The Yale football team hits the road for the final time this season, heading to New Jersey to take on Princeton for the 138th meeting between the two teams. Coming off a game in which the Bulldogs dominated Brown and snapped a two-game losing streak, the team looks to maintain momentum before taking on undefeated Harvard in The Game. If the Elis can cut down on penalties, dominate the line of scrimmage from both sides and improve red-zone efficiency, they can leave Princeton with a win and a 0.500 league record.
LIMIT THE FLAGS
Penalties have been an issue for Yale all season. After drawing 40 penalties in their first four games, the Elis marginally cleaned up their act, drawing 32 flags in the subsequent four games. The team took a big step backwards against Brown, picking up nine of its 10 penalties in the first half.
Those 10 penalties cost the Bulldogs 81 yards against the Bears, one reason that Brown trailed by just three points entering the locker room. Ceding that amount of yardage will significantly diminish Yale’s chances against Princeton and Harvard, two stronger teams. According to defensive tackle Carl Kreitzberg ’16, the Elis distinguish between “stupid penalties,” such as too many men on the field or late-hit penalties, and “aggressive penalties,” like holding or pass interference. But rather than focusing on a specific type of penalty, it will be important for Yale just to eliminate them altogether and play a cleaner game.
DOMINATE IN THE TRENCHES
The Yale offensive line has been beset by a number of injuries, and as a result, the Bulldogs rank second-to-last in the Ivy League in sacks allowed. The line took a major step up last week, allowing just one sack on quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 — a major factor in Roberts achieving his second-best completion percentage of the season. Against a Tiger defense that has 19 sacks on the season, a strong performance from the offensive line will be critical. Additionally, with Yale’s conversion of cornerback Dale Harris ’17 to running back providing a spark for the offense last week, successful blocking for the junior could easily turn a small gain into a big play.
On the other side of the ball, the Yale defense has thrived on linebacker blitzes: 10 of the Bulldogs’ 16 sacks in 2015 have come from its linebackers. That lack of aggressiveness from the defensive line, however, could be helpful when it comes to stopping the best rushing attack in the Ancient Eight, which features five Princeton players who average at least five yards per carry.
IMPROVE RED-ZONE EFFICIENCY
A hallmark of last year’s Yale squad was its ability to score in the red zone, as the Bulldogs put points on the scoreboard 83.6 percent of the time after crossing their opponent’s 20-yard-line. While running back Tyler Varga ’15 gets the lion’s share of the credit, it should be noted that kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15 converted 13 of 16 attempts as well.
But fast forward a year later, and the Elis’ efficiency has dropped to just 72.7 percent in the red zone. New kicker Bryan Holmes ’17 has put through eight of his 11 kicks when the ball is snapped from inside the 20, but it is perhaps more worrying that the team has scored touchdowns on just 48 percent of red-zone opportunities, compared to 62 percent in 2014. Much of that has been due to five interceptions thrown in the red zone, although this has been less of an issue in recent weeks. Princeton has already allowed opposing teams into its red zone 36 times this season, the third-most in the Ivy League, so opportunities seem to be available. The Bulldogs just need to take advantage of them.