Notes on the Loss to Princeton

A disastrous first quarter that led to a 21 point deficit for the Bulldogs was ultimately too much to overcome against a powerful Princeton team in a 59-43 loss at the Bowl.  Yale dropped to 5-4 (3-3 Ivy) to set up a battle of 5-4 teams at Fenway for The Game.

On Princeton’s first play from scrimmage, running back Collin Eady raced 75 yards to put the Tigers up 7-0 just seconds into the contest.  On Yale’s second offensive play, O’Connor threw the ball directly to a Princeton defender who returned it inside of the red zone.  Eaddy made the score 14-0 as he knifed through Yale’s defense for a 17 yard score.  O’Connor’s luck did not improve on Yale’s second drive as his pass was tipped in the backfield and intercepted by a Princeton linebacker.  Princeton’s third string running back Ryan Quigly outran the Bulldogs on a 37 yard scoring play to put the Tigers up 21-0.  Yale was able to put together a touchdown drive to begin the second quarter to make it 21-7, but defensive woes allowed Princeton to go into halftime with a 42-14 lead.  Yale’s offense exploded in the second half, yet Princeton was able to add another 17 points to keep Yale at bay.

Freshman Griffin O’Connor threw for a record 465 yards with 3 touchdowns against a very stingy defense.  His 4 interceptions, however, were crippling as the Yale defense could not slow down Princeton until well into the second half.  The offensive line performed very well giving ample time for O’Connor to find open receivers and clearing the path for Lamar and Alston in the ground game.  Lamar finished with over 100 yards rushing, while Alston averaged a respectable 4.8 yards per attempt.  Klubnik was absolutely dominant with 8 catches for 234 yards.  Shohfi had two long catches for 79 yards, Rouse had 4 catches for 62 yards, Howland had 3 catches for 53 yards and Lamar had 3 catches for 38 yards.

Princeton’s Bob Surace must have seen holes in Yale’s rush defense and decided to exploit the weaknesses as Princeton rushed for 489 yards.  Second string running back Eaddy had 266 yards with 3 touchdowns, while third stringer Quigley added 113 yards with 2 touchdowns.  If that wasn’t bad enough, Lovett tacked on another 110 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.  The Yale defensive line was not getting enough penetration or pushing back offensive linemen.  Linebackers and safeties were not filling the gaps or getting off of blocks.  When we did have defenders in position to make a play, we missed way too many tackles.  Pass defense was much improved and corners were finally turning their heads to play the passes.  Horsted’s long touchdown reception was an embarrassment though as he effortlessly ran through Bulldogs on his way to a 52 yard touchdown.

Penalties were cleaned up as Yale was cited for just one penalty for 10 yards.  Galland was perfect on extra points and was only forced to punt once in the contest.  Reno did a great job keeping the players motivated in the second half to claw back within 16 points.

Beat Harvard!

Keys to Victory

  • Slow down the trio of Lovett, Horsted and Carlson

The Bulldogs must find a way to slow down Princeton’s quarterback John Lovett and wide receivers Jesper Horsted and Stephen Carlson on Saturday.  Lovett is the Ivy League’s version of Tim Tebow as he is a bruising runner who also possesses the passing skills to make collegiate secondaries look foolish.  Horsted and Carlson are both 6’4″ targets that are nearly impossible to jam at the line of scrimmage.  They have excellent leaping abilities to grab passes at the highest points.  Dartmouth had success stopping Lovett’s rushes as he averaged just 2.4 yards per attempt, but he still managed to score two rushing touchdowns and was a very efficient passer despite one interception.  Carlson had a quiet day versus the Big Green, yet Horsted exploded for 9 catches for 88 yards.  Princeton has so many weapons on offense that a defense can’t shut down all of the threats.  Yale must create penetration with the defensive line to give the linebackers clean shots on Lovett when he opts to run the ball.  Once Lovett gets past the linebacking corps, it will be very difficult for our smaller defensive backs to tackle him.  Defensive backs have to stay over the top of Carlson and Horsted as well as turn their heads to play the ball.  Horsted catches the ball every time a defender tries to face guard him.

  • Clean up the penalties

Yale was cited for 12 penalties for 131 yards last week versus Brown.  In the loss to Holy Cross, the Bulldogs were called for 11 penalties for 77 yards.  Yale had 6 more penalties than Dartmouth in the loss to the Big Green, two of which wiped away touchdowns.  In each of Yale’s losses this season, we have had more penalties than the opponent.  Princeton will capitalize on penalties and make us pay dearly for these mental mistakes.  College football is a game of momentum and nothing deflates a team like having a touchdown erased for a holding penalty.  Scoring opportunities against Princeton will be few and far between, so we cannot squander any chances.

  • Convert on third downs

Dartmouth was only able to convert on 3 of 12 third downs, while Harvard converted on just 8 of 17 attempts.  You have to wonder what these contests would have looked like if these offenses had been able to convert on third downs more often to keep the Princeton offense off of the field for an extra possession or two.  Princeton’s defense is not going to give up yards easily and Surace will likely look to bring heat against our first year quarterback with blitzers such as Fossati.  The Bulldogs need to utilize passing plays that develop quickly, so that O’Connor can find Shohfi, Klubnik, Howland and others before the pressure reaches him.  If Princeton opts to play conservatively on defense, Lamar and Alston will have chances to scamper downfield as Harvard and Dartmouth’s top running backs each averaged 5 yards or more per carry.  The priority this week is to keep Lovett, Horsted and Carlson off of the field entirely with long Bulldog drives.

 

Princeton Preview

The Yale Bulldogs host the Princeton Tigers on Saturday at the Bowl.  You can watch the game on ESPN+ at 12:30 PM ET.

Princeton enters the contest atop the Ivy League at 8-0 after a 14-9 victory over Dartmouth last week.  Senior QB John Lovett leads Princeton in both passing and rushing yards as he seeks to capture his second Ivy League MVP award.  Lovett has made significant strides in improving his passing skills since we last played against him in 2016.  He has completed 113 of 174 passes for 1433 yards, 14 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.  Lovett’s size (230 lbs.) and speed make him very difficult to tackle when he runs the ball.  He is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and has 10 rushing touchdowns on the season.  Senior running back Charlie Volker has continued to improve over his career and he is averaging a whopping 7.1 yards per carry.  If Volker is banged up, sophomore Colin Eaddy or junior Ryan Quigley will fill in.  Senior wide receivers Jesper Horsted and Stephen Carlson are the most dangerous receivers in the Ivy League.  They are both big targets that can routinely outjump defensive backs to snag the ball.  The Princeton offensive line is solid across the board and appears to be just a slight notch below Dartmouth’s offensive line in overall talent.

Princeton’s defense is led by linebackers Mark Fossati and Tom Johnson.  Fossati was injured last season, but bounced back this year with 54 tackles, 4 tackles for losses and 2 sacks.  Johnson was an All-Ivy linebacker last season and appears to be destined for that same distinction this season.  Mike Wagner plays Princeton’s rush linebacker position (OLB/DE) and has made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.  Wagner has 4.5 sacks, while defensive linemen Samuel Wright, Jay Rolader and Joey Demarco have combined for 9 sacks.  Princeton’s secondary is the top unit in the Ivy League.  TJ Floyd is a ball hawk with 6 interceptions to date.  Safety Ben Ellis has been all over the field for Princeton with 42 tackles including 3.5 tackles for losses.

Princeton’s special teams units are average for the conference.  Punter George Triplett has only had to punt 17 times this season and averages just over 35 yards per punt.  Princeton kickers have made 7 of 9 field goals.  Tiger Bech and Austin Carbone have big play potential on punt and kickoff returns.

 

Notes on the Win over Brown

Reno’s decision to start freshman quarterback Griffin O’Connor versus Brown was the perfect move at the right time.  O’Connor exploded for 436 passing yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.  He was named STATS FCS Player of the Week, Co-Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, and Ivy League Freshman of the Week.  Klubnik and Shohfi were unstoppable as they each caught two touchdowns and had over 100 yards receiving.  Rouse bounced back with 5 catches for 67 yards and a dynamic punt return.  The offensive line had its best performance of the season opening holes for the running backs and keeping the defenders away from O’Connor.  Lamar finished with 76 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Alston added 67 yards and a touchdown.

The defensive linemen and linebackers were simply too much for Brown to handle.  Brown was held to -27 yards rushing on 17 attempts thanks to the physicality of our front seven.  The Bulldogs sacked McGovern 7 times and racked up 8 tackles for losses.  Ryan Burke was a key contributor with 6 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 tackles for losses.  Rodney Thomas had a great diving interception.  The pass defense wasn’t nearly as dominant as the run defense.  McGovern threw for 358 yards as we struggled to stop the outside passes to running backs, tight ends and receivers.  Pass interference penalties helped keep Brown drives alive on a couple of occasions.

Yale racked up an embarrassing 12 penalties for 131 yards on the afternoon.  The special teams were much improved, although the field goal team still struggled.  The coaching staff did a fantastic job preparing for Brown and we need that to continue this week heading into the most difficult contest of the season.

Keys to Victory

  • Execute on special teams

Our offense likely won’t be setting any scoring records without Rawlings.  We have to clean up the mistakes on special teams to beat Brown this week.  The punt, punt return, and field goal units in particular must improve.  If a Brown punt doesn’t cross the 10 yard line, we have to catch it every time.  The punt team needs to line up properly and keep defenders away from Galland before releasing downfield.  Simino, Conte and Galland have to be on the same page on field goals.

  • Attack the Brown defense from all angles

Brown will be playing with a renewed sense of confidence after staying close in the contest with Penn and viewing Yale’s struggles on film versus Columbia.  We can’t put the pressure on Check to convert on third and long.  Yale needs a varied offensive attack that puts our best playmakers in position to score.  Check developed chemistry with Klubnik, yet players like Shohfi, Howland, and Rouse need to be utilized to keep Brown defenders guessing.  The coaching staff needs to find creative ways for Lamar, Alston and Dudek to thrive.  If we use the same offensive game plan from last week, we’ll have to shutout Brown to win.

  • Contain the big plays on defense

Columbia’s 30 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was a backbreaker last week.  The Bears have a number of talented athletes with big play potential such as LJ Harriott and Jakob Prall.  Harriott had a 65 yard rush and a 56 yard reception this season, while Prall had a 55 yard reception.  Harriott’s explosive plays were crucial in Brown’s win over Yale two seasons ago.  Our defense has been stout over the last two contests, but just one long touchdown for Brown could be the difference in the contest.

Brown Preview

The Bulldogs host the Brown Bears on Saturday at the Bowl.  You can watch the game on ESPN+ at 1 PM ET.

Brown enters the contest at 1-6 (0-4 Ivy) after a six point loss to Penn last weekend in Providence.  The Bears average 201 passing yards per game and a meager 87 yards rushing per game.  Sophomore QB Michael McGovern has completed 121 of 237 attempts for 1409 yards, 5 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.  Junior WR Jakob Prall is McGovern’s favorite target and is averaging over 17 yards per reception.  Prall’s fellow wideouts Jaelon Blandburg and LJ Harriott are dangerous receiving threats as well.  Anton Casey is a big tight end who runs crisp routes, although he did not play last week versus Penn.  Freshman RB Allen Smith leads the Bears with 175 rushing yards, but he may be hurt as well.  Junior RB Andrew Bolton started at running back last week rushing for just 18 yards.  Brown was forced to utilize wide receivers Scott Boylan and LJ Harriott to support the rushing attack against the Quakers.  Brown’s offensive line has been inconsistent in both run blocking and pass blocking.  When Brown’s offense is firing on all cylinders, they can move the ball down the field quickly, but too often they have been unable to sustain drives due to poor blocking, inaccurate passes and dropped receptions.

Senior LB Daniel Aidman leads the Brown Bears in tackles with 62.  Junior defensive lineman Michael Hoecht is arguably the most talented player on the roster and he’s had an impressive season with 53 tackles, 5 tackles for losses and 2.5 sacks.  Opposing offenses have had success running the ball on the Bears with an average of 267 rushing yards per game.  Penn’s Karekin Brooks ran for 246 yards in the recent contest.  Brown’s defense has fared better in the passing game allowing 205 yards per game.  That stat could be misleading though as teams with large leads over Brown were running the ball to burn the clock late in contests.  The secondary has allowed 15 passing touchdowns and intercepted just 5 passes on the season.

On special teams, Brown’s punter Ryan Kopec has averaged 39.4 yards per punt, while kicker Dylan Brady is 6 of 9 on field goal attempts.

Brown’s coaches seem to be on the hot seat due to the poor performance of the squad, so expect them to pull out all the stops this week in an attempt to best the Elis.

 

Notes on the Loss to Columbia

Poor performances from the offense and special teams units were the biggest contributing factors to the painful loss to Columbia on Saturday in New York.  The offensive line couldn’t open enough holes in the running game or protect Check long enough for him to make the correct read in the passing game.  It wasn’t just the first year starters that struggled as Eiselen was caught holding and Strother was beat on the outside on a few plays.  Lamar finished with 77 yards on 14 attempts, but 44 of those yards came on one play.  Dudek and Alston ran for 35 yards and 17 yards respectively.  Jimmy Check had a shaky start forcing Reno to experiment with Patrick Conte.  Conte went 0 for 3, before Check reentered the game.  Check did settle down eventually to make some nice throws, yet too many of his passes were forced into tight coverage or were simply too low for receivers to snag.  Check never developed a real connection with Shohfi, while relying too heavily on Klubnik in the final minutes.  Check’s interception to seal Columbia’s victory was thrown into double coverage on Klubnik with an open receiver running down the right side.  The Bulldogs were shutout in the second half and Check still has not thrown for a touchdown to date.

Columbia’s two quarterbacks threw for 51 yards completing just 4 passes.  TE Casey Mariucci found holes in our secondary to account for 50 of those passing yards and added a touchdown.  Our tackling was subpar once again allowing Columbia’s Ryan Young to run for 91 yards and a touchdown.  Deonte Henson had a nice game with 6 tackles and a tackle for a loss.  The defensive line was solid for the most part with Matthaei leading the unit with 5 tackles.  Freshman Isaiah Dunham made a few crucial tackles and looks like he could develop into a player like Hayden Carlson down the road.

If the special teams units had played well, we still likely could have pulled off a victory.  That was clearly not the case with a punt blocked, a missed field goal, two illegal procedure penalties and zero punt return yards.  The lack of punt returns placed us in awful field position making it even more difficult for our offense to put points on the board.