The Game 2015: Keys to The Game

The Game 2015:
Keys to the game

Published on November 19, 2015

With its dreams of an Ivy League championship cast aside, the Yale football team still has a chance to break an eight-game losing streak to its archrival and knock off No. 19 Harvard in the 132nd iteration of The Game. However, against a Crimson squad that has won three of the past four Ancient Eight titles and 22 of its last 23 games, the Elis’ margin of error is exceedingly slim. With an opportunity to dash Harvard’s championship aspirations, Yale must successfully implement its up-tempo style, deploy X-factor Dale Harris ’17 on the ground and keep Harvard’s explosive playmakers from picking up big gains.



(Tresa Joseph, Production & Design Editor)

Harvard’s only loss since October of 2013 came last weekend against a high-flying, fast-paced Penn team that scored 35 points against what was then the best defense in the Ivy League. The Quakers’ offense racked up 409 total yards on 67 plays, while the Crimson had previously allowed 299.5 yards per game. While Penn’s productivity can be chalked up to a combination of its ability to break open big plays with vertical threats and to take advantage of Harvard’s mistakes, the Quakers’ game plan also provides a neat blueprint for the Bulldogs.

Throughout the entire game, the longest drive of Penn’s no-huddle offense of Penn lasted 3:23. Quick strikes combined with downfield shots enabled the Quakers to move the ball more efficiently than any of Harvard’s prior opponents. With eight seniors starting, Harvard’s defense has proven itself before, but last Saturday, that was not enough. Penn quarterback Alek Torgersen picked on mismatches between receivers and linebackers all day, completing five passes of 20 yards or more.

Yale, meanwhile, averages an even 79.0 plays per game, due in part to its own no-huddle spread offense. The Bulldogs get to the line and get off plays faster than every other team in the league, an attribute that will come in handy when a bruising Crimson defense comes to town. The more the Elis push the pace, the better off they will be against Harvard. The question remaining is whether Yale will have enough healthy weapons to execute the offensive schemes head coach Tony Reno has crafted.


(Tresa Joseph, Production & Design Editor)

With an injury to second-string running back Deshawn Salter ’18 in Week 6, and the team’s first- and third-string rushers already out for the season, Yale’s running game was in a precarious position after back-to-back league losses leading up to its Nov. 7 meeting against Brown. Enter Dale Harris ’17, a starting cornerback for the past two seasons. The former high school running back returned to the backfield and exploded against Brown, tallying 71 yards on 12 carries in his debut.

His 177-yard effort against Princeton the following week, which included a 71-yard scamper for a touchdown, demonstrated that his debut was not a fluke. Harris, who according to his high school recruiting profile ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds, has leapfrogged his way to being Yale’s second leading rusher this season, and top in efficiency with 5.9 yards per carry. Aided by acceleration and physicality, Harris has demonstrated his ability to run both in and around the tackle box. The reemergence of the running game has elevated the entire offense, easing the burden on quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 and allowing the team to execute read-option plays more effectively.

Placing the dynamism of the offense on Harris’ shoulders might not be fair, but a strong game from the junior will greatly improve Yale’s chances. With only two games’ worth of film on the Bulldogs’ new weapon, Harvard could struggle to control the speedster from breaking loose on a big play — the sort of big plays that proved to be the Crimson’s undoing against Penn last week.


(Tresa Joseph, Production & Design Editor)

While Yale’s chances for success will depend on a strong offensive performance, it is equally crucial that the defense limits Harvard’s big playmakers. Against Penn, the Crimson relied on pass catchers like tight end Ben Braunecker and wide receivers Andrew Fischer and Anthon Firsker to move the chains with receptions of 10-plus yards. The Crimson currently stands at the top of the conference with 8.9 yards per passing attempt.

With Harvard’s All-Ivy center Anthony Fabiano “most likely out,” according to Crimson head coach Tim Murphy, the Bulldogs’ defense may have a better chance to disrupt plays early on. Should the front seven manage to break through Harvard’s offensive line, the group can pressure Crimson quarterback Scott Hosch before he has the opportunity to air it out, easing the pressure on Yale’s secondary.

The Eli defense has demonstrated its ability in the clutch: Over the past two weeks, the unit has amassed four fourth-quarter interceptions and provided key stops to seal victories for the team. The defense needs to turn in a 60-minute performance on Saturday in order to shut down Crimson playmakers and prevent them from taking control of The Game through big plays.


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