The Bulldogs were named the “National Team of the Week” by the Football Writers Association of America following their historic win over Army on Sept. 27. They currently remain undefeated, having routed Cornell in their Ivy League season opener this past weekend.
But this year’s start is reminiscent of the beginning of the 2013 season, in which the Bulldogs also won their first three games before falling to 5-5 on the year. The question still remains whether or not the team can sustain its early success through its final game at Harvard on Nov. 22. Head coach Tony Reno believes that “Team-142” — Yale’s 142nd football team — has a different path ahead of it.
“We’re a very different team than last year … These guys really understand how to play one play at a time and play through anything that comes their way,” said Reno at a press conference at Mory’s yesterday.
Thus far, Reno’s no-huddle, spread offense has worked brilliantly against opponents, leading to an average of 53.1 points per game.
As quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 noted, the strategy, which has grown in popularity among both collegiate and professional teams, relies simply on outpacing the opposing team’s defense.
“[Our] goal is to snap the ball as quickly as possible and not allow the defense to line up and adjust to how we’re lining up … We run simple schemes, but we run them effectively,” said Roberts.
Roberts has been one of the largest contributors to the offense, which has produced an average of 631 yards per game — currently the highest offensive yards-per-game average in the country. He also set a school record for his pass completion rate of 86.7 percent against Cornell last weekend and was named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks.
“I have a better understanding of the offense [this year] and I’m really lucky to have a group of guys around me … [who] make my job look really easy,” said Roberts.
The offensive line remains healthy in its entirety and has allowed Roberts to be sacked just three times all season — a national tie for 15th in sacks-per-game average. Furthermore, the Bulldogs are second in the nation in yards-per-rush.
Despite record-setting numbers, players and coaches alike see room for improvement. According to Roberts and Reno, both believe execution on offense could be cleaner.
“We’re not even close to scratching the surface of what this offense could be,” Roberts said.
On the other hand, the Bulldog defense — which was shaky through its first two games — found its footing in Ithaca.
After having let up an average of 559 yards against Lehigh and Army, Yale managed to hold Cornell to just 189 yards on Saturday.
“We’re seeing growth every week,” said Reno.
In regards to the strategy for the rest of the season, Reno has consistently reiterated the team’s focus on process.
Rather than constructing long-term goals, wide receiver Deon Randall ’15 noted that the team prefers to take each game in stride. Through a consistent improvement game over game, the Bulldogs expect to attain long-term goals by incremental improvement.
“We focus on process and not necessarily the outcome. We like to take it day by day and week by week,” said Randall.
Whether or not the Bulldogs have a chance to capture the Ivy League title ultimately depends on if the team can maintain its current offensive production and can continue to see improvements on defense. Next week’s matchup against Dartmouth could prove challenging, as Reno noted that many Ivy League analysts consider them to be a dark horse competitor this year.
“I think everyone understands what our goals are and we’re very self aware of where we are and what we are capable of achieving,” said Randall.
The Bulldogs and the Big Green will kick off on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.