A record-setting offensive pace has propelled the Yale football team to its second straight 3—0 start. But this Saturday, the Bulldogs face off against perhaps their most physical challenge yet in the Dartmouth Big Green.
Last year, however, after beating then-No. 19 Cal Poly to move to 3—0, the Bulldogs (3—0, 1—0 Ivy) fell to the Big Green (2—1, 1—0 Ivy) in Hanover 20–13. The loss set off a three-game losing streak en route to a 3–4 record against Ancient Eight competition. This season, the Elis are looking to ride their hot start to their first win against Dartmouth since 2011.
“This is our first home league game, so there’s a lot [of] unknown[s],” quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 said. “I think we have some good momentum, and we’re really confident in our team, but we have to be confident enough that we can beat anybody and humble enough to know that they can beat us.”
The Bulldogs are coming off impressive offensive performances against Lehigh, Army and Cornell. Through the first three games, Roberts has passed for 978 yards, captain Deon Randall ’15 has 28 receptions and running back Tyler Varga ’15 has rushed for an average of 140 yards per game. All three are atop Ivy League statistics and are major contributors to Yale’s nation-leading 631 yards per game and 51.3 points per game.
Despite these numbers, Dartmouth and its defense are not to be discounted, according to quarterback coach Kevin Cahill. The Big Green enter the game with the second-best red zone defense in the Ivy League, allowing scores on just 66.7 percent of trips inside the 20-yard line.
“They’re big and they’re physical,” Cahill said. “They’re going to be the most physical defense and the biggest and strongest defense we’ve played this year. Our kids were a little bit shocked coming off the game last year, and a lot of the same team is coming back here this year. It’s going to be a pretty good battle.”
Dartmouth’s offense poses an additional threat. Their quarterback, three-year starter Dalyn Williams, has run for 171 yards this season and found the end zone four times. Though Yale has faced mobile quarterbacks before, including Army’s A.J. Schurr in the second game of the season, the team has struggled to control the run. Schurr ran for 135 yards in two and a half quarters against Yale.
The Big Green have also shown itself to be proficient on the ground, averaging 182.3 yards per game. Against Penn last weekend, Dartmouth posted 218 rushing yards on its way to a 31–13 win in its Ivy League opener.
“They have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball,” Roberts said of Dartmouth. “The one thing you notice about them defensively is they play hard. They’re always rallying to the ball. When you turn on the film, you’ll see 10 or 11 green shirts around the ball after every play. That’s something we’re going to have to be wary of, matching their effort and intensity because they play hard.”
Dartmouth’s passing defense has struggled thus far. The Big Green rank last in the Ivy League, allowing 308.7 yards per game, nearly 50 yards per game more than seventh-place Columbia.
Roberts will look to exploit the weak secondary by distributing the ball to Randall and fellow wideouts Grant Wallace ’15 and Robert Clemons ’17, as he has done all year. Randall is just 21 catches away from the all-time Yale record of 195 career receptions, held by Ralph Plumb ’05.
But players are not discounting the threat that the Big Green poses.
“Dartmouth is a very good team,” offensive lineman William Chism ’15 said. “It’s going to be a challenge. We’re looking forward to it but not letting the last three weeks change anything. It’s a one day at a time kind of focus.”
Dartmouth travels to New Haven for Yale’s Ivy League home opener. The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m.