I think it’s safe to say the Yale football team is for real.
After witnessing the Bulldogs’ fifth consecutive lopsided victory and yet another record-breaking offensive performance this Saturday against Lehigh, even the Elis’ harshest critics must concede that there is indeed something very special about this team.
This past weekend, Yale dominated the clock, recording twice as much possession time and 30 more snaps than the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh managed the first touchdown of the game, but never led after midway through the second quarter in the Bulldog-dominated afternoon.
This Eli squad has mercilessly dismantled its opponents this season. The Bulldogs have trounced adversaries by an average of 26 points per game. Their dominance has been evident on both sides of the ball, as the Eli offense has generated 327 yards on the ground each game, while the defense has limited opponents to just 88.
McLeod has garnered much of the attention this season, though it is clear that the team enjoys tremendous depth on both sides of the ball.
Back-up tailback Ricardo Galvez ’10 has proven himself a reliable second option as of late with several strong performances, highlighted by a 30-yard dash late in the second quarter of last week’s game against Lehigh.
Second-year starting quarterback and captain Matt Polhemus ’08 has displayed impressive leadership, versatility and decision-making thus far this season. He has thrown only one interception on the year and is very confident pulling it down and running himself when nothing is open downfield, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
On the other side, captain Brandt Hollander ’08 and linebacker Bobby Abare ’09 — who ranks first on the team with 29 solo tackles and 40 overall — lead a stingy Yale defense that allows an average of only 12 points per game, and has not relinquished more than 17 to any opponent this season.
But perhaps the biggest question coming into this season was whether a depleted offensive line could hold its own despite retaining only one starter from last year after losing All-Ivy center Nick Wachtler ’08 in the first game of the season to an injury.
The answer thus far has clearly been a resounding yes.
As good as McLeod is, he will be the first to tell you that much of the team’s rushing success depends on how well the offensive line has blocked this year. Even the coaching staff has been surprised by how quickly the line has come together. Head coach Jack Siedlecki indicated that “the line has been great and exceeded expectations to this point. Moving Bryan Kana to tackle was key for us and having Steve Morse change position and have immediate success has been a big boost. Furthermore, Ty Davis has played extremely well in Nick Wachtler’s place.”
So how good is this team? It seems clear that this is one of the most talented groups Siedlecki has coached in his 11 years here at Yale. If not the most talented, then surely one of the deepest from top to bottom.
But the 2007 football team’s budding legacy may extend further than that.
One might argue they are the best Yale squad in recent history, and when I say recent, I mean recent like your parents getting married is recent. The Bulldogs have not started the season 5-0 since 1981 — the year Reagan was shot, Motley Crue sold their first record, and Pac-Man fever swept the nation. The Elis lead all of Division I football in possession time, holding onto the ball an average of almost 36 minutes a game and are second in the FCS in rushing yardage per game with 327. Clearly, they are doing something right — something that Yale fans have not necessarily been fortunate enough to witness in past years.
But it’s important we keep things in perspective.
For all the poll-climbing and record-breaking that has been going on this season, Yale still has half the season yet to play. The Elis’ next five games will most likely prove to be much more trying than their first five, as all the remaining games are against Ancient Eight rivals. If Yale hopes to repeat last year’s championship, it must struggle through arguably the most difficult three-week schedule that any Ivy team will encounter. Beginning Nov. 3, the Men in Blue will lock horns with Brown, Princeton and a visiting school from Massachusetts to round out its season.
But those encounters might as well be ages away as far as the Bulldogs are concerned. Yale travels to Pennsylvania this weekend to take on the perpetual powerhouse Penn. The Elis have not won at Franklin Field since 1990 and have dropped 12 of the last 15 meetings overall between the teams. Penn will undoubtedly be riding the momentum off their 59-28 spanking of Columbia last week.
As good as Yale has been this season, the Ancient Eight is ultimately a league of parity, and the Elis must be prepared to replicate their fine play from weeks past.
Dhruv Khullar is a junior in Davenport College. He is a staff reporter for the News