The Yale football team had several chances to take control during the game against Brown last weekend, but failed to overcome the first-half deficit and ultimately fell by five points. The Bulldogs (2–6, 2–3 Ivy) return to the Yale Bowl to face Princeton (6–2, 4–1) this weekend after two road games. For the Elis to capture their third win of the year, they must stop Princeton’s diverse rushing attack, throw the ball down the field and protect their quarterback.
Avoid the Tigers’ pounce
Yale’s running defense has battled well in the trenches for most of the season. The Elis held Fordham’s Chase Edmonds, the leading rusher in the Football Championship Subdivision, to just 121 yards in their Oct. 15 contest. Yet the front-seven struggled at Brown last weekend, letting the Bears pick up 171 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs will need to recover their early season form soon, as Princeton brings the best rushing offense in the Ivy League to New Haven on Saturday. The Tigers use a variety of weapons on the ground, as Joe Rhattigan and Charlie Volker have split carries throughout the year and both average over 50 yards per game. Quarterback John Lovett, Princeton’s utility player, has run for an Ivy-League leading 15 touchdowns. Corralling all of the Tigers’ options will require discipline from the defensive line and sound tackling from the linebackers and secondary.
Air it out
The Bulldogs have leaned on their running game this year due to a strong cast of backs and the emergence of Alan Lamar ’20. However, Yale has yet to face a team with as stout a rush defense as Princeton, which allows just 88 yards per game. Even if Lamar has another explosive contest, the Elis will still need an efficient passing game, especially if the Tigers jump on the scoreboard early. Princeton has given up 237.1 passing yards per game, meaning there will be holes in the secondary for Yale receivers to exploit, regardless of whether Kurt Rawlings ’20 or Tre Moore ’19 starts behind center. Wideouts Myles Gaines ’17, Reed Klubnik ’20 and JP Shohfi ’20 have played well throughout the last few weeks, but the Bulldog’s air attack could be bolstered if wideout Christopher Williams-Lopez ’18 is able to return this week from an ankle injury that has sidelined him for four games.
Always use protection
Regardless of which underclassmen starts on Saturday, Yale’s young quarterback will need time to set his feet to find his wideouts — something that has been a luxury for both Rawlings and Moore. Yale’s offensive line gave up a combined seven sacks against Columbia and Brown, and protecting the quarterback will be key in order to establish the run game and give the Eli quarterbacks room to throw. The injuries plaguing the unit are perhaps to blame: three of its five starters were out against Brown last week, forcing several freshman into key roles against an elite Bears pass rush. If Yale can return its starters up front or if some of the younger players can step up to the task, the Bulldogs might be singing on the field after Senior Day.