1. Pick Six. The Bulldogs have returned an interception for a touchdown in all three of their wins this season. The Elis’ aggressive defense, which leads the Ivies in interceptions and defensive scoring, gives this team a chance to win every game. They’ll get another opportunity this weekend against Fordham quarterback John Skelton, who has already thrown five interceptions this year.
2. Control the clock. It’s not often that a team forces four turnovers, records over 34 carries and still loses the time of possession battle, like the Elis did against Dartmouth. Although this was partly a function of how fast Yale scored – only one of the Bulldogs’ scoring drives lasted longer than two minutes – controlling the clock is an essential aspect of any defensive, run-focused team. As the season drags on, Yale’s ability to keep opposing offenses off the field will determine whether this team can bring home an Ivy League championship.
3. Stay healthy. Last year, Mike McLeod’s ’09 broken toe cost the Elis a chance at their first perfect season since 1960. The senior tailback was limited to just 50 yards on 20 carries in the Game, dooming the Bulldog offense during the most important contest of the year. The Elis had a bad case of déjà vu after McLeod limped off the field against Dartmouth last weekend. To make things worse, starting quarterback Ryan Fodor ’09 went straight to the sideline on Yale’s first drive after a vicious hit. Against a non-league opponent like Fordham, the Elis’ key concern has to be keeping its most skilled players healthy for the home stretch. Ideally, the Bulldogs will be able to keep McLeod’s workload under 20 carries.
4. Go deep. Fodor gives the Elis a dimension that they never had under graduated quarterback Matt Polhemus ’08 – a vertical passing threat. After Fodor burned Dartmouth with 60 and 31-yard touchdown passes, teams will be much more reluctant to stack eight men in the box to slow down McLeod. Last year, Polhemus passed for only 1,060 yards in ten games. In comparison, Fodor already has 688 yards in just four games despite splitting time early in the year with Brook Hart ’11.
5. Control the line of scrimmage. If the Bulldogs can contain Fordham running back Xavier Martin, they should have no problem ending their non-Ivy League schedule with a victory. Martin was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year last season and has averaged over 100 yards per game on nearly five yards per carry this year. The Bulldog defensive line will already be fighting an uphill battle against a massive Fordham line that outweighs them by an average of 43 pounds. If the Rams can get the running game going, they may stick around a lot longer than the Bulldogs expect.