After starting 0–2 for the first time in nearly 20 years, the Yale football team plays Lehigh tomorrow in an effort to get the season back on track. With a new quarterback at the helm, the Bulldogs have a steep hill to climb if they are to defeat their Patriot League foe: they must stop Mountain Hawk weapon Troy Pelletier, get the running game off to a hot start and win the turnover battle.
KEEP THE GATES OF TROY CLOSED
Lehigh wide receiver Troy Pelletier poses the most menacing threat to the Bulldogs on Saturday, as the junior’s 113.8 receiving yards per game lead the Patriot League in 2016. Quarterback Nick Shafnisky targeted Pelletier for massive 48- and 49-yard gains last week, in addition to finding wide receiver Gatlin Casey for touchdowns of 42 and 56 yards.
Whether throwing to Pelletier or Casey, Lehigh’s deep ball might single-handedly beat the Elis. The Yale secondary has struggled thus far to minimize its opponents’ big passing play, allowing touchdown passes of 39 and 55 yards to Colgate in the season opener. In last week’s matchup, Cornell scorched the Bulldogs on a 43-yard touchdown pass and set up an additional field goal on a 38-yard reception.
The Yale front seven must also step up to protect a secondary that currently starts a freshman, a sophomore and no seniors. Yale has averaged 2.5 sacks per game so far — the more Shafnisky hits the turf, the less time he will have time to find Pelletier.
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING – AND EARLY
It is imperative that the Bulldogs execute the running game early on to incorporate first-time starting quarterback Tre Moore ’19 into the flow of the game and keep the sophomore from facing long down-and-distance situations. Running back Dale Harris ’17 has seen the majority of the carries through two games, and head coach Tony Reno plans to start him against Lehigh as well.
Yale outgained Cornell on the ground last week in another running-back-by-committee effort. Deshawn Salter ’18 contributed seven carries and the only Eli touchdown. Candler Rich ’17 has been battling an injury, and Reno said he is only now getting back into the flow of the game. Moore, who had a 14-yard run against the Big Red, also has the ability to beat defenses with his legs, which might create extra opportunities to deliver with his arm.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
Through two games, Yale’s three quarterbacks have thrown seven interceptions, though Moore is responsible for just one of them. The Bulldogs have committed five more turnovers than their opponents so far this season, and decision making will likely determine the outcome of Moore’s first start. As Bulldog fans have learned in 2016, bad things happen when a quarterback forces the ball into tight coverage.
Safety Hayden Carlson ’18 will look to create opportunities and momentum for his offense, as he has generated all of Yale’s three takeaways this season with one interception and two fumble recoveries. A couple momentum-shifting turnovers, by Carlson or another Yale defensive player such as cornerback Jaelin Alburg ’20, might be just enough to counteract the high-flying Lehigh offense.