The Yale football team takes on its second Patriot League opponent in three weeks when it travels to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to meet Lehigh. If the Bulldogs can defend the full width of the field, kick-start their running game and play a clean game from start to finish, they can enter the fourth quarter with a lead rather than being tasked with yet another late-game comeback.
Shore up the perimeter
Against Cornell a week ago, Yale’s defense was strong in the middle of the field, but the secondary was burned on several big-yardage plays. Big Red quarterback Robert Somborn found players near the sideline for gains of 18 and 16 yards on the first drive alone. While few opposing quarterbacks will be able to throw on the run as well as Somborn, the Bulldogs need to improve their zone coverage on the perimeter.
Additionally, the Elis struggled to bring down running backs who were able to kick their runs to the outside. Cornell’s Luke Hagy was very successful, particularly in the first half, at gaining yards after contact once he found some open field. Much of Yale’s defensive headaches can be alleviated if Yale can wrap up and finish its tackles throughout the game.
Take it to the house
Lehigh poses a unique challenge in that it runs the odd stack defense, a scheme that utilizes an additional defensive back while sacrificing either a linebacker or lineman. As a result, they are capable of throwing a variety of unorthodox looks at Yale’s offense. Despite the talent of the offensive line and the high football IQ of quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16, throwing the ball another 47 times, as the Elis did against Cornell, is not a sustainable option.
Candler Rich ’17 showed off his speed a few times in weeks one and two, but left during the third quarter of the Cornell game with an injury and head coach Tony Reno did not confirm or deny his status for Saturday. Rich’s replacement, Deshawn Salter ’18, performed well, but not at the level to which Yale football is accustomed. Although Reno said the team will not be making adjustments in the backfield, the running game needs to find a source of inspiration if it is to make a difference.
The Bulldogs’ previous two contests have been marked by listless performances in the second and third quarters. Strong special teams and sturdy defense have kept the team in the game until the offense finds its stride in the fourth quarter. A Yale squad that can execute well in all three phases of the game could be a very difficult team to topple.
Two setbacks that have hindered Yale thus far — one controllable and one not — have been too many yellow flags and too many injuries to key players. The Bulldogs have been penalized 20 times, giving them the unenviable honor of being the most penalized team in the Ancient Eight. Secondly, with skilled players already recuperating on the sideline, Yale cannot afford to lose more talent.
With the bulk of league play yet to come, the Elis must push past adversity and perform at their full potential. Many players have referred to the team’s ability to compartmentalize and put bad plays behind them as a strength, and the team must continue to do so as they head out for the first of four consecutive road games.