MAKE MISTAKES COUNT
Lehigh’s offense is no pretender. It is averaging almost 38 points in its four games so far this season — and two of those contests have come against scholarship schools. Quarterback Chris Lum has been named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week three consecutive times. But he also already has six interceptions to his name.
Yale’s defense has rarely played lights out under head coach Tom Williams. But it has developed a knack for big plays on turnovers. A forced fumble and an interception in the endzone from Chris Stanley ’12 preserved the Elis’ win over Dartmouth last October. A fumble return for a touchdown by safety Geoff Dunham ’12 last season saved the team’s win against Princeton five weeks later.
Yale is not going to be able to stop Lehigh’s high-octane offense completely. There is a reason the Mountain Hawks are ranked No. 13 in the national polls. The Elis have to force the home team to make mistakes — and then capitalize.
SPREAD THE BALL AROUND
Gio Christodoulou ’12 and Chris Smith ’13 are supposed to be Yale’s two top receivers. But Smith sat out most of the Cornell game last Saturday. Christodoulou has only one reception so far this season. And the Elis haven’t missed a beat.
Veteran quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 deserves some of the credit for Yale’s passing attack so far, but so does a deep stable of wide receivers. Cornell had no answer for Allen Harris ’13, who caught eight balls for 107 yards last week. Deon Randall ’14 has proved as adept at catching passes as he is at taking handoffs. In total, Witt spread his passes out among nine receivers last weekend, and eight the week before.
That balance in the passing game drives opposing defenses crazy. Georgetown and Cornell both double-teamed Smith when they played Yale — only to leave another receiver open. Lehigh is giving up 400 yards a game. That kind of defense will only make Witt and his favorite targets look more dangerous.
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Lehigh provides Yale with the rare opportunity to play a ranked opponent. And not just any ranked opponent: the battle-tested Mountain Hawks have already lost to then-No. 13 New Hampshire and beaten then–No. 23 Liberty this year.
Yale received votes in the national polls last week, but it is a long way from a ranking like Lehigh’s. That gap does not mean the Elis should accept a loss easily. But it does mean they need to look at this game like a test of how they perform under pressure. Last year’s Blue excelled in close games. This year’s team has rolled to easy victories in its first two weeks. The Mountain Hawks will not be easy.
Each game in Yale’s schedule becomes more important as November — and Harvard — approaches. A hard-fought performance against one of the nation’s top FCS teams could send Yale on its way to the Ivy League championship it is capable of winning this year.
The football was sloppy on a cold and rainy October day in 2009, but the Elis — under new head coach Tom Williams — came out on top. In a game that featured seven turnovers, the only points came on a 40-yard touchdown run from Paul Rice ’10 on a fake punt play.