Last Halloween, Columbia (2–4, 1–2 Ivy) bested the Yale (1–5, 1–2) football team at home 17–7 by limiting it to only 120 yards of offense and five first downs — the Bulldogs’ only points came on an 80-yard punt return touchdown by Jason Alessi ’18. To avoid the same fate as last year and notch their second Ivy win of the season, the Elis need to run the ball effectively, impress on defense and limit turnovers.
CAN A DOG OUTRUN A LION?
This year’s iteration of Yale’s up-tempo spread offense has leaned heavily on its game, not only because it boasts a talented group of rushers and the second-best ground attack in the Ivy League, but also out of necessity — its passing game is better than only Columbia’s in the Ancient Eight. Facing a mediocre Lions’ rush defense on Friday night, fans are likely to see another heavy dose of Alan Lamar ’20, who has averaged just shy of 150 rushing yards per contest in his two games. While he will likely take the bulk of the team’s carries, it would not be a surprise if Dale Harris ’17 or Deshawn Salter ’18 feature heavily in this game as well. Harris was utilized more at cornerback, the position he played for his first two-and-a-half seasons, against Penn but could see more action on offense this week, while Salter received carries earlier in the season before sustaining an injury.
A STOPPABLE FORCE MEETS A MOVABLE OBJECT
If the Yale defense is to get back on track this season and gain some confidence heading into The Game, it will have to come against Columbia this week: in their three Ivy League contests, the Lions have scored just 32 combined points. While the Bulldog defense ranks just as badly as the Lions’ offense, Team 144 has faced some seriously potent opposition, most notably a trio of diesel-fueled Patriot League foes. Before giving up 42 points to Penn last weekend, the Bulldog defense had been much better in Ivy League play, ceding 27 points to Cornell and just 13 to defending champion Dartmouth. Yale needs its playmakers on defense to step up on Friday and get the group back on track. Linebacker Victor Egu ’17 had a strong game against Penn, which included a stop on fourth-and-one during the first quarter, and fellow linebackers Matthew Oplinger ’18 and captain Darius Manora ’17 have combined for 67 total tackles this year.
TURNOVER OR TREAT
Yale has been very generous in granting its opponents extra possessions and short fields this season. Since first seeing significant snaps behind center against Cornell, quarterback Tre Moore ’19 has thrown five interceptions, compared to just three touchdowns, and coughed up three fumbles. While some of these were strip-sacks difficult to avoid as a quarterback, Moore also fumbled last week against Penn on a scramble out of the pocket. Avoiding turnovers will go a long way towards keeping the Bulldog offense on the field, as well as denying Columbia favorable field position. By not treating the Lions to free possessions in Yale’s own territory, the Elis will make significant strides towards limiting an already-weak Columbia offense.