- Disrupt Dartmouth’s QB
Sophomore Derek Kyler hasn’t taken any huge hits or been flustered yet this season, but Dartmouth hasn’t played a team like Yale. Kyler locks onto one target and 99% of the time, he throws to that receiver without even taking a peak at his other reads. The Dartmouth coaching staff keeps the playbook very simple for him with the majority of the passes being short, outside routes or screens. Kyler will occasionally throw deep passes to Hagdorn or Hunnicutt, yet intermediate routes are non-existent. Dartmouth is trying to conceal the fact that he can’t make complex reads under pressure. If guys like Roman and Matthaie can generate pressure without blitzing and get hits on Kyler, his confidence will be rattled. His frail frame cannot withstand an onslaught from our defenders.
- Block Linebacker Jack Traynor
Dartmouth’s defensive line is stocked with big bodies that clog running lanes. These linemen are not necessarily fast or great at disengaging from blockers. Jackson Perry in particular has really struggled with cut blocks this season. Dartmouth relies heavily on Traynor and other linebackers to make plays all over the field. If the Bulldogs can assign a blocker to Traynor on every play and get our playmakers in space, Dartmouth will be in trouble. Dartmouth’s secondary simply does not have the talent to stop players such as Shohfi once they get loose.
- Push around the Dartmouth offensive line
Dartmouth’s offensive line has been one of its strengths thus far. They are great at pass blocking, but only above average at run blocking. There were several plays in Dartmouth’s contest against Holy Cross where Dartmouth’s vaunted offensive line was manhandled on running downs. We believe from firsthand experience that Coach Keith Clark is not an elite offensive line coach. If the Bulldogs start pushing the Dartmouth line around, Clark and company will panic. A close contest favors the Bulldogs as Dartmouth’s kicking game is lackluster.
The Bulldogs square off against the Dartmouth Big Green this Friday at 6 PM ET at the Bowl. You can watch the game on ESPNU. The weather shouldn’t be a factor with a 64 degree temperature at kickoff, but the playing surface could be slick with all the rain Connecticut has had this week.
Sophomore Quarterback Derek Kyler leads the Big Green’s offense and has been highly efficient this season completing 58 of 77 attempts for 7 touchdowns and only one interception. Dartmouth’s offensive line is the most talented to date featuring 6’7″, 325 lb. left tackle Matt Kaskey. Kyler doesn’t have the frame to sustain a continued beating and telegraphs where he is throwing the ball, but his offensive line has kept defenders at bay and his receivers have torched opposing secondaries. Hunnicutt, Hagdorn and Estrada are dangerous receiving threats that will challenge our secondary. Tight End Connor Rempel has been productive this season catching 11 passes for two touchdowns. Roughly 64% of the play calls have been runs, although this figure could be deceiving considering Dartmouth has held large leads in each contest and was trying to burn time off the clock. Miles Smith, Rashaad Cooper and Caylin Parker form the running back rotation and Cooper has had the most success this season averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Look for Dartmouth to utilize wildcat QB and utility player Jared Gerbino in various roles on Friday.
The heart and soul of this season’s Dartmouth squad is their defense. The Big Green’s defense has All-Ivy talent at all three levels. Defensive tackle Jackson Perry is the most talented linemen of the bunch racking up two sacks and three tackles for losses in just three contests. Overall, the defensive line looks to be on par with Maine’s unit if not slightly better. Linebacker Jack Traynor is a machine who had ten tackles a year ago versus the Bulldogs. In the secondary, Isiah Swann has been phenomenal as he leads the Ivy League with four interceptions. Errant passes this week could spell doom for the Elis.
On special teams, Connor Davis is an average kicker with 5 field goals out of 9 attempts and 13 of 14 extra points. Punter Davis Brief has struggled averaging 31.7 yards per punt. The kick return and punt return teams are excellent accounting for 33 yards per kick return and just under 14 yards per punt return.
The Bulldogs came out fired up for their home opener on Saturday with Kurt Rawlings leading Yale on a gutsy scoring drive on the first possession. Long passes to Shohfi and Howland set Yale up in good position before Rawlings finished it off with a one yard scamper into the end zone. Rawlings sported an elbow brace on his left elbow (in addition to his usual knee brace) and the nagging injury appeared to cause him some pain on that initial drive.
Shofi and Klubnik were no match for the Black Bears’ secondary. Shohfi finished with ten catches for 124 yards, while Klubnik added six catches for 85 yards and three touchdowns. Garrett White and CJ McCord saw extended action at the third wide receiver position. At the tight end spot, Howland had three catches for 69 yards and Roman made his first career catch for 23 yards on a crucial drive.
Aside from Charles’ touchdown run, the offensive line struggled with run blocking. Alston was only able to average 2.4 yards per carry with his longest run being just 11 yards. Dudek and Lamar did not suit up. High snaps plagued the Bulldogs in the first half, but Cepalia was able to clean it up for the second half. Pass blocking was hit or miss, yet for the most part, Rawlings had a couple of seconds on each play to get rid of the ball. Rawlings has great awareness of where pressure is coming from and can often escape from the first pass rusher. The player of the game was easily Rawlings who threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense had their best outing of the year on Saturday. Two big scoring plays from the Black Bears kept the contest close in the second half. Tackling and pursuit were much improved from a week ago, although poor tackling did lead to one of the long scoring plays. On the other Maine touchdown, the running back ran by Awodiran for a long reception as Awodiran was caught peeking back to the quarterback. Rodney Thomas had his best career game with five solo tackles and two passes defended that were nearly interceptions. Dathan Hickey made solid improvements from a week ago. Dixon and Henson were not seen in the secondary. Hunter Roman was stellar once again and Matthaie, Keeler and Moore performed well along the defensive line.
Galland was 5/5 on extra points and averaged 40.4 yards per punt. He also handled much of the kickoff duty and we’re unsure if Blake Horn was hurt or if Reno simply wanted to squib it to throw off the Maine kick return team. The Yale Bowl’s grass was in poor shape and several young players without much experience playing on the surface were slipping.
Yale faces off against the Dartmouth Big Green at 6 PM ET on Friday at the Bowl.
- Dial up the heat
We might be fortunate enough to see Maine’s backup QB and we need to find a way to bring pressure on passing downs to disrupt his rhythm. Blitzes must be effective though as leaving our young secondary exposed will get us beat by the Black Bears’ talented wideouts. Utilizing line stunts and finding favorable matchups for Moore, Kissel, Roman, Sampleton, Callender and Nickerson will be crucial this week.
- Attack the Maine defense vertically
The only glaring weakness on the Maine defense is the secondary. Rawlings (or Conte) won’t have much time to throw the ball, but must stay strong in the pocket just long enough to deliver a strike to Shohfi or Klubnik. Maine has slowed every opponent’s rushing attack thus far, so we won’t be able to stay in the game simply handing it off to Alston every play.
- Limit the big plays on defense
Plays that would have gone for twenty yards last year are now long touchdowns this season due to poor tackling, lack of pursuit and atrocious angles. We mentioned last week how Rodney Thomas’ bad angles led to long Cornell scoring plays. The blame can’t be placed on him though as no other defenders were in pursuit and several others had already missed the ball carrier. We have to get better this week at wrapping up and hustling to the ball. It’s going to be a long season with a lot of missed opportunities if we can’t grasp the basics.
Above all, we need to stay healthy, compete and use this game as a chance to improve before the brutal Ivy schedule. Princeton has been dominant, Harvard won’t be a pushover and Dartmouth looks even better than they did a year ago.
The Maine Black Bears travel to the Bowl on Saturday take on the Bulldogs at 1 PM ET. You can watch the game on ESPN+.
Maine (2-1) is currently ranked #16 in the FCS subdivision and will be the most talented foe to date. Maine dominated University of New Hampshire 35-7 in the season opener before traveling to Bowling Green, Kentucky to knock off BCS opponent, Western Kentucky, 31-28. Maine traveled to Mount Pleasant, Michigan last week to square off against another BCS squad, Central Michigan, and lost a close contest 5-17. Maine’s starting quarterback, Chris Ferguson, suffered an upper body injury against Central Michigan and is questionable for Saturday.
Maine features a bruising offensive line with only one starter under 300 lbs. Quarterback Chris Ferguson has completed 35 of 63 attempts for 405 yards, 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. If he’s ruled out Saturday, Isaiah Robinson will get the nod. Robinson has struggled in the passing game completing only 50% of his passes with no touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Joe Fitzpatrick and Ramon Jefferson split carriers for the Black Bears. Fitzpatrick is a 230 lb. power runner, whereas Jefferson is more of a classic tailback with speed and moves. Jaquan Blair and Micah Wright are the top receivers and will be tough for our young secondary to contain.
Maine’s defense has been impressive this season led by their NFL-sized linebackers. Senior linebacker Sterling Sheffield (6’2″ 240 lbs.) has racked up 26 tackles, 7.5 tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks, while sophomore linebacker Deshawn Stevens (6’1″ 250 lbs.) has accumulated 25 tackles, 3.5 tackles for losses and 2 sacks over three contests. As a whole, the Black Bear defense has only allowed 40.7 rushing yards per game and 184 passing yards per game. Keep in mind two of those games were against BCS teams. The defensive line is average sized with starters ranging from 250 lbs. to 280 lbs., but they are fast and eat up blockers allowing the linebackers to roam freely. If there is any area of weakness on this defense, it would have to be the secondary. Western Kentucky was able to throw for 347 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions against the Black Bears.
The Bulldogs emerged victorious on Saturday in a 30-24 contest against the Cornell Big Red. Dudek scored twice on the ground, Alston added another rushing touchdown and Galland notched three field goals.
Lamar, Locke, Rouse and Tribble were all missing from the starting offensive lineup. Dudek was clearly not at one hundred percent forcing freshman Spencer Alston to carry the load. Alston was phenomenal gaining 120 yards on 18 carries. Although Alston’s only listed at 5’10”, 185 lbs., he was a load for Cornell to bring down often breaking multiple tackles. Reno and Lett found another needle in the haystack. Jacob Hinish started at right guard with Tribble out and struggled at times with holding and pass blocking. The pass blocking overall was not up to par and if it weren’t for Rawlings’ great scrambling ability, the Bulldogs would have been in serious trouble. Run blocking was hit or miss with penetration killing many plays. Klubnik and Shohfi had great afternoons amassing 100 yards and 91 yards receiving respectively. Freshman Noah Aaron filled in for Locke and had two nice grabs. Freshman Trenton Charles made his rushing debut, but was stuffed by the Cornell defense on his two attempts.
On defense, Henson and Dixon were injured early on in the contest. Freshmen Kyle Ellis and Dathan Hickey filled in and performed admirably given the circumstances. Yale played with a more traditional four man front that featured Kissel, Crowle, Matthaei, and Moore as starters. Roman, Callender, Sampleton and Reid Nickerson rotated in at defensive end, while Keeler and Julian Fraser rotated in at defensive tackle. Roman was the star of the defense on Saturday with 7 tackles, 1 sack, 4 tackles for losses and 1 pass breakup. Moore had a much better showing this week as he kept containment and shutdown a number of Cornell’s plays. Callender played sparingly indicating that he may not be fully recovered from an injury. Freshman Reid Nickerson was a pleasant surprise as he generated pressure and made a few tackles in limited playing time. His fellow classmate Noah Pope saw action and racked up two solo tackles. The linebackers had issues with tackling in the first half, but played much better in the second half. On Cornell’s two long scoring plays in the first half, Rodney Thomas took horrible angles on the runners and should have been able to track them down with the proper pursuit. Despite missing two starters in the secondary, coverage was much improved from week 1.
Aside from one missed field goal on a long attempt and blown kickoff coverage, the special teams units were solid. Galland will prove to be a difference maker in Ivy contests this season.
- Stay aggressive on offense
Cornell limited a more talented opponent in Delaware to just 14 joints over three quarters. On obvious running plays, the Big Red were able to clog the holes and gang tackle the running backs. Yale will need to open up the playbook this week to keep Cornell guessing. Misdirections, crossing patterns over the middle and deep routes were successful for Delaware. Screens, reverses and quarterback draws should be utilized this week in addition to pounding the rock with our backs. Hopefully Lamar and Dudek aren’t too banged up from last week. The second half of the Holy Cross game was mismanaged by our offensive staff calling the game too conservatively. Playing to not lose the contest will get you beat every time and we must learn from the loss to get back on track this week.
- Master the fundamentals on defense
One of the most frustrating aspects of our defense last week was that our defensive line could not get lined up before the snap of the ball. Playing with only two down linemen is already a head-scratcher, but not being lined up is unacceptable especially when you consider the fact that middle linebackers are tasked with playing a stand-up defensive end position against 300 lb. offensive tackles. Tackling and coverage must improve this week as well. The corners and safeties were often glued to receivers, yet they did not turn to play the ball. Arm tackling and face guarding are recipes for disaster versus the Big Red.
- Win the turnover battle
Dudek has to hold onto the ball this week and Rawlings needs to be wary of throwing errant passes in the direction of Cornell’s All-Ivy corners. If our secondary can’t improve, we cannot squander any possession to stay in this game. This is going to be a tight contest decided by a score or a turnover as recent history suggests.