The Yale football team opens its 2015 season against Colgate (0–2, 0–0 Patriot), a team whose record belies its depth and capabilities. Though the Raiders have been outscored 74–18 thus far, they have faced two tough opponents — Football Bowl Subdivision team Navy and 2014 Colonial Athletic Association champions University of New Hampshire. If the Bulldogs can put pressure on Colgate’s dual-threat quarterback, match the Raiders on the ground and answer questions at key positions like wide receiver, they could leave Colgate with their first win of the season.
Currently his team’s leading passer and second-leading rusher, Colgate quarterback Jake Melville is a serious threat. Melville put up respectable passing and rushing yards last year before missing five games, including the Raiders’ contest against Yale, due to an illness. His return creates serious issues for a Bulldogs defense that must both apply pressure to all sides of the pocket and contain Melville in the backfield.
However, containing him will not be enough. Melville has yet to throw an interception this year, and giving him time in the pocket will allow him to look deep. Colgate already has three receivers with at least one 20-yard catch, so Yale must simultaneously shut down deep threats while keeping Melville on his toes. Preventing read-option plays and forcing Melville to release the ball quickly should help contain the Raiders’ offense.
GROUND AND POUND
Colgate’s backfield has experience on its side: the three top running backs from 2014 have all returned. Yale head coach Tony Reno identified senior Demetrius Russell as a back to watch, but last season, it was John Wilkins who punched in two touchdowns against Yale. The two tailbacks combined for 128 yards on just 21 carries in the 2014 game against the Elis. The defensive line must hop off of the line quickly if the Bulldogs hope to slow down the Raiders’ run game.
On the other side of the ball, Yale’s running game should have a productive week. Following a game in which New Hampshire earned 222 yards on the ground, Colgate’s defense gave up 390 rushing yards to Navy. If Yale’s offensive line continues to dominate as it did last year, running back Candler Rich ’17 and the rest of the Eli running game will rack up yards.
WHO’S OUT LEFT?
One of the big themes of Yale’s offseason has been the uncertainty surrounding several key positions, most notably wide receiver. With the graduation of former captain Deon Randall ’15 and fellow standout Grant Wallace ’15, the team lost both of its top two wideouts. Robert Clemons III ’17 and transfer Bo Hines ’18, among other options, could potentially fill their shoes, but nobody is yet the clear star. Until the Bulldogs actually take the field, the offense is still unproven.
On the other side of the ball, Yale will be fronting a young but experienced defense. Matthew Oplinger ’18, who recorded the third-most sacks as a freshman last season, made the move from inside to outside linebacker. He will rejoin defensive linemen Jack Rushin ’17 and Earl Chism ’18, and anchor a front seven that was fourth in the Ivy League in sacks last year. The Bulldogs’ secondary will be bolstered by the return of cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski ’17, who will be playing opposite captain and strong safety Cole Champion ’16. If Yale can balance the unknowns on the offense with the consistency of the defense, it should be able to rebalance the team as it seeks its first Ivy League title since 2006.