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.
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.
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.
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!
- Force Penn’s offense to try to convert on 3rd and 4th downs
Penn has struggled to convert on 3rd and 4th downs this season. This makes scoring on long sustained drives difficult for them. We will need to shutdown Karekin Brooks on first and second downs forcing Penn into these uncomfortable situations. If we can dial up some heat on Glover on third downs, we will give our secondary a better chance of batting down balls or intercepting passes. Penn doesn’t have a receiving threat as dangerous as Marquise Irvin from Mercer which bodes well for our young secondary.
- Give Rawlings time to throw the ball
Penn has a very strong pass rush as defenders have racked up 23 sacks over the first five contests. While we’d love to run the ball down their throats with Lamar/Alston and keep their offense off of the field, the Penn defense has been very stingy against the run. Dartmouth’s top rusher had 39 yards, while Columbia’s top rusher had 35 yards. Shohfi, Klubnik, Howland, Roman etc. are dangerous receivers in the passing game, but Rawlings is going to need time to deliver the ball. The offensive line has to communicate, pick up blitzes, and set up quickly in pass protection to keep Rawlings upright. The big hits on Rawlings are starting to add up and we need him healthy to survive not only this contest, but also the Ivy stretch ahead.
- Limit the big plays on defense
With the lackluster pass defense we’ve shown on film, every opponent from here on out will be looking to throw the deep ball. Big plays against our defense have plagued us since the Holy Cross game and we need to find a way to slow down opposing offenses, especially in the second half. There’s no secret formula for success as it boils down to form tackling, having a safety over the top on deep passes, staying true to coverage assignments, and playing the ball when it’s in the air. On paper, this appears to be a very even match-up. One play or one turnover could be the difference in this game as it was in the Penn-Columbia game last week.
The Bulldogs travel to Philadelphia this Friday to take on the Penn Quakers at Franklin Field. You can watch the game on ESPNU on Friday at 7 PM ET.
Penn enters the contest with a 4-1 record (1-1 Ivy) after a close victory over Columbia last week. Columbia was driving downfield in the waning minutes and looked like they would be able to kick a field goal to send the game into overtime, but an errant pass was picked off by Penn sealing Priore’s victory over his mentor. Penn opened the season with impressive victories over Bucknell and Lehigh before dropping their Ivy opener to Dartmouth 37-14. The Quakers bounced back from the Dartmouth loss to defeat Sacred Heart 31-27 and Columbia 13-10.
Sophomore Ryan Glover is a dual-threat quarterback who has completed 59% of his passes this season. Glover is averaging 159 yards passing per game and 44 yards rushing per game. Karekin Brooks is the top threat out of the backfield and has had an excellent season so far averaging 107 rushing yards per game with 7 total touchdowns. Abe Willows is a solid change-of-pace back with 4.7 yards per attempt. Senior wideouts Steve Farrell and Christian Pearson are Glover’s favorite targets, but no receiver has over 200 receiving yards to date. Penn’s offensive line has only surrendered 2 sacks all season. The offense has really struggled to convert on third and fourth downs. The Quakers have converted on only 30% of third downs and have not converted a fourth down in four attempts. Penn becomes much more efficient in the red zone as they have scored points in 16 of 20 situations with 13 of those scores being touchdowns.
Penn always has a stingy defense and this year is no exception. They have allowed just 312 total offensive yards per game while limiting rushers to 2.9 yards per attempt. First Team All-Ivy linebacker Nick Miller leads the Quakers defense with 48 tackles, 4.5 tackles for losses, 3 sacks and a forced fumble. Senior defensive lineman Cooper Gardner has 4 sacks on the season while speedy defensive end Benji Mowatt has 3.5 sacks. Penn’s strong pass rush has made it difficult for opposing teams to exploit the secondary.
On special teams, Penn has made 6 of 10 field goals and averages 38 yards per punt.
The Bulldogs completed their non-conference slate with a 35-28 win over visiting Mercer. Yale now sits at 3-2 overall, 1-1 in the Ivy League and 2-1 in non-conference games.
The passing game was the highlight of the day offensively. Rawlings threw for a whopping 344 yards with 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Shohfi and Klubnik were unstoppable hauling in two touchdowns and one touchdown respectively. Freshman Jaylan Sandifer made a fantastic catch on a 38 yard bomb from Rawlings to score his first touchdown of his career. Howland, Locke and Lamar all had crucial catches as well. Mercer clearly studied film on the quick passing play to Charles out of the backfield as they were able to shut that down on most attempts. Our pass blocking held up most of the time and when it didn’t, Rawlings could usually scramble free. Run blocking was not up to par forcing Lamar and Alston to have to fend off defenders much earlier than anticipated. The guards in particular were struggling when they were tasked with pulling on running plays. Lamar was able to spring free on a few occasions and wound up rushing for a respectable 116 yards. Reno inserted Jimmy Check as the quarterback for two series and he looked promising as he completed three passes for 35 yards. There was no sign of Dudek this week. Hinish continues to play at right guard as well.
Besides a long run from Mercer’s Tee Mitchell, the Bulldogs were able to slow down the ground game this week. A number of youngsters played on the defensive side with Oldacre, Abraham, Ellis, Hickey and Pope seeing extended action. Pope was the best of the bunch with 5 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, 2 forced fumbles and a sack. The fumble that Pope caused and was recovered for a Yale touchdown could have been the difference in the contest. We had no answers in the secondary. Bulldog defensive backs were holding, interfering and not turning their heads to play the ball. Fortunately, most of the pass interference penalties were missed by the officials. John Dean was not seen in action this week.
Galland missed his sole field goal attempt and Locke bobbled a kick return that pinned Yale deep in its own territory.
Dartmouth gashed our defense last week on the ground and Mercer will be looking to establish the run early on in the contest to open up their offense. The success of stopping the run boils down to generating pressure up front, getting off of blocks and making tackles. Linebackers and defensive backs in particular must shed offensive linemen this week. Defensive ends and outside linebackers need to set the edge to funnel runners inside. Mercer has two great running backs with complementary styles, so missed tackles will be crippling. This isn’t simply a key to victory this week, but an area of defense that has to improve to stay in the hunt for an Ivy League title.
- As Belichick likes to say, “Do your job.”
We don’t need Superman on the field on Saturday, just a group of gritty players looking to compete and perform their duties. Yale is a better team than our .500 record shows. We saw flashes of brilliance against Holy Cross, Cornell and Maine when are players were playing as a collective unit. Let’s keep it simple this week and just execute. This is a great opportunity to improve in all facets of the game to prepare us for the difficult slate ahead.
- Limit the mental mistakes on offense
Holding penalties, dropped balls, passes into double coverage, fumbles, missed blocks and illegal touching last week were mainly the result of mental errors. It’s not as though our offense was overmatched, we consistently shot ourselves in the foot. We moved the ball and controlled the clock, but we couldn’t score when it mattered and on two occasions when we did score, penalties erased the touchdowns. Our defense likely isn’t going to shutout good opposing offenses, so we need our high-powered offense to score early and often. Limiting mental errors is the single biggest factor in finishing the season at 8-2. The best defense is a good offense.
The Mercer Bears will travel from Macon, Georgia to the Yale Bowl this week to take on the Bulldogs at 1 PM ET on Saturday. The game will be featured on ESPN+.
Mercer is a fast and talented squad that is 3-1 against FCS teams this season. This is the first time that Mercer has had to fly on a chartered plane to a game, so we will see how they are able to adjust under the new circumstances. Keep in mind Mercer is coming off of a bye week and has had two weeks to study film on the Bulldogs.
Mercer’s starting QB, Robert Riddle, was injured a few weeks ago and we expect to face Kaelan Riley. Riley has been solid in relief of Riddle completing 26 of 42 passes for 304 yards, 3 touchdowns and just one interception. Mercer’s top receiver, Marquise Irvin, is a big target (6’3″, 216 lbs.) with sticky hands. Irvin is averaging over 16 yards per catch. Irvin’s fellow wideout, Stephen Houzah, is a big-play threat who has hauled in receptions of 73 yards and 55 yards. Tee Mitchell and Tyray Devezin are likely the best running backs we have faced this season to date. Mitchell is averaging 5 yards per carry while Devezin is averaging a whopping 7.2 yards per carry. Devezin is a physical specimen at 5’8″, 233 lbs. with legs like tree trunks. Mercer’s offensive line averages 293 lbs. and judging from their press conference, they will be looking to establish the ground game early on in this contest.
Redshirt Junior linebacker Will Coneway leads the Bears defense with 43 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, and one sack. The Bears are very deep at linebacker with 7 different members of the corps that have ten tackles or more. Malique Fleming is a sizable free safety at 208 lbs. who has been playing very well this season after being nominated to the All-Freshman team in the Southern Conference a year ago. Redshirt Senior Isaiah Buehler is the most experience defensive lineman as a four year starter and captain of the team. The Bears have not been particularly great at rushing the quarterback, however, as they have posted just 4 sacks and 7 hits on quarterbacks.