This year’s Colgate football team, favored to win the Patriot League, is undoubtedly looking for revenge after the Elis’ 15-point fourth-quarter comeback last year. But if the Bulldogs dominate at the line of scrimmage, pull off risky plays and pass the ball with confidence, they may be able to pull off an upset over the Raiders for the second year in a row.
CONTROL THE LINE
As head coach Tony Reno noted in Tuesday’s press conference, a victory in the trenches will be key to a victory on the scoreboard. Colgate quarterback Jake Melville is an excellent scrambler, and he is equally dangerous if given enough time in the pocket to set his feet and throw. Unless Yale’s defensive line can collapse the pocket and ensure both that Melville is kept off balance and running back James Holland cannot find space, the Bulldogs will struggle containing the Raiders’ attack.
On the offensive side, the Elis need to both protect their new quarterback and clear lanes for their running backs. Given the inexperience of all three potential starting signal callers, the offensive line must give the quarterback ample time to both read the defense and make the throw. Although this might lead to an overreliance on the run game, Deshawn Salter ’18 and Candler Rich ’17, in particular, are strong up the middle and can do serious damage if given the tiniest of holes.
ROLL THE DICE
The turning point in last year’s Yale–Colgate matchup ended up being a key decision made with just over seven minutes left on the clock. After scoring a touchdown, the team came out in its oft-used swinging gate formation, allowing the option of a two-point conversion attempt if the defense lined up in a favorable formation. That is exactly what happened, and linebacker Matthew Oplinger ’18 successfully reached the end zone to put the Bulldogs within six points.
That risky call wound up being the difference in the 29–28 Eli win, and in order to beat the Raiders this year, Yale will need to be similarly aggressive. Colgate was vulnerable on fourth-down, as Syracuse went three-for-three on its fourth-and-shorts. Against an overmatched opponent, the Elis need to play with less caution than they would against a conference team.
AIR IT OUT
On paper, Yale’s offense is not particularly conducive to an aerial attack. The Bulldogs will be starting an inexperienced quarterback — whoever it ends up being — and the argument for focusing on the rush is valid; Yale returns three talented, versatile running backs, and the offensive line is relatively veteran.
Against this particular opponent, though, the story may be different. Colgate’s secondary looked particularly vulnerable last week, as Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey, a sophomore, lit up the Raiders for 355 yards and completed 34 of his 40 attempts. Colgate’s defensive line also poses a serious problem for Yale’s running game, as all three of the team’s defensive linemen are 275-pound seniors. With so much size up front, the Elis should consider looking to the outside often. Yale has a talented set of receivers, several of whom performed well against the Raiders last season, and should look to take advantage of Colgate’s apparent weakness.