Running back Tyler Varga ’15 takes the snap. He runs to the outside, fakes the pitch and runs untouched into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown run.
Varga’s score gave Yale an early 7–3 lead over the Columbia Lions on Oct. 27. Yale would go on to lose 26–22, but the first-quarter run by Varga illustrates the success that the Bulldogs can have running the option.
Although head coach Tony Reno stated that the option has always been a part of the Elis’ offensive package, it has moved to the forefront in recent weeks due to injuries. Reno added that more than half of Yale’s 54 offensive plays against Brown last Saturday were option plays.
“We’ve been doing that since day one, whether it’s with backs or receivers,” Reno said. “You make people defend the perimeter [with the option].”
Yale normally lines up for the triple option with the quarterback in the shotgun flanked by two tailbacks. After receiving the snap, the quarterback has the choice of handing off to his first running back, who would then run up the middle. If a defensive lineman is in the way of his first running back, the quarterback keeps the ball and runs towards the outside with the second back.
The quarterback then reads the defensive end. If the defensive end presses the quarterback, he will pitch it to his tailback. But if the defensive end stays on the outside to contain, the quarterback will run it himself.
Running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 said that the option fits well with the team’s offense.
“The option makes the most of our available personnel and utilizes our strengths,” Cargill said.
Yale’s backfield trio of running backs is led by Varga, Cargill and Kahlil Keys ’15. These three running backs have combined to run for 1,313 yards this season on 5.2 yards per carry.
With Varga taking the majority of the snaps the past two weeks due to injuries to the team’s quarterbacks, the option has taken Yale’s running game to a new level. The Elis dashed for 262 yards at Columbia two weeks ago and 201 more at Brown on Saturday.
Even when Yale’s quarterbacks return to full strength, the Elis could benefit by continuing to focus on the triple option.
Running the option almost exclusively, Georgia Tech has never finished worse than fourth in the nation in rushing yards since 2008, during which time the Yellow Jackets have had a combined record of 39–25. The Yellow Jackets are just one example of how a team can be successful with an unbalanced offense.
Using the option more would also take the pressure off rookie quarterback Eric Williams ’16, who leads the Ivy League with 14 interceptions thrown. Getting an athlete like Williams in the open field where he can make plays with his legs would make him a more successful quarterback. Additionally, Williams would have better throwing lanes available down the field once the defense has to commit to containing the option.
Yale ranks second in the Ancient Eight with 195.2 rushing yards per game.