After a lackluster start to the season, the 0–3 Bulldogs seek to get back on track in this weekend’s Ivy League contest with Dartmouth. For Yale to get into the win column in quarterback Tre Moore’s ’19 second start under center, the Elis will need to expose the holes in Dartmouth’s run defense, force the Big Green to beat them on the ground and win the specials teams battle.
Run, Yale, run
Entering the season, the Bulldogs’ offensive backfield was identified as the team’s strength and achieved its best result of the season on Saturday. Between running back Deshawn Salter ’18, who had 151 yards on just 15 touches against Lehigh, and Candler Rich ’17, a former all-Ivy honorable mention, Yale will have a formidable one-two punch at its disposal on Saturday. Factoring in the possible return of Dale Harris ’17, who saw the majority of the team’s carries in its first two games, and the mobility of Moore, the Dartmouth front seven could have their hands full.
The Big Green field a vulnerable rush defense, having most recently been gashed for 207 yards by Penn last week. A strong running game will take pressure off of Moore, who has yet to find his rhythm in the passing game. The Bulldogs must establish the run game early, or risk falling behind early and being forced to rely on their inconsistent air attack.
No big plays for the Big Green
Yale’s secondary has already been plagued by injuries through just three games. Cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski ’17, whom head coach Tony Reno called the team’s best defensive player, will miss the entire season, while corner Marquise Peggs ’19 also did not play last week due to injury.
But injuries can only excuse so much. Yale has given up nine touchdown passes of greater than 20 yards in its three games. Most recently, Lehigh wide receiver Troy Pelletier burned the Bulldogs for 213 yards and three scores last week. The Bulldogs will have but a slim chance at victory on Saturday if they cannot contain the passing game, either by pressuring Dartmouth quarterback Jack Heneghan or by tackling his receivers soon after they make catches. Additionally, Reno said his team has yet to both control the line of scrimmage and win the turnover battle in the same game, two things he believes to be essential to victory. Achieving both would go a long way in Yale’s effort to take home the win against the Big Green.
Special teams make special plays
Team 144 is in need of some magic, and returner Jason Alessi ’18 has the potential to provide the spark. Alessi returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown last weekend against Lehigh, cutting the Mountain Hawk lead to 15 and providing a surge of momentum for the Elis in the second quarter.
“Jason’s a weapon,” Reno said. “Whenever the ball is kicked to him, everyone in the stadium wants to see how it’s returned and what happens.”
The Bulldogs will also look for some consistency from their other specialists. Punter Bryan Holmes ’17 is averaging just 33.2 yards per punt in 2016 compared to 38.3 from Dartmouth punter Ben Kepley. Holmes missed most of last week’s game with an injury, and it is unclear if he will even play this week. Whether Holmes or punter Alex Galland ’19 boots the ball for the Elis on Saturday, flipping the field would give the Yale defense some much-needed breathing room.