve been in the Ivy League and the Patriot League for the past 13 or 14 years, and it’s one of the best teams I’ve ever seen.”
Considering Lehigh has already defeated Princeton and Harvard, the Bulldogs’ matchup against the Mountain Hawks will give the team an indication of how it compares to its two biggest conference rivals. The Bulldogs will need to overcome their tendency to start off slow, as Lehigh has scored on its game-opening drives in three of its first four games. The Mountain Hawks are currently outscoring their opponents 43-17 in the first quarter.
The Bulldog defense will have to work hard to maintain its lofty ranking with Lehigh quarterback Sedale Threatt at the helm of the Mountain Hawk offense. Threatt is averaging 258 yards per game — 19th in the FCS — and is protected by an imposing Lehigh offensive line that has allowed only six sacks in five games. Against Fordham, Threatt threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns but was also picked off three times.
“Do I have to talk about that game?” Coen said jokingly. “It’s not a game where I think we played particularly well in any phase. We did not nearly play with the energy level or intensity level that we’ve played with in the last few games.”
The Mountain Hawks will have to pick up the intensity against the Bulldogs if they hope to stop one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the FCS. Star halfback Mike McLeod ’09 is averaging 179.8 rushing yards per game and has already scored 13 touchdowns, ranking third in the nation in both categories. In addition, backup running back Ricky Galvez ’10 has given the Elis a big-play weapon off the bench, averaging 55.0 yards per game on 5.6 yards per carry. As a whole, the running game is averaging 303.5 yards per contest, behind only Georgia Southern. Even the fullbacks are getting in on the action — Joe Fuccillo ’08 recorded his first career touchdown against Dartmouth.
“Joe’s a popular guy on the team, and he was funny in the press conference afterwards,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “I said to him, ‘You had two carries for two yards, that’s why you don’t get it that much.’˛”
The few times the Elis’ prolific offense stalls, punter Tom Mante ’10 has proven to be a valuable weapon in the battle for field position. Mante ranks sixth in the FCS with a 44.6 average — a 10-yard improvement over his rookie season.
“I think [the biggest difference] has probably been [assistant] coach [Shawn] Halloran,” Mante said. “His style has really fit well with me. Last year, the first couple of games were pretty rough for me, but [Halloran] has put a lot of confidence into me. In preseason, we sat down together, and I kind of told him my style.”
With the rest of the Ivy League at .500 or worse, the Bulldogs will look to lap the field and notch their fifth straight victory in Saturday’s game against Lehigh.