Convert in the Red Zone

Lafayette is a difficult team to score on: The Leopards rank eighth in the nation in scoring defense and have a strong, balanced defensive structure. They are well-coached — Frank Tavani has led the team to three Patriot League titles in the past five years — and are especially effective at stopping the run. The Bulldogs must focus on moving the chains up the field and should take advantage of red-zone scoring opportunities. Last week against Cornell, the Bulldogs had two red-zone drives in particular that should have resulted touchdowns: Late in the first quarter there were two consecutive goal-line incompletes, and midway through the fourth quarter Cornell intercepted a pass in the red zone on the Bulldog’s second down. More composure in the red zone is necessary for a Yale win Saturday.

Turnovers: a recurring key to the game

Turnovers seem to be an indicator of success for the Bulldogs. The Elis out-rushed and out-passed Cornell last week but came out behind in the turnover battle. The Bulldogs had three interceptions, one resulting in a Cornell touchdown, compared to only one by the Big Red. Turnovers will be particularly important for Yale this Saturday as Lafayette leads the country in fewest turnovers per game. In order to match this consistency, the Bulldog offensive line must keep the pass rushers off of quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 to give him more time in the pocket.

Equal Playing Field

Since their first contest in 1912, Lafayette has lost all seven games to Yale; however, it would be beneficial for the Bulldogs to look past this and see eye to eye with Lafayette. The Leopards have had a strong start to the season, beating UPenn in overtime last week and Georgetown two weeks before that, by a relatively close margin as Yale’s victory. Lafayette receiver Mark Layton has already put up better numbers than last year and quarterback Rob Curley has made him a dangerous target. Yale has to come out with an edge on Saturday, something that was missing in the season opener last week. If Yale commits turnovers and can’t stop the big plays, this game will be a repeat of last week.

Last Meeting

Yale edged out Lafayette in 2006 for a 37-34 victory. Despite the rather close final score, the Bulldogs had a convincing 16-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, coming from two rushing touchdowns by Mike McLeod ’09, a 28-yard run by quarterback Matt Polhemus ’08 and a 63-yard reception by Ashley Wright ’07. In the fourth quarter, Lafayette brought the score back to within three with a series of touchdowns, ending with Brad Maurer’s touchdown pass with 30 seconds remaining in the game. Lafayette failed to receive its own on-side kick, sealing Yale’s victory.