Yale Athletics

The Yale football team, now three games into the season, heads up north to the Granite State on Saturday for a showdown of the unbeaten against Dartmouth.

The Bulldogs (3–0, 1–0 Ivy), for the fifth time in the eight years under Tony Reno, have gone undefeated through the first three games of the season. On Saturday, the Elis are heading up the road in Hanover to take on the Big Green (3–0, 1–0 Ivy) in what will be a pivotal battle for the Ancient Eight crown.

From the way the two teams have played over these last few weeks, a defensive clinic could very well be in store for fans. Dartmouth currently enjoys the first ranked scoring and passing defense in the Ivy League. The Big Green has just conceded an average of eight points and 154 yards respectively, per game. The Bulldogs, while not possessing as impressive a defense as the Big Green, nevertheless posses one that has certainly risen to the occasion to begin the season. Yale’s defense leads the conference with five interceptions and has had pick-sixes in back-to-back weeks. Both teams are well above Ivy League average in scoring, passing and rushing this year.

“Dartmouth is very, very good upfront on both sides of the ball,” Reno said. “They’ve got impressive skill and they run their schemes very well — it’s by no means an accident that they’ve been one of the best teams in our league since 2014. Those guys have found a way to not only establish high standards of playing, but also reach those high standards they set for themselves year in and year out. Saturday, on the road, will be one heck of a challenge for us.”

The Big Green offense is spearheaded by dual-threat quarterback Jared Gerbino, although the team frequently splits play time for the sake of injury prevention. Gerbino has not only completed an astounding 75 percent of his passes to go along with six touchdowns and zero picks, but he also leads his team with 138 rushing yards and averages a stellar six yards per carry.

Dartmouth utilizes an extremely effective style of option offense. Predicated around the run, the option offense typically consists of the quarterback astutely reading the defense and deciding either to handoff to his full-back up the middle or pitch the ball to his trailing running back. In the Big Green’s offense, there exists the triple-threat of Gerbino holding onto the ball and running with it himself. The Eli defense will certainly have its hands full on Saturday in what will be the toughest offense they have gone up against this season.

“All week we have emphasized getting to the ball on defense,” linebacker Ryan Burke ’20 said. “It would not be to our advantage to try and tackle [Gerbino] in a one-on-one space. Rather, if we have an opportunity during the game to bring him down, we must have an awareness to back up a bit to give all our other guys the chance to swarm to the ball as well. Having as many of our guys there would be the most ideal defensive setup to be able to tackle him to the ground.”

Yale will be looking to build off of the offensive explosion in the first half of the Fordham game, where the Bulldogs ran and threw the ball for 45 points. The Elis have started to employ the read option more into their offense, with running back Alan Lamar ’20 more frequently lining up in the backfield with quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20. The combination of Lamar’s breakneck speed and Rawlings’ ability to elude defenders was lethal against the Rams and is likely to be used again on Saturday. Lamar burst out on a 26 yard gain last Saturday due to the option play call, while Rawlings rushed for two scores. Yale is picking up steam through its passing game as well, with wideout Reed Klubnik ’20 hitting his stride. He sits fourth in the Ivy League with 225 yards on 12 receptions.

The Bulldog defense has been solid this year and has anchored the team. Seniors have played a huge role in the early success of the unit. Burke and defensive tackle Spencer Matthaei ’20 are on track to end their Yale careers on a high note, with both players ranking in the top five in the Ivy League for tackles for loss.

The secondary has also been a crucial asset for the Blue and White. Defensive back Rodney Thomas III ’21 currently leads the Ancient Eight with two interceptions. Fellow defensive backs Dathan Hickey ’22 and Kyle Ellis ’22 also fit in at the second and fourth spots on that list with two and one interceptions, respectively.

“It’s just another game,” Klubnik said. “For us, having played them three times before, we haven’t forgotten how it slipped away from us two years ago — a loss that drove us to have the success we did the rest of the season. Last year they did get the better of us, but this year they’re just another football team; who the team is doesn’t matter, what matters is us and how we’re going to execute our stuff.”

Yale plays Dartmouth away at 1:30 p.m. in Hanover on Saturday for its first away game of the season.

Jared Fel | jared.fel@yale.edu and

Eamonn Smith | eamonn.smith@yale.edu .

Jared Fel currently serves as a sports staff reporter covering football, baseball, and hockey for the Yale Daily News. Originally from Ossining, New York, he is a rising junior in Saybrook College majoring in Cognitive Science.