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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.

Yale 46 Brown 16

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.

Yale 10 Columbia 17

Keys to Victory

  • Protect the ball

Playing against an Al Bagnoli-coached team on their own turf is never an easy task.  With projected weather conditions of 52 degrees and rain at kickoff, it will be imperative to hold onto the football.  Check had some issues last week catching the snaps from Cepalia, while Lamar fumbled going into the end zone.  Those mistakes are surefire ways to get beat in a low scoring affair.  We simply can’t afford to give Columbia great field position with Rawlings out of the lineup.  Columbia has a solid kicker that will make us pay in the red zone.

  • Control the line of scrimmage

It’s no secret that Lamar and Alston will be heavily utilized in this contest.  There will not be an element of surprise when they run the ball.  This creates a mano a mano situation.  The offensive line must communicate and overpower defenders at the point of attack.

  • Give Check confidence

No matter how bad the weather conditions are, at some point we will have to throw the ball.  We need to give Check opportunities to connect with Shohfi and Klubnik to build up his confidence and get him in rhythm.  We can’t expect a first time starter to lead us on a long game winning drive in the fourth quarter if he hasn’t throw the ball all day.   Bagnoli is likely devising schemes to stack the box and force us to throw.  Two freshman corners from Columbia will be tasked with shutting down our talented receiving corps which should present a number of opportunities for Check to move the chains in the passing game.  If Check can manage the game, hold onto the ball and take some pressure off of the running game, we will be in a great position to secure a victory.

Columbia Preview

The Bulldogs travel to the Big Apple this weekend to take on the 3-3 (0-3) Columbia Lions.  You can watch the game on ESPN+ at 1 PM ET on Saturday.

Fourth-string freshman QB Ty Lenhart looks like he will get the starting nod for the Lions.  Lenhart does have some experience as he has played in all six contests this season completing 14 of 19 passes for 118 yards and an interception.  Junior Lynnard Rose will likely start at running back with starter Dante Miller out with an injury.  Rose is only averaging 3.0 yards per carry over his 58 rushes, but poses a threat as a receiver out of the backfield averaging 6.9 yards per reception.  With star wideout Josh Wainwright out for the season, Ronald Smith and Kyle Castner have had to pick up the slack and have performed very well this season despite the injuries at the quarterback position.  The tight end is not a crucial component of their passing game as starter Rory Schlageter has only 7 catches for 57 yards on the season.  The offensive line averages 290 lbs. and appears to be on par with Penn’s offensive line.

Columbia’s stingy defense is the heart and soul of the team.  The Lions limited Dartmouth to 7 first half points, 28 total points, and 356 total offensive yards in the contest last week.  The defensive line is one of the smaller lines we have faced this season, but they are quick at the point of attack.  Defensive tackle Mike Hinton (6’4″, 275 lbs.) and defensive end Daniel Delorenzi (6’2″, 235 lbs.) are the top linemen on the roster.  Columbia’s top linebacker, Justin Woodley, is hurt forcing the senior trio of Jacob Young, Cal Falkenhayn, and Sean White to step up in his absence.  Falkenhayn and White are sizable linebackers tipping the scales at 245 lbs. and 240 lbs. respectively.  Strong safety Landon Baty and free safety Ryan Gilbert are Columbia’s most talented defenders.  Baty is returning from an injury suffered in Columbia’s loss to Princeton.  Baty and Gilbert are flanked in the secondary by two freshman corners, Chris Park and Fara’ad McCombs.  Keep an eye on Park as he is making the first start of his career against our very dangerous receiving corps.

Kicker Chris Alleyne was honored last week as the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.  Punter Drew Schmid is averaging 36.3 yards per punt this season.  Columbia has the fifth best kick return yardage in the FCS and has not had a punt blocked this season.

 

Notes on the Win over Penn

The Bulldogs improved to 4-2 (2-1 Ivy) after a 23-10 victory over Penn at Franklin Field on Friday.

Yale started quickly on offense with Lamar’s 47 yard run on the first play from scrimmage.  Rawlings capped off a dominating drive with a 4 yard scamper into the endzone.  Conte connected with Dawson on a two point conversion to put Yale up 8-0 before ESPNU had even switched over to the game.  The offensive line had one of its better games to date paving the way for 244 yards rushing and surrendering only 2 sacks.  Lamar was phenomenal rushing for 179 yards in a punishing fashion.  Alston had a nice game as well averaging 6.1 yards per carry.  Dudek played sparingly still appearing to be suffering some effects from the turf toe injury.  In a devastating series of events, Rawlings was injured fighting for extra yards and just plays later, Lamar fumbled going into the endzone.  It seemed as though it could be the turning point in the game, but luckily the defense was able to contain Penn for the most part.  Jimmy Check showed a lot of poise entering the game and going 5/8 for 59 yards.  He had a few errant passes and bobbled Cepalia’s snaps, however, we expect him to be much crisper against Columbia after a whole week working with the starters.  Shohfi, Klubnik and Howland were excellent in the passing game once again.

The defensive line and linebackers stuffed Penn’s rushing attack limiting them to 14 total yards.  Sampleton and Callender in particular were forces up front.  Noah Pope led the defense in tackles once again posting 10 total tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack.  The linebackers still struggled covering running backs that ran deep routes.  Opponents are going to continue to send the backs on deep routes until we figure out how to stop them.  Penn WR Steve Farrell torched our secondary for 173 yards receiving including an 87 yard reception.  Our corners weren’t playing the ball and safeties were rarely over the top of plays.  There were at least 4 dropped interceptions as well.  Peggs and Keeler were injured during the contest, Rodney Thomas did not play and Malcolm Dixon appeared to be playing through substantial pain.

The special teams highlight was the Conte to Dawson two point conversion.  The lowlights were a blocked extra point and a dropped punt by Shohfi (although to Shohfi’s credit, he made a fantastic play in grabbing the ball before Penn scooped it up.)

Next up: Columbia!

 

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