Last year, the Yale football team’s offense was something else. Quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 was a play-making maestro, orchestrating the best offense in the Football Championship Subdivision as well as the best offense in the history of Yale football. He picked defenses apart, hitting All-Ivy targets Deon Randall ’15 and Grant Wallace ’15 with ease. His team topped 40 points in seven out of 10 games. It was a joy to watch.
With the graduation of both Randall and Wallace, in addition to current NFL tailback Tyler Varga ’15 and a pair of longtime starters on the offensive line in Will Chism ’15 and Ben Carbery ’15, a step back seemed inevitable. Nobody expected Roberts to throw for 4,000 yards this year, nor did we assume another record-breaking campaign was in the offing.
But after the first two weeks of the season, and after a pair of frenetic fourth-quarter comebacks and flashes of phenomenal offense, I’ll be damned if I didn’t think this could be the year that I can finally brag to my “friends” at Harvard, the year that Yale wins the Ivy League title by thrashing our Cantab counterparts to conclude a perfect 10–0 season.
Roberts wasn’t as stellar in week three against Lehigh, but I chalked that up to Deshawn Salter ’18 running for 233 yards, the second-most by any sophomore in school history.
A week later, though, Dartmouth proved to be the undoing of a perfect start for the third straight year. Roberts completed just 50 percent of his passes, averaged just 3.9 yards per attempt and threw three interceptions. It was a far cry from the types of performances the Clemson transfer had spoiled us with a year ago, but the Yale fan in me hoped it was just a hiccup, in part due to a debilitating number of injuries, and that he’d be back to his all-Ivy self soon enough.
And then came last Friday night.
Sure, he finished with 318 yards. But given the loss and where on the field those yards came, it felt like an empty 318 yards. It was a yardage total overshadowed by two interceptions in the end zone and four total turnovers. This game marked the return of top targets Robert Clemons III ’17 and Bo Hines ’18, though Hines left the game in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury. This was supposed to be Roberts’ announcement to the Ivy League that the real Morgan Roberts was back, and that he was taking no prisoners.
Instead, it was another puzzling data point in a season full of them.
It’s fair to wonder whether that Roberts will be seen again, with just four games left in his Yale career. Given how shaky Roberts was in his first start back in 2013 — a dreary 28–17 loss, also to the Quakers, in which he was 20–34 for just 193 yards and a pair of interceptions — and given how much talent was on last year’s roster, perhaps much of his success was due to stars like Varga, Wallace and Randall.
Yes, injuries have taken their toll on Yale’s team. After Hines, Clemons and fellow wideout Myles Gaines ’17 left with injuries earlier this year, the mantra around the team seemed to be “wait and see.” But now that Gaines remains out and Hines, along with tight end Sebastian Little ’17, suffered injuries in Friday’s game, waiting for reinforcements isn’t going to work. At this point, it’s going to be Roberts’ job to right the ship.
Now, Morgan, I’m far from a quarterback expert. I never played organized football, and outside of covering your Bulldogs in 2013, my strongest claim to gridiron knowledge might be my three fantasy football championships. So maybe take this advice with a grain of salt.
This is your team. You’re a senior leader, the veteran starter behind an offensive line that has also suffered its fair share of injuries this season. Frankly, you’re one of the few constants left. You imprinted your name all over the Yale record books last year. You’re in charge of a high-octane offense, and the figurative keys to head coach Tony Reno’s Ferrari are in your hands.
By the end of Friday’s action, it almost seemed like you lacked confidence, zipping short passes wide of receivers and waiting far too long on your third interception of the night. Having the yips is bad for any quarterback, but in an offense that relies on quick passes and timing, as well as strong connections between the signal caller and his receivers, it is especially backbreaking.
There’s a reason you’ve got a chance at breaking all these records, and there’s a reason that Reno flatly and firmly denied ever considering a quarterback switch after Friday’s game. This Saturday is a perfect chance to get that confidence back against perennial doormat Columbia.
I believe that you can turn this around. Your team believes you can do it. We’ve all seen you do it, just one year ago.
But that was a year ago, and you only have one month left to make Team 143 the one we never forget.