The Yale football team (2–7, 2–4 Ivy) has one of its toughest tasks of the season ahead as it faces off against Harvard (7–2, 5–1) in Cambridge. In The Game last season, Harvard secured a 19-point victory thanks to 119 yards and three scores from then-freshman receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley. Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 threw for 410 yards, with 169 of those going to Christopher Williams-Lopez ’18, though his offense put up just 19 points. For the Bulldogs to break their losing streak against the Crimson, they will have to capitalize on Harvard’s mistakes, pass the ball effectively and stop the opposition’s ground attack.
Let the Cantabs pop themselves
Harvard enters The Game as 12.5 point favorite by the Las Vegas bet-makers’ line, so it will likely take something extra for the Elis to gain an edge. Harvard has not been all that careful with the ball this season, as quarterback Joe Viviano has thrown eight interceptions in his last four games. The Crimson have also ceded 11 sacks in the past two contests and are the most penalized team in the Ivy League. While the Bulldog defense has not been the best at creating turnovers or rushing the passer, the Elis boast some talented players who can create opportunities. Among them is safety Hayden Carlson ’18, who leads the Ivy League in takeaways and will likely be in the running for Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. Yale has done a good job of not beating itself this season, compiling the fewest penalties, fewest fumbles and second-fewest interceptions thrown in the Ivy League. If Yale can minimize its own mistakes while capitalizing on those of its opponent, it will take a step closer to ending its nine-year losing streak.
Reed is the option
Team 144 is not a passing team, but it might need to be on Saturday. Having utilized three quarterbacks this season, the Elis have yet to establish a consistent passing game. Though the Yale receiving corps has been ravaged by injuries, wide receiver Reed Klubnik ’20 has provided a spark the past few games, averaging 68 yards over his last three contests. Regardless of who ends up throwing to Klubnik and company, the Elis must move the ball through the air against a mediocre Harvard secondary, since running the ball may not prove fruitful. The Crimson boasts the second-best rush defense in the Ivy League, limiting opponents to an average of 92.0 yards per game. Additionally, the status of Yale’s most prolific runner is uncertain, as running back Alan Lamar ’20 missed the fourth quarter against Princeton last week due to injury.
Harvard enters The Game with the third-best rushing offense in the league, as top running back Semar Smith is averaging 57.9 yards per game and has recorded seven touchdowns. In the 2015 matchup at the Yale Bowl, three different Harvard rushers totaled at least 10 carries for 50 yards. Yale’s rush defense, which was strong earlier in the season but struggled against Penn, now ranks sixth in the Ivy League in yards allowed per game. The Eli defense needs to all be involved, from the front seven to the secondary, in order to stop the strong Harvard rushing attack. If the unit can force the game into the hands of Crimson quarterback Joe Viviano — who had a mistake-filled game last week at Penn and will face a rapidly-improving Yale secondary — the Bulldogs will be in good position to stage an upset.