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Notes on the loss to Princeton

The Bulldogs fell to the Tigers by 15 points on Saturday after a lengthy weather delay in New Jersey. Yale’s opportunity to remain tied for first place in the Ivy League was erased and the road to a title now requires a win versus Harvard and losses by both Princeton and Dartmouth in their final contests.

The offense’s inability to sustain drives was the key factor in this devastating loss. Grooms completed just 38.9% of his passes for 102 yards, no touchdowns and 3 interceptions. The inaccuracy of Grooms was on full display with passes overthrown, underthrown or simply thrown directly to opponents. The offensive line could not handle Princeton’s aggressive blitz packages forcing Grooms to run for his life on most passing downs. This was a contest in which Yale needed to come up with big plays on offense and each opportunity was squandered in the second half. Two potential scoring plays with receivers streaking past defenders were lost to poorly placed passes, while a perfect deep throw to Howland was dropped. Alston had a decent outing in the ground game averaging 4.6 yards per carry yet after the disastrous defensive effort in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, Yale was forced to become one dimensional in an attempt to stage a comeback. The play calling never evolved to aid a rattled Grooms and instead placed the inexperienced signal caller in unfavorable high-pressure scenarios. Had Reno managed the clock properly, some of the pressure could have been alleviated which would have boosted Yale’s odds.

While the defense came up with big plays early on to keep the Bulldogs alive in this contest, compounded errors in the 2nd and 3rd quarters allowed Princeton to establish a commanding lead. In the ground game, there was no containment from the defensive ends and the linebackers and defensive backs took poor pursuit angles that washed them out of the plays. Princeton’s Cole Smith had his way with Yale’s secondary throwing for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns. Defensive backs routinely blew coverages, held receivers and refused to turn their heads to play the ball in the air. Smith was sacked 3 times but overall, the Tigers’ offensive line held up much better in this contest than they had versus Harvard and Dartmouth. The defensive preparation from the coaching staff leading into this contest was clearly lackluster as Surace’s offense found success with the same base plays that we should have studied on film.

The performance of the special teams units was one of the lone bright spots of this contest. Our punt return team blocked a Princeton punt that set-up the offense in great field position. Bosman was perfect on field goal attempts and PAT’s while still averaging 37.5 yards per punt in poor weather conditions. If this game had come down to special teams as the deciding factor, the Bulldogs could have prevailed with a victory, however, the offensive and defensive units were outplayed and outcoached to such an extent that the special teams’ performance only served to keep this contest closer.

Princeton Preview

The Bulldogs travel to Princeton, New Jersey this weekend to face the 7-1 Princeton Tigers. Kickoff is slated for 1 PM and the game will air on ESPN+.

The Tigers were dominated by the Big Green in a Friday night contest in Hanover losing 31-7. Dartmouth’s defensive line manhandled Princeton’s offensive line generating 6 sacks. Senior quarterback Cole Smith looked flustered under pressure and was never able to settle into a rhythm. Senior running back and captain Collin Eaddy suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter which seemed to shell shock the Tigers. Dartmouth’s Derek Kyler had his way with the Princeton secondary completing 84.2% of his passes for 3 touchdowns. Princeton led the contest in both first downs and time of possession but was only able to score on 1 of 4 trips to the redzone and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Coach Surace will surely correct the mental errors and fortify the Tigers’ offensive strategy with an extra day of preparation before facing the Elis.

Senior quarterback Cole Smith (6’1”, 210 lbs.) is currently second in the Ivy League in passing yards completing 66.4% of his passes for 2,083 yards, 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Smith was dominant through the first five weeks of the season before throwing 4 interceptions versus Harvard. In the Harvard and Dartmouth contests, Smith failed to throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted a combined 5 times. Smith’s performance largely depends on the play of his offensive line. Senior tackle Reily Radosevich (6’3”, 270 lbs.) is the leader of the offensive line and a former 1st Team All-Ivy selection. The offensive line features 5 seniors all of whom have prior starting experience (2 with All-Ivy awards) and averages 288 lbs. across the board. Harvard was able to expose cracks along Princeton’s offensive front, while Dartmouth fully exploited the weaknesses. With Collin Eaddy out with an injury, Princeton will likely lean on freshman running back John Volker (5’10”, 200 lbs.) for the bulk of the carries. Volker had a solid outing at Dartmouth scoring a touchdown and averaging 5.0 yards per carry. The Tigers possess several receiving threats that will challenge our secondary. Senior WR Jacob Birmelin (5’9”, 170 lbs.) leads Princeton in receiving yards with 52 catches for 669 yards and 2 touchdowns. Junior WR Andrei Iosivas (6’3”, 200 lbs.) is the top scoring threat with 31 catches for 583 yards and 5 touchdowns. Rounding out the receiving corps is senior Dylan Classi (6’1”, 200 lbs.) who has hauled in 27 catches for 475 yards and 2 touchdowns. Senior tight end Carson Bobo (6’5”, 255 lbs.) is a well-rounded tight end that can block or stretch the secondary.

Senior linebacker Jeremiah Tyler (6’1”, 225 lbs.) is the leader of the Tigers’ defense and the most talented player on the roster. Tyler was a 1st Team All-Ivy selection in 2019 as well as a finalist for the Bushnell Cup. Senior LB James Johnson (5’10”, 210 lbs.) was an Honorable Mention All-Ivy selection in 2019 and has played well this season posting 44 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. Senior CB Delan Stallworth (5’11”, 180) has not played in two games this season due to injury but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the top defenders in the Ivy League. Princeton will be without senior safety Trevor Forbes (6’0”, 205 lbs.) for the first half of the contest as he was ejected for targeting in the second half of Princeton’s loss to Dartmouth. The Bulldogs will need to challenge the Tigers’ secondary early on to capitalize on the absence of Forbes. Senior defensive end Samuel Wright (6’0”, 255 lbs.) has had his way with opposing offensive linemen en route to 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks on the season. Junior defensive lineman Uche Ndukwe (6’4”, 270 lbs.) and junior OLB Cole Aubrey (6’2”, 215 lbs.) have combined for another 11 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Overall, Princeton is very stout on defense and is likely the second-best unit we have faced this season.

Freshman kicker Jeffrey Sexton has made 76.5% of his field goal attempts this season and has not missed a field goal beyond 40 yards. Pantelis should have an opportunity to flash his skill set on kickoff returns as Sexton has only generated 14 touchbacks on 50 kickoffs. Junior punter Will Powers seems to be on his way to another All-Ivy selection averaging 44.6 yards per punt with a long of 75 yards.

Go Bulldogs!

Notes on the win over Brown

The Bulldogs defeated the Bears on Saturday in a 63-38 shootout in Providence. With Princeton’s loss to Dartmouth, Yale now finds itself tied for first place in the Ivy League with two games remaining. Given Dartmouth’s remaining schedule, Yale will likely need to go 2-0 down the stretch to claim a share of the title.

Grooms continued to add to his highlight reel finishing 18 of 26 for 330 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. Dudek was still out with an injury suffered in the UCONN game, so Reno opted for a running back by committee approach that proved successful. Alston led the pack with 84 rushing yards (6.5 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns. Josh McKenzie looked solid adding 25 yards and a touchdown on just 4 carries. Peterson and McElwain also found success averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 4.3 yards per carry respectively. Rouse was unstoppable hauling in 5 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Carrington finished with 3 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown on a 65-yard pass from Grooms. Pantelis was one of the stars on Saturday with a receiving touchdown, a rushing touchdown on a fumble recovery and several great kick returns. The offensive line had one of its better performances this season as far as run blocking and an above average day in pass blocking. 3 sacks were allowed in the contest but 2 of the sacks appeared to be coverage sacks.

The defense did just enough to hold on for a victory yet without the offense’s 7 touchdowns, this would have been a very different game. Brown racked up 507 yards of total offense, 25 first downs and scored on all 3 trips to the redzone. Perry completed 56.8% of his passes for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns while running for another 74 net yards and catching a 64-yard touchdown on a trick play. Brown’s rushing attack accounted for 171 yards or 4.2 yards per carry as the Bulldogs failed to assert dominance at the line of scrimmage. Pass defense was a sore spot for Yale as Brown posted 336 passing yards for a 14.6 yards per catch average. Perry attacked the edges of Yale’s secondary finding open receivers all too often. Our defense’s depth was hampered by the absences of Owens and Awodiran who can hopefully bounce back for the final two contests. Freshman corner Sean Guyton saw extended playing time and intercepted Perry twice, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Pope was in the right place at the right time recovering a Brown fumble for a scoop-and-score touchdown. The two defensive scores by the Elis were backbreakers for the Bears who could not afford any offensive miscues to stay alive in this shootout. Our defensive coaches have much work to do over the next two weeks in trying to craft gameplans that will limit the Tigers and Crimson.

Bosman was perfect on all 9 PAT’s but missed a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter.  Pantelis was explosive on kick returns with 4 returns for a whopping 152 yards. Princeton and Harvard will certainly be taking a hard look at their kickoff coverage with the threat of a long return by Pantelis.

Brown Preview

The Bulldogs travel to Providence this weekend to face the 2-5 Brown Bears. Kickoff is slated for noon and the game will air on NESN and ESPN+.

Brown fell to Penn last weekend in Philadelphia 17-45 but showed tremendous offensive firepower in the Week 6 defeat of Cornell (49-45) and the Week 5 loss to Princeton (42-56). Yale defeated Brown 59-35 in 2019 despite Brown’s EJ Perry throwing for 331 yards and 4 touchdowns and running for 140 yards and a touchdown.

Yale’s strategy this week will revolve around containing Brown’s senior quarterback EJ Perry (6’2”, 210 lbs). Perry transferred to Brown prior to the 2019 season after spending his first two years at Boston College. Perry quickly established himself as one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the Ivy League in 2019 and was named 1st Team All-Ivy while leading the nation in offensive yards per game (367.8 yards per game). While Brown has not provided Perry with the necessary supporting cast to compete for an Ivy League Championship, Perry’s talent alone gives the Bears a chance to defeat any Ivy opponent on any given Saturday. Through the first 7 games, Perry has completed just under 67% of his passes for 2,290 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Opponents have done a better job limiting Perry in the running game by containing him to just 2.7 yards per carry this season. Brown features two talented running backs in senior Allen Smith (5’10”, 200 lbs.) and freshman Jordan DeLucia (5’11”, 210 lbs.). Smith has averaged 4.1 yards per carry, while DeLucia has averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Junior wide receiver Wes Rocket (6’0”, 175 lbs.) is Perry’s favorite passing target hauling in 44 catches for 527 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season. Junior wideout Hayes Sutton (6’0”, 200 lbs.) leads the Bears in touchdown receptions with 7. Sophomore wide receiver Graham Walker (6’3”, 200 lbs.) has prototypical size and has played very well in his first season with 14.0 yards per reception and 5 receiving touchdowns. Brown’s offensive line is slightly undersized averaging 277 lbs. across the board and struggled to contain Penn’s defensive line last week allowing 8 sacks. Senior tackle Chad Broom-Webster (6’4”, 275 lbs.) is Brown’s top lineman and was a 2nd Team All-Ivy selection in 2019.

 While Brown has some of the most talented offensive skill position players in the league, the Bears’ defense has been a limiting factor for the team’s success this season. Brown’s defense has allowed 443.4 yards of total offense per game (6.7 yards per play) and 39 total touchdowns. In the redzone, the Bears have given up 24 touchdowns on 29 total series inside the 20-yard line. Junior outside linebacker Junior Gafa (5’10”, 200 lbs.) leads the Bears in tackles with 41 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and a sack. Senior inside linebacker Jason Medeiros (6’0”, 220 lbs.) has started since his freshman season and is currently second on the team in tackles with 35 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Junior safety Josh Ofili (6’2”, 190 lbs.) has been the most productive member of the secondary with 34 tackles, a tackle for loss and 3 pass break-ups. Senior safety Clayton Perrin (6’1”, 200 lbs.) is a multi-year starter and has posted 30 tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception. Senior defensive end Callum Flanders (6’3”, 260 lbs.) has been the leader along the defensive front for the Bears with 26 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.

Freshman kicker Christopher Maron is 4 for 7 on field goals this season with a long of 48 yards. Maron has not missed a field goal attempt under 40 yards. Sophomore punter Declan Boyle is one of the top punters in the Ivy League averaging 42.9 yards per punt with 6 punts over 50 yards.

Go Bulldogs!

Notes on the Win over Columbia

The Bulldogs defeated the Lions 37-30 on Saturday to improve to 4-3, the first winning record that Yale has posted since Week 3. The Ivy League Championship race is still wide open and the Bulldogs can claim a share of the title with a strong 3-0 finish to the season.

Nolan Grooms spearheaded a stellar offensive effort that generated 421 total yards and 4 touchdowns. Grooms finished 20 of 29 for 279 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air and added another 40 net rushing yards. With Dudek still out with an injury, Alston had a career day with 116 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns as well as a receiving touchdown. The offensive line shook off some early struggles against Columbia’s talented front seven and played particularly well in the second half. Tipton and Rouse have established themselves as one of the most dynamic receiving duos in the Ivy League combining for 191 receiving yards. Nenad and Carrington both had key catches, while the tight ends Hawes and Howland kept the Lion’s secondary guessing with 7 combined receptions. Our offense seems to have hit a stride at the perfect time as we will face 3 high-flying offenses to finish the season.

While the offense has improved under Groom’s leadership, the defensive performance has declined considerably over the last few weeks. Columbia’s Ryan Young rushed for 92 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns including a 60-yard scamper. The defensive line and linebackers were not plugging gaps efficiently and when backs broke into the secondary, our corners and safeties had trouble making tackles. Columbia’s quarterback Joe Greene was held to just a 50% completion rate on 44 attempts, but too often we witnessed Columbia’s receivers getting behind our defenders. Across the board from Dean to Owens, there were coverage lapses that need to be corrected in a hurry. The defense has shown tremendous resiliency in the fourth quarters of the last two contests to secure victories, but we will require a consistently dominant performance over the next three weeks squaring off against the league’s best quarterback at Brown, the league’s top offensive unit at Princeton and the league’s most talented offensive roster at home versus Harvard.

Errors in our special teams units including a bad snap and a missed PAT placed our defense in poor field position and contributed greatly to the early deficit.  On the other hand, Rouse’s 86-yard punt return for a touchdown near the end of the second quarter along with the successful 2-point attempt seemed to shift the momentum in the contest. Special teams could be the deciding factor in the hunt for an Ivy League title, so continued improvement in this area will be vital to our chances.

Columbia Preview

The Bulldogs are coming off their best offensive performance of the season in last week’s contest versus Penn.    Grooms was the star of the game leading in both passing yards (18 for 27 for 283 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception) and rushing yards (16 carries for 113 yards).  Tipton was exceptional hauling in difficult catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.  Dudek was held out of the lineup for an injury sustained in the UCONN contest and the traditional running game with McElwain and Alston never really founds its footing.  Tre Peterson appeared to be a very quick and dangerous runner in his three carries.  The offensive line struggled to contain the Penn defensive front in the running game, but Grooms was so slippery that he was able to effectively negate the pass rushing from the Quakers.

The Yale defense did not start out as sharply as they finished the UCONN contest.  Penn’s running backs Malcome and Flowers were able to find early success carving through the front seven.  The Quakers opted to start freshman quarterback Aidan Sayan and he was able to connect for two touchdowns but never found his rhythm in the second half finishing just 12 of 28 for 114 yards.  The pass interference issues in the secondary need to be cleaned up in a hurry.  The defense clamped down on the rushing attack in the second half and came up with big plays when necessary to secure the victory.

Bosman was perfect on PAT’s and had an average punting day with 39.7 yards per punt.

This week the Bulldogs host the Columbia Lions (5-1) at the Bowl.  Kickoff is slated for noon and the game will be televised on ESPN+.

The Lions dismantled the Big Green last Friday in a shocking 19-0 upset in Hanover.  The Lions played nearly flawless on defense, while manhandling the Big Green’s defensive front and limiting the errors offensively.  Bagnoli has pieced together his strongest Columbia squad to date, so this contest presents another difficult test for the Bulldogs.  Yale still controls its own destiny as winning out would secure at least a share of the Ivy League title.

The Columbia offense is led by sophomore quarterback Joe Greene (6’4”, 215 lbs.) who had a very efficient outing at Dartmouth with 14 completions on 22 attempts for 98 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.  The Lions have a bruising runner in senior Ryan Young (5’9”, 230 lbs.) as well as a more balanced running back in senior Dante Miller (5’9”, 185 lbs.).  The most eye-opening aspect of the Columbia-Dartmouth game was how the Columbia offensive line neutralized Dartmouth’s talented front seven.  Senior and captain Stew Newblatt (6’3”, 290 lbs.) is the leader of the offensive line that limited Dartmouth to just one sack.

Dartmouth wasn’t able to find success in the rushing or passing game versus Columbia.  The Big Green were held to just 262 yards of total offense, 13 first downs, and a meager 60 rushing yards.  Senior safety Ben Mathiasmeier leads the team in tackles with 35 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 3 interceptions.  Yale will catch a break in the first half this week as Mathiasmeier was penalized for targeting last week and will be held out of the first half of the game.  Senior linebacker Cam Dillon has been a star for the Lions with 31 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. Fellow senior linebacker Justin Woodley is one of the top linebackers in the Ivy League and has been playing well with 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.   Senior defensive lineman Paul Akere has been too much to handle for opposing offensive lines racking up 28 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.

Kicker Alex Felkins is 10 of 16 on field goals for the season with a long of 41 yards.  Punter Drew Schmid has been solid with 41.0 yards per punt.

Go Bulldogs!