After a frustrating loss to Cornell last week, the football team is ready to put the defeat behind it and move on against the Lafayette Leopards tomorrow at the Yale Bowl at noon. The question, however, is whether Yale can consistently present a team that can put the ball into the end zone, and not just the uprights.
Although Lafayette (2-1) is not part of the Ivy League, the Leopards are looking to present the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1 Ivy) with a challenge. Like the Elis, Lafayette dismantled Georgetown — in their case, 28-3, three weeks ago. Unlike the Elis, however, Lafayette is 1-0 against Ivy League schools after the Leopards’ 20-17 overtime win against Penn last weekend.
Regardless of their opponent, however, head coach Tom Williams feels that the Bulldogs must first focus on resolving the mistakes they made last week.
“When we talk about our keys to victory, winning the turnover battle is number one on the list,” he said. “So far we haven’t done a good job of that and we’ve got to get that fixed.”
What Williams is primarily referring to is the play of quarterback Patrick Witt ’12, the Nebraska transfer who fumbled four times against Georgetown and threw three interceptions against Cornell — one of which was returned for a touchdown, and another of which came when the Bulldogs were within ten yards of the Big Red’s end zone.
Despite Witt’s struggles, Williams says that Witt will be starting tomorrow. Williams points out that Witt was able to lead the Bulldogs downfield in the final two minutes of play for a touchdown that put the Elis within a successful two-point conversion of forcing overtime in their 14-12 loss.
“Of course [the quarterback] position demands a lot of attention, and certainly the guy in the stands says ‘it’s all on the quarterback,’” Williams said. “But a lot of other guys that were out there had opportunities to help in that situation, and we didn’t get it done, starting with [myself].”
On the other side of the pigskin, the Yale defense is in much better shape, as it hopes to continue its stifling pressure on its opponents after holding the Big Red to just three first-downs the entire game.
Still, strong safety Larry Abare ’10, who leads the Bulldogs with 16 tackles, feels that the defense has room to improve. In addition to forcing more turnovers, the Elis want to make sure that they are not fooled on a trick play again: Cornell scored their only offensive touchdown on an 81-yard double-pass play.
“We’ve got to be a little more disciplined and if Lafayette runs any trick plays we’ll be ready,” Abare said.
Offensively, the Leopards are led by senior quarterback Rob Curley, who has thrown for 683 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception in three games.
Junior linebacker Michael Schmidlein has already recorded 35 tackles on the season and will be looking to stop the Bulldogs’ running game. Tailback Jordan Farrell ’10 had a hard time finding holes in the Big Red defense, averaging only 3.0 yards a carry, for 74 yards.
If the game is close, the Bulldogs will be powered by kicker Tom Mante ’10. Mante is 3-4 on field goals this year, including having made a 54 yard kick that tied both the Yale and Ivy League record last week. Leopard kicker Davis Rodriguez, on the other hand, is 2-7 on field goals and is 0-4 on tries longer than 30 yards.
Lafayette has not played the Bulldogs since 2006, when Yale won 37-34. Overall, the Bulldogs are 7-0 against the Leopards, although only three of these meetings have occurred since 1990.
So far the Bulldogs have shown that their offense has potential, but that it has failed to convert their progress into points on the scoreboard.
“The expression we use with our guys is ‘we left a lot of meat on the bone,’” Williams said. “We wish we could have cleaned up that bone.”
Tomorrow is sure to serve as a good indicator as to how hungry the Bulldogs actually are.
The game, which is scheduled for a 12:07 p.m. kickoff, can be heard on WELI (AM-960, 960weli.com) and WYBC (AM-1340m wybc.com).