The Yale football team is in the exact same position it was in last year.
The question, then, is whether the Bulldogs (3–3, 1–2 Ivy) can respond with a three-game winning streak — as they did last year — starting with tomorrow’s game at Columbia (2–4, 1–2 Ivy).
After being shut out by Penn (the toughest defensive team on Yale’s schedule) last Saturday, the Elis are hoping to bounce back against a Columbia team that has not defeated the Bulldogs since 2001.
As last week’s 9–0 loss at Penn showed, though, the Elis cannot rely on their defense alone to win — the offense and the special teams need to perform as well.
Although the Yale offense had some promising drives last week, none of them resulted in points. Head coach Tom Williams said that the players need to remind themselves to stay relaxed when they are in the red zone.
“We constantly remind our guys that no one needs to go into a phone booth and put an ‘S’ on their chest,” he said. “If [they] just do their jobs, full-speed, one hundred percent, the big plays will take care of themselves.”
Chances are, if these “big plays” come for Yale, they will occur on the ground. The Lions are ranked second-to-last in Ivy League rush defense — compared to being third in pass defense — and gave up 242 yards to Dartmouth tailback Nick Schweiger. The Big Green broke its 17-game losing streak in the 28–6 win over the Lions.
Williams said that they will try to have a strong running game, but their game plan will not be any different from any other week.
“You try to go into every game trying to establish the run,” Williams said. “We had some early success against Penn doing the same thing but got a little bit behind in the second half and felt like we wanted to move the ball through the air.”
Columbia is currently on a three-game losing streak, with losses coming against Lafayette, Penn and Dartmouth. Yale crushed the Big Green 38–7 three weeks ago, but that does not mean that the Lions are going to be a pushover. Four weeks ago Yale lost to Lafayette by 17 points, whereas the Lions were beating the Mountain Hawks until the final 13 seconds of the game.
With Columbia and Yale both currently tied for fourth place in the conference, it is a must-win game if either team wants to be a contender for the conference title.
“They’ve faltered the past couple weeks, so I’m sure that they are going to be prepared to play us,” Williams said.
The Lion’s biggest offensive threat is senior quarterback M.A. Olawale, who so far has thrown for eight touchdowns and run for another five.
Last year, the Eli defense kept Olawale to 109 yards in the air, with zero touchdowns and one interception.
“He’s definitely a player that you have to respect, but eleven men are on the field,” defensive tackle Patrick Moran ’11 said. “If you can physically beat down the other ten, that one isn’t going to be able to do a whole lot. If we play our game, we’ll be fine.”
After quarterback Brook Hart ’11 struggled against Penn and back-up Patrick Witt ’12 played well in the fourth quarter, the starting quarterback question has once again emerged for the team. Williams said that both were being looked at equally and that he had not yet decided who would be starting.
One piece of good news for the Bulldogs is that wide receiver Chris Smith ’13 — who left the field last week on crutches — does not appear to be seriously injured.
While making a diving catch in the fourth quarter against Penn, Smith injured his hip when a defender’s helmet crashed into him.
Although Smith said that his playing status will be a “gametime decision,” he is especially motivated to play against Columbia for personal reasons.
“Columbia free safety [Adam Mehrer] is from my high school and we are pretty close so I’d love to go against him,” Smith said.
Wide receiver Jordan Forney ’11 sat out last week’s game with a concussion but is expected to be back tomorrow.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and can be seen on YES and heard on WELI (AM-960, 960weli.com) and WYBC (AM-1340, wybc.com).