The Yale football team heads to Cornell tomorrow for its first Ivy contest of the 2014 season. To continue its two-game winning streak, the Bulldogs will have to tighten their defensive play, distribute the ball to all possible offensive options and remain focused through the strong start to the season.
Solidify on defense
In Yale’s 2–0 start to the season, the Bulldogs’ offense has been able to conceal what could become a severe problem on the defensive side of the ball. While Yale has put up 1,308 total yards of offense and 103 points, it has conceded nearly the same numbers, 1,118 yards and 86 points, in high-scoring games that came down to the wire.
It is extremely unlikely that the offense can keep up this level of production for every game this season, and Yale’s young defense is going to need to step up in those situations. Tomorrow’s Ivy League opener at Cornell is a perfect opportunity to begin building up momentum defensively.
Following the loss of quarterback Jeff Mathews to graduation, the Big Red has been stagnant on offense this year, with just 19 points and 504 offensive yards in its first two contests — less offensive production combined compared to what Yale has had in each of its games.
While Yale’s defensive numbers have not been up to par recently, both games have featured a select few positive highlights. Three sophomore defensive backs picked off passes against Lehigh. And last week against Army, four consecutive stops by Yale, including multiple goal line stops, were the key to victory. Against a seemingly weaker Cornell offense tomorrow, Yale’s defense should use the chance to tie everything together and start conference play with a strong performance.
Balance the offensive attack
Quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 opened his junior season with a career game, passing for 376 yards and five total touchdowns in the Elis’ 54–43 victory over Lehigh. Captain and wide receiver Deon Randall ’15 was a large part of that aerial assault, with 172 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The next week against Army, Roberts and Randall took a backseat to running back Tyler Varga ’15, who proved to a crowd of 34,122 that he is a premier player in the Football Championship Subdivision. In 28 carries, Varga bowled over the Army defensive linemen to rush for 185 yards and five touchdowns — tying a Yale record — in Yale’s 49–43 victory.
Just two games into the season, Yale has proven that all parts of its offense have what it takes to succeed. As the Bulldogs begin the Ivy League portion of their season against a strong Cornell defense, getting all elements working together as a balanced attack would lay a strong foundation for the offense to begin its remaining eight games.
Do not rest on your laurels
Fans watching Yale’s start to the season may notice that the Elis’ first two games have looked quite a bit like the beginning of their 2013 campaign. The Bulldogs looked great at the outset of last year’s season, beating Colgate 39–22 on Raiders’ turf, and avenging a 2012 loss to Cornell by defeating the Big Red 38–23. They then traveled to then-ranked Cal Poly on Oct. 5 and upset the Golden Bears 24–10, arguably the most exciting win for the Bulldogs in years.
But then in week four, Yale suffered its first loss to Dartmouth 20–13, and the team was never the same again. Plagued by injuries, the Elis won just two out of their last seven games, eventually finishing 3–4 in the Ivy League for a fourth place ranking.
Although injuries are difficult to avoid, Yale must remember what happened last year and avoid complacency as it begins its conference season. As multiple players on the team noted, there are still improvements to be made in every aspect of play throughout the next eight games of the season. Yale cannot afford to miss a step.