Yale football has finally found its quarterback.
Two years after Morgan Roberts ’16 transferred from Clemson University to Yale, the University’s football program is reaping the dividends. This season, the Bulldogs are 3-0 behind Roberts’ league-leading 10 touchdowns, 80 completions and 978 yards through the air.
“I ended up transferring because of the cutthroat community of these big schools in the [Football Bowl Subdivision],” Roberts said. “It’s still a business — there’s no doubt that Yale is a business — but Coach Reno and the coaching staff have done a great job making this environment so family-orientated.”
Despite the welcoming environment, Roberts said he initially struggled to adjust to the new offense.
Though Clemson and Yale run similar offenses — Roberts called them both up-tempo spread offenses that focus on taking advantage of matchups — there was still an adjustment period.
“The transition was tough,” Roberts said. “Coming and learning a new system, no matter what, no matter where you’re coming from, is difficult. It took me a while to understand my role in the offense. The biggest difference I’d say is the terminology.”
Roberts said when he hears one play called, it may have meant one play to him at Clemson but means something entirely different under Reno. He added that he faced an adjustment period to adapt to the new language.
It didn’t help that Roberts had a relatively limited role in his first season. He started only one game in 2013 but saw playing time in eight others. In those nine games, Roberts accumulated 339 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions as he split snaps with Henry Furman ’14. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes.
“Last year, I felt like I disappointed my team, to be honest. That’s a tough feeling, to look in the locker room and say you let down 104 of your best friends. In the offseason, my number one [goal] was to get things right,” Roberts said.
According to Roberts, “getting things right” entailed much more than memorizing plays. It took physical development as well.
Roberts said he went back to basics, working on fundamentals such as footwork and arm motion before returning to the football field.
“I worked with Coach [Kevin] Cahill to understand my role,” Roberts said. “We asked the question, ‘why?’ like, ‘why do you go here?’ or, ‘why do you throw here?’ and understanding the deeper meaning of each play and why the plays are called.”
This more comprehensive understanding lends itself to better play. Roberts is averaging a 72.7 percent completion rate.
William Chism ’15, the starting left guard, commented on Roberts’ ability to make reads and manage the game. Chism added that Roberts’ coachability, humility, dedication to film and other aspects of the game, as well as on-the-field intelligence are several of the assets he adds to the football program.
Roberts summarizes the differences between the two years in a simple fashion.
“Last year, I was out there thinking, and this year I’m out there playing,” Roberts said.
Playing the game evidentially suits Roberts. He leads an offense that averages a nation-leading 631 yards per game and has scored at least seven touchdowns every game this season.
Although such productivity is difficult to maintain, Roberts has high hopes.
“I have one semester that I could use, because I was red-shirted at Clemson. I’ll be here one more season. Hopefully, this season ends on a high note and we can carry that into the next one,” Roberts said.
No matter the result of the season — though Roberts said the team hopes to have an Ivy Championship ring by the end of it — Roberts said he wants the team as a whole to prove itself, if not for individual pride than for each other.
“Every day we walk in and it’s 104 of my brothers and me just messing around,” Roberts said. “We all happen to be talented football players who put in all our effort because it’s our passion, but it’s really just one big family. I think that makes us play a little harder on Saturday because you’re playing for the guy next to you. I couldn’t be more excited with the way things have gone. I’ve never once looked back and regretted it.”