Yale (3–0, 1–0 Ivy) will take on Dartmouth (2–1, 1–0) tomorrow at the Yale Bowl in what is sure to be a major test for both Ivy League teams. The Bulldogs fell to the Big Green 20–13 in an ugly game last season, but both teams have changed significantly in a year. If Yale can live up to its recent reputation, stop Dartmouth’s running game and succeed in accumulating yards through the air, the Bulldogs have the potential to write a different story than last year.
Live up to the hype
Three games into their season, the Bulldogs are certainly the talk of the Ivy League. After ranking fifth in the conference preseason poll over the summer, Yale has marched out to a 3–0 start. Its offense has shocked many with 51.3 points and 631 yards per game, both figures the highest in the nation.
It is possible, however, that uncertainty about the Elis’ first three opponents may leave some doubtful. Neither Lehigh nor Cornell has won a game yet this season, and though the win against Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Army is certainly impressive, it is difficult to add true context to a matchup between two teams that have not shared a common opponent in years.
Yale’s game against Dartmouth, then, will be a great test of the Bulldogs’ true potential. The Big Green ranked third on the Ivy League preseason poll and showed that it may have deserved even better after a 31–13 win over Penn last week. With both teams fighting to prove their standing in the conference, the Bulldogs will need to live up to the hype and deliver another exceptional offensive performance against Dartmouth.
Stuff the run
If there is anything that Dartmouth’s offense has revealed in the beginning of the season, it is that the team likes to run the ball. The Big Green has averaged 182.3 rushing yards per game but just 143.7 passing yards — less than half the passing average that Eli quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 has recorded in that time span.
Dartmouth running back Kyle Bramble leads the team’s backs, while quarterback Dalyn Williams is also a rushing threat, having ranked fifth among all players in the Ivy League last year with 56.3 rushing yards per game. This year, Bramble and Williams remain a vital part of the Big Green offense. The pair has been to the end zone a combined six times in Dartmouth’s first three games, twice on a pass and four times on the ground.
The only game that Dartmouth has lost this year has also been the only game in which neither Bramble nor Williams scored a rushing touchdown, and that is likely not a coincidence. Stopping this duo from getting big gains on the ground will certainly be a key to a strong defensive performance.
Keep chucking it
Dartmouth’s statistics through week three show that not only does it excel at running the ball, it also enjoys defending against those who run. The team’s pass defense is last in the Ivy League with 308.7 passing yards allowed per game, but the Big Green has allowed exactly half that number on the ground. Last week, Penn covered just 33 of its 383 total yards with the run, with the other 350 going to Penn quarterback Alek Torgersen on a school record 40 completions.
With this in mind, the Bulldogs should head into the Yale Bowl prepared to deliver an aerial assault like the one they brought to Ithaca last week. Of course, Yale has already shown that the type of defense it faces is generally not relevant to its performance. Defenses that protect up front have allowed big gains by Roberts and his receiving corps, while those that focus on the pass have felt the wrath of running back Tyler Varga ’15. But it is likely that the former will have a bigger impact than the latter in tomorrow’s game.