Yale Football News Written By Former Bulldogs

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Notes on the loss to UCONN

The Bulldogs fell to the Huskies 21-15 on Saturday in a sloppy contest in East Hartford.  Yale now sits at 2-3 (1-1 Ivy) heading into the second half of the season.  Going 5-0 through the stretch of upcoming contests could be the only way to secure a share of the title this season.

Turnovers crippled our chances of knocking off an FBS opponent.  O’Connor threw three interceptions in the first half and finished with 11 completions on 23 passes for just 59 yards.  Passes from O’Connor were often underthrown, thrown late, or tossed into solid coverage.  Grooms didn’t fare much better in the passing game playing the entire second half with 8 completions on 31 attempts for 132 yards and a touchdown.  Pass protection was not phenomenal with two new starters in the mix along the offensive line but our quarterbacks displayed poor pocket awareness and were not stepping into the pocket to deliver strikes.  Run blocking was a struggle in the first half and then playing down 21 points in the 3rd quarter limited our ability to ever solidify the rushing attack.  Grooms was the top rusher for the Bulldogs with 67 net yards on 13 carries, many of which were scrambles on passing plays.  Dudek and Alston combined for just 33 net yards on 10 carries.  Receivers struggled creating separation from the UCONN secondary and were given limited opportunities for success given the poor passes.  Our tight ends who have played well all season were stripped of two crucial completions, one resulting in an interception.   

The Huskies were able to capitalize on mistakes in our secondary to score on big plays.  A mix of mental errors and defenders running into each other left UCONN receivers wide open on two touchdowns.  Our linebackers missed several tackles and our defensive line did not create the same consistent pass rush that we’ve seen from them in prior weeks.  Owens’ return to the lineup in the second half proved to be vital as the Bulldogs limited the Huskies to just 7 points in the second half.  Despite the defensive mistakes, our defense still kept us alive in this contest and our offense was given a chance to win the game on the final drive.  Based on this film, we can now expect opponents to lean heavily on pick plays and crossing patterns to create openings for their receivers.

Outside of a 24-yard punt return by UCONN and a botched point after attempt, our special teams played reasonably well.  Yale blocked UCONN’s only field goal attempt while Bosman was 1 for 1 on field goals and had a nice afternoon punting the ball.

UCONN Preview

The Bulldogs will travel up the I-91 to East Hartford on Saturday for a showdown versus the Huskies.  Kickoff is scheduled for noon and the game will air on CBS Sports Network.

This contest will be the 50th game played between Yale and UCONN and the Bulldogs currently hold a 32-17 record versus the Huskies.  This is only the second time that Yale has ever played at UCONN.  The Huskies are 1-0 at home versus the Bulldogs and are also on a 4-game win streak in the series.

Although many FBS experts consider UCONN to be one of the worst teams in the country, they came up just short in their contests against Vanderbilt and Wyoming and seem to be playing harder under interim head coach Lou Spanos.  Spanos tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago in addition to other coaches and players, so his presence along the sidelines is questionable this weekend.   UCONN practices have been streamed to Spanos remotely and he has had his voice amplified over the loudspeakers in a bizarre situation one would only find in the post-pandemic world.  UCONN is not as disciplined as the Army team that we defeated years ago but they do have more raw talent, size and speed on the roster than that Army squad or any FCS team that we will face this season for that matter.

The Huskies have struggled to find consistency at the quarterback position with four different players attempting passes this season.  Redshirt sophomore quarterback Steven Krajewski is listed as UCONN’s starter on this week’s depth chart.  Krajewski completed 13 of 24 passing attempts for 128 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions last week versus UMASS.  Freshman running back Nate Carter has been one of the bright spots of the UCONN offense this season and he had a stellar game last week posting 136 rushing yards on 20 attempts for an average of 6.8 yards per carry.  Freshman receiver Keelan Marion leads the Huskies in receiving yards with 282 yards on 17 catches along with four touchdowns.  Senior tight end Jay Rose (6’3”, 253 lbs.) is second on the team in receiving yards with 157 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown.  The offensive line averages 294 lbs. across the board and is more athletic than we are accustomed to seeing in the Ivy League.

Sophomore linebacker Jackson Mitchell (6’2”, 229 lbs.) from Ridgefield, Connecticut not only leads the Huskies in tackles but also the nation.  Jackson has racked up an astounding 73 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble through seven games.  Junior defense tackle Travis Jones, Jr. is the largest defensive tackle that we’ll face this season at 6’5”, 333 lbs. and has been a force along the Huskies’ interior front posting 30 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.  Junior defensive end Kevon Jones, Jr. (6’2”, 247 lbs.) is yet another defender that has been hard for opponents to block with 35 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.  Freshman safety Durante Jones has been the most productive member of the secondary with 35 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble on the season.  As a team, the Huskies have allowed 452.1 yards of total offense per game.  UCONN has been unable to defend in the redzone with opponents scoring on 31 of 33 trips inside the 20-yard line.

Freshman kicker Joe McFadden is 8 of 11 on field goal attempts with a season long of 44 yards.  UCONN also relies on McFadden for punts in addition to freshman Haydn Kerr.  The two have combined for an average of 39.3 yards per punt.    

The Bulldogs will have to play a complete game this weekend to claim the spot as the top football program in the state.  The UCONN community has circled this contest as a must-win for the Huskies, so we’re in store for a tough, physical matchup on Saturday.

Go Bulldogs!    

Notes on the Loss to Dartmouth

The Bulldogs fell to the Big Green 24-17 in overtime on Saturday in a barnburner of a game.  Although it was a painful loss, the silver lining of the weekend is that we can compete with top tier teams in the Ivy League and we are just a few plays shy of 4-0. 

Yale led Dartmouth in time of possession (34:38 vs. 25:21), generated more total offense (314 yards vs. 277 yards), and was better on third down conversions (7 of 18 vs. 3 of 12).  The key differentiators leading to the Dartmouth victory were a fumble lost, a missed field goal, a dropped pass in scoring territory, 5 first downs on penalties for the Big Green and the inability to score in the redzone (1 of 3 vs. 3 of 3). 

The offensive line did a phenomenal job in pass protection giving O’Connor ample time to find his receivers.  There were struggles in run blocking however that led to an average of just 2.8 yards per carry.  O’Connor had a solid contest completing 66.7% of his passes for 194 yards and a touchdown.  Grooms was perfect on his two attempts for 37 yards and a touchdown.  It was tough sledding all around in the run game especially for Grooms who netted just 1 yard on 5 carries.  The receivers as a whole showed improvement while battling against a solid secondary hauling in 30 receptions for 231 yards and two touchdowns.

The defense far exceeded our expectations and played a nearly flawless second half.  Without the targeting call against Owens in the waning minutes, this game could have turned into a win for the Bulldogs.  It was especially sad for Owens as he clearly had no intent of creating helmet-to-helmet contact but there is simply no wiggle room for the referees to side with a defender if any contact is observed.  The fact that Owens cannot play in the first half of the UCONN game just adds insult to injury.  The NCAA really needs to refine the targeting penalty and include the option of a 15-yard penalty without ejection in circumstances such as this.  Awodiran had perhaps his best performance of his career with 10 crucial tackles.  Dean and Owens were all over the field each notching 7 tackles.  Sampleton had a better game than he did against Lehigh recording the only sack of the contest.  If the defense maintains this physicality and consistency throughout the remainder of this season, this could be Reno’s best defense to date.

Bosman had a great day as a punter averaging 42.8 yards per punt yet his missed field goal at the end of the second half unfortunately overshadowed his punting success.

This week the Bulldogs will travel to UCONN to renew the rivalry with the Huskies.  This is the final non-conference game of the season and should be every bit as tough as the Dartmouth contest.

Dartmouth Preview

The Bulldogs travel to Hanover this weekend for a showdown against the 3-0 Dartmouth Big Green.  Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 and the game will air on ESPN+.

The Big Green manhandled the Quakers 31-7 in front of a national audience last week.  Dartmouth has outscored their opponents by a total of 72 points through their first three games and has averaged 384 yards of total offense per game.  The Big Green’s defense has only allowed two touchdowns to date and an average of 217 yards per game of total offense for their opponents.  The 2019 Yale-Dartmouth contest brings up painful memories of the 42-10 defeat and although Gerbino and several star defenders have graduated, this Dartmouth team is loaded with talent.

Teevens’ offensive philosophy remains largely unchanged from 2019.  The Big Green like to keep defenses off balance with a combination of a more traditional pocket passer and a big running quarterback.  Senior quarterback Derek Kyler returns as the main passer completing over 74% of his passes (40 of 54) for 443 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Junior quarterback Nick Howard (6’2”, 230 lbs.) leads Dartmouth in rushing with 310 yards on 38 attempts for 8.2 yards per carry.  Howard will occasionally throw the ball as he has completed 5 passes this season.  Senior running back Zack Bair appears to be fully recovered from a devastating injury as he is averaging 7.5 yards per carry.  When Howard and Bair are lined up in the backfield, defenses tend to key on Howard which gives the advantage to Dartmouth if they decide to hand the ball to Bair.  Our defensive ends and linebackers will have to stay true to their assignments this week to limit the Dartmouth rushing attack.  The offensive line communicates very well and rarely misses blocking assignments.  They are stronger in run blocking than pass blocking but Dartmouth prefers to utilize quick throws from Kyler that negate the pass rush.  Sophomore wide receiver Paxton Scott is Kyler’s favorite target hauling in 17 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns.  Senior tight end Robbie Mangas (6’4”, 260 lbs.) is a balanced tight end that excels in both run blocking and pass catching.

The Dartmouth defense has been stifling through its first three contests.  Senior linebacker Jalen Mackie (6’1”, 240 lbs.) is a wrecking ball for the Big Green with 25 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, half a sack and an interception on the season.  Senior linebacker Tanner Cross (6’1”, 220 lbs.) is 2nd on the team in tackles with 21 tackles, half a sack, an interception and a forced fumble.  Senior defensive end Seth Walter has been the most productive member of Dartmouth’s defensive line with 9 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a sack.  Senior defensive linemen Luca Di Leo and Tobi Adedara are both big-bodied defenders that are stout at the point of attack.  Dartmouth’s secondary is stacked with talent, yet Penn was able to create some separation on their passing routes although they rarely capitalized on the opportunities due to pressure, poor passes and dropped balls.  Senior safety Niko Mermigas was named to Phil Steele’s Preseason All-Ivy First Team and was an honorable mention to the All-Ivy team in 2019.  Senior safety John Pupel leads the secondary in tackles with 15 tackles and a tackle for loss.  Senior corner Isaiah Johnson (6’3”, 205 lbs.) has the size to matchup with any receiver in the Ivy League and he’s performed well alongside fellow senior corner Dewayne Terry who has started in contests since his sophomore season.               

The Big Green play aggressively on special teams as they blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown against Penn.  Kicker Connor Davis made his only field goal attempt of the season last week.  Punter Cameron Baller has only had to punt 5 times this season and averages just 38.6 yards per punt, so Yale could control the field position battle if the Bulldogs can come up with big defensive stops on 3rd downs.

The Bulldogs will need to correct mental mistakes and play their best football of the season this week to leave Hanover victorious.

Go Bulldogs!

Notes on the Win over Lehigh

The Bulldogs cruised to a 34-0 win over Lehigh on Saturday albeit against one of the weakest squads we’ve faced over the last few years.  The level of play will have to amplified again this week as we hit the road to compete against arguably the toughest Ivy League foe of the season in Dartmouth.

The Yale offense started sluggishly on the first drive with a three-and-out but got into a rhythm on the second possession of the game with O’Connor connecting with freshman David Pantelis on a 27-yard touchdown strike.  Pantelis’ touchdown reception was reminiscent of Klubnik’s catches early in his career.  O’Connor’s performance was up-and-down completing just 50% of his passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.  A combination of errant throws into coverage, receivers dropping passes and poor offensive line play led to the low completion percentage.  Lehigh defenders slammed O’Connor to the turf in the second quarter and he did not play in the second half likely as a precautionary measure. Grooms played well in the second half completing 6 of 8 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Dudek led the Bulldogs in rushing with 8 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown as he became the most efficient running back in Yale history in terms of yards per carry.  McElwain had a great outing showing off his speed on a 48-yard run.  The offensive line struggled to maintain consistency as there were moments that they opened holes and kept the pocket clean and other times when defenders were immediately able to break free into the backfield.  Tipton had his best game of the season with 122 reception yards on 3 catches and a touchdown. 

Clay Patterson was the star of the defense racking up an astounding 9 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.  Nickerson had a field day against Lehigh’s offensive tackles adding 2 sacks to his junior campaign.  Raine and Moore each notched a sack as well.  Sampleton did not play his best football on Saturday highlighting the need for Oso to return to the lineup.  Lehigh simply couldn’t move the ball on the Yale defense with just 146 yards of total offense or 2.5 yards per play.  Quarterback Nigel Summerville was held to 12 of 23 on passing attempts for 103 yards.  Summerville was constantly under pressure and when he did have a chance to connect with an open receiver, they often dropped the pass.  There’s still room for improvement in the linebacking corps and secondary but it’s hard to complain after a shutout.

On special teams, Bosman missed another PAT and Rouse bobbled two punts that could have turned into disasters had he not recovered them.  Bosman was excellent in his punting duties though averaging 41.5 yards per punt with 3 punts inside Lehigh’s 20-yard line and 2 punts that were 50 yards.           

Lehigh Preview

The Bulldogs will travel to Bethlehem this weekend to compete against the 0-4 Lehigh Mountain Hawks.  Kickoff is scheduled for noon and the game will be televised on ESPN+.

The Mountain Hawks have faced a brutal schedule to start the season with contests against #15 Villanova, #22 Richmond, Princeton and Colgate.  Offensive mistakes have plagued Lehigh as they have yet to score a touchdown and have only posted 9 total points in four games.  Lehigh is still a battle-hardened squad with a solid coaching staff led by Tom Gilmore, a Penn alumnus and former coach at Penn, Columbia and Dartmouth.  The Mountain Hawks cannot be overlooked this weekend as this contest has all the indications of a classic trap game for Yale.

The Mountain Hawks have yet to find consistency at the quarterback position with four different players attempting passes this season.  Junior QB Cross Wilkinson started the first three contests but was replaced last week versus Colgate by sophomore Dante Perri.  Perri finished 13 of 19 for 46 yards and an interception in his first start.  As a team, the Mountain Hawks have completed 58% of passing attempts for an average of 6.2 yards per completion.  Decision making and accuracy have not been strong points for Lehigh’s quarterbacks as they’ve thrown 7 interceptions without a touchdown.  We’ve witnessed a backup quarterback from Lehigh throw for over 400 yards on the Yale defense, so the Bulldogs’ secondary will need to play sound football to contain the aerial threats.

Junior WR Johnny Foley (6’2”, 200 lbs.) has been the favorite target of Lehigh passers with 10 receptions for 81 yards.  Sophomore WR Eric Johnson (no relation to the former Eli) is another tall physical receiver to keep an eye on in this contest.  Senior TE Alex Snyder (6’5”, 245 lbs.) leads the Mountain Hawks in receiving yards with 83 yards on 8 receptions.  Cornell missed a few opportunities with open tight ends last week, so Lehigh may try to lean heavily on their tight end production this week.

Senior RB Rashawn Allen (5’9”, 220 lbs.) is a stout runner that is hard to bring down, although his production has suffered this season behind a struggling offensive line.  Freshman RB Gaige Garcia (5’10”, 215 lbs.) is a transfer from Michigan that has played well in his first season leading the Mountain Hawks in rushing yardage while averaging 4.5 yards per carry.   Disrupting the line of scrimmage and tackling well will be vital for a Bulldog victory.

The Lehigh offensive line is an experienced and sizable group averaging 295 lbs. across the board with only one new starter in the mix.  Senior C Justin Gurth (6’3”, 300 lbs.) is the leader of the offensive line as a four-year starter and 2nd Team All-Patriot League performer last season.  Despite the size and experience, the offensive line has not lived up to their potential failing to control the line of scrimmage in the running game.  Playing from behind certainly has not helped the offensive line as defenses have been able to aggressively rush the passer resulting in 14 sacks against Lehigh for a total of 104 yards lost.

The Lehigh defense has not played as a cohesive unit yet this season allowing an average of 457.3 yards per game and a total of 16 touchdowns.  Opponents have averaged over 5 yards per carry and over 8 yards per passing attempt.  The defense does tighten up on third and fourth downs limiting opponents to 45.0% efficiency on 3rd downs and 37.5% efficiency on fourth downs.  The Mountain Hawks’ defensive line has been able to effectively rush the passer racking up 9 sacks this season to place them 2nd in the Patriot League in sacks.  Juniors Mikhari Sibblis (6’4”, 250 lbs.) and Stephen Bland (6’1”, 250 lbs.) and Sophomore Trevor Harris (6’3”, 245 lbs.) are all tied with two sacks each.  Senior LB and captain Pete Haffner has not played since the Richmond contest and the Mountain Hawks have sorely missed the presence of the two-time 2nd Team All-Patriot League selection.  Senior LB Nate Norris has played well despite the absence of Haffner racking up 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.  Sophomore linebackers Liam McIntyre and Mike DeNucci have combined for another 38 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and an interception.  Junior safety Tygee Leach was a 1st Team All-Patriot League selection last year and is the most talented defender on the roster.  Leach leads the team with 24 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 3 pass breakups.  Freshman DB Logan Jones has the potential to be an All-Patriot League defender in the years to come and has notched 19 tackles and 2 pass breakups to start his career.      

Junior kicker Dylan Van Dusen has been perfect on field goal attempts (3 for 3) accounting for all of Lehigh’s points this season.  Sophomore punter Daniel Simpson has averaged 38.2 yards per punt and has pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line on 8 occasions.   The Mountain Hawks have blocked punts in two consecutive games, so our punting unit will face their toughest blocking assignment this week. 

Notes on the Win Over Cornell

The Bulldogs held on for a 23-17 win over the Big Red on Saturday in front of 4,916 loyal fans in attendance at the Bowl.  Yale improves to 1-1 on the season and will travel to face 0-4 Lehigh this Saturday.

The Yale offense made strides from Week 1 to Week 2, but there remains much work to do before we face stronger Ivy League competition.  The Bulldogs won the time of possession battle (32:30 to 26:56) and bested Cornell in total offensive yards (409 yards to 336 yards).  The Bulldogs continued to struggle however on third and fourth down conversions with just 2 of 11 successful third down conversions and 1 of 2 successful fourth down conversions.  O’Connor had a much better performance this past week completing 23 of 38 attempts for 317 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.  Communication along the offensive line was improved this week allowing just one sack versus a very aggressive Cornell defense, yet Cornell was able to limit the rushing attack allowing just 2.9 yards per carry on 30 rushing attempts.  Holding penalties along the offensive line will need to be cleaned up this week as they were crippling to some drives and erased a fantastic run by Dudek in which he broke multiple tackles for a first down.  Carrington led all Yale receivers in yardage with 3 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.  Rouse led the Elis in receptions with 5 receptions for 61 yards including a 44-yarder.  Sandifer, Nenad and Aaron all had clutch plays from their wideout positions, while Hawes and Howland continued to excel at tight end.  We haven’t seen the production from Tipton that we expected coming out of pre-season as the timing between him and O’Connor has just seemed off the last two weeks.  The Lehigh contest should serve as an opportunity to get Tipton and O’Connor on the same page.

The Bulldogs played very stingy defense in the first half, yet mistakes caught up with them in the second half allowing Cornell to come back within one score of victory.  Cornell was limited to 4 of 16 on third down attempts but was more efficient on fourth downs and in the red zone going 2 for 3 and 3 for 5 respectively.  Cornell’s two quarterbacks combined for a mere 48% completion percentage on 52 attempts with 3 interceptions.  The Big Red’s receivers did not help with their offensive efficiency dropping two possible touchdown passes.  Wande Owens had a career day racking up 7 tackles, half a tackle for loss and an interception.  Rodney Thomas constantly came up with big plays including two interceptions and a pass breakup.  We were fortunate that Thomas’ late targeting penalty was reversed as that would have left the Bulldogs’ secondary vulnerable in the first half versus Lehigh.  Sophomore Clay Patterson started at defensive tackle and proved that he could be Yale’s best pass rusher registering 2 sacks.  Outside of a 28-yard rush by Cornell, the Yale run defense was more consistent than in the Holy Cross contest. The secondary played aggressively limiting the short and medium routes that Cornell favors but deep routes remain a concern has Cornell often had receivers 1-2 yards ahead of our corners and safeties.

Bosman struggled in his kicking duties going 2 for 3 on PAT’s and 1 for 2 on field goal attempts missing a 20-yard chip shot from the right hash.  He was solid in his punting duties averaging 40.2 yards per punt and pinned the Big Red twice inside their 20-yard line.  The kickoff return team deserves praise this week as Thomas ran back one onside kick for a touchdown and the Bulldogs were able to recover Cornell’s second onside attempt to effectively seal the game.