Come out swinging In the past two weeks, Yale has been outscored in the first half by a combined scored of 70–17. Two weeks ago at Cornell, the Bulldogs turned the ball over three times to give the Big Red a short field. Cornell converted all three of those opportunities into touchdowns. Then last week, Yale’s defense did little more than escort Colgate into the end zone, allowing the Raiders to score on all five of their first-half possessions. The Bulldogs cannot expect to win games if they do not come out ready to play from the opening kickoff. Although the Elis have responded well after halftime in both games, they have been unable to make up the ground ceded in the opening half. If the offense takes care of the ball and the defense can make early stops, then the Blue and White can win its first Ivy League game of the Tony Reno era.
Get off the field on third down
Opposing offenses have converted on 50 percent of third-down plays. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs allowed Colgate to convert seven of their 11 third downs. Yale’s biggest strength has been the ground game this season, but running backs Tyler Varga ’16 and Mordecai Cargill ’13 cannot get on the field if the Eli defense does not make stops. Last week, the Elis were rewarded with excellent field position when they were finally able to force a Colgate punt in the second half. Quarterback Eric Williams ’16 cashed in with a touchdown pass, but the offense could use more opportunities to work with a short field to get into a rhythm.
Kill the penalties
Twice last Saturday, Varga broke off big runs against Colgate, only to have them called back on penalties. Both of those penalties happened more than 10 yards away from the ball. Rather than advancing deep into Raider territory, the Bulldogs ended up punting away the football as well as any chance to come back in the game. Head coach Reno attributed the penalties to players losing focus, so he will need to make sure his players are in the zone for a full 60 minutes against Dartmouth. Being outplayed physically is understandable, but taking yourself out of a game because you are not focused is inexcusable.