Saturday, October 03, 2009

Leopards tame Bulldogs

Considering that Lafayette beat Ivy League championship contender Penn last week, it's hardly shocking that the Leopards defeated a young Yale squad 31-14 Saturday at the Yale Bowl.

But the way it all went down caught my eye. I was struck by the jersey of Lafayette quarterback Rob Curley in the post-game press conference. Other than a patch of dirt on his left shoulder, the uniform was in pristine condition. This is after playing a game in the rain on a grass field. Curley was sacked once by linebacker Paul Rice. The defensive line barely got near Curley and Yale seemed content to let him play pitch and catch with his receivers. Curley took a nasty hit which knocked him out of the Penn game. With the Bulldogs struggling to stay with dangerous receiver Mark Layton, at times it appeared like it was akin to stealing candy from a baby. Curley targeted Layton 10 times on 28 throws and they hooked up 7 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

Yale coach Tom Williams disagreed with my assertion that the Bulldogs did not put pressure on Curley and credited the lack of sacks to the Leopards opting for short drops and quick throws. Well, the numbers (20 of 28 passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns) don't lie. The Bulldogs had no answers on defense against either Curley or running back Maurice White, who ran 21 times for 131 yards.

Lafayette, on the other hand, sacked Yale quarterbacks Patrick Witt and Brook Hart six times. Some of those can be attributed to the two Yale QBs holding onto the ball too long and it certainly didn't help that starting center Jake Koury's ailing left calf only allowed him to play a couple of series. Hart played one series in the first half and came into the game with Lafayette leading 24-7 in the fourth quarter.

Aided by Lafayette playing in a prevent mode on defense, willing to allow passes to be completed in the middle of the field so the clock would run. Hart was 13 of 17 for 154 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked four times which was his Achilles' heel last year. Hart has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long but when he gets the throws off, he is a remarkably accurate thrower with the strongest arm on the Yale team.

On Tuesday Williams said he had no plans to play Hart unless something happened to Witt. By Thursday, Williams and offensive coordinator Brian Stark met with Hart for 5-10 minutes after practice to chat. Now there is a bonafide quarterback controversy at Yale. Look for more on Hart in Monday's edition of the Register.

Regardless of who is under center against Dartmouth in the next game, getting improved play from the offensive line is a must. Ben Meyer, Jeff Marrs and Gabe Fernandez were among the reserves who saw time on the top offensive line on Saturday. One thing I noticed in the preseason is that Yale's starting offensive line kept changing from the intrasquad scrimmage to the scrimmage against Union and the practices I attended. That is usually not a good sign.

Injury wise, Williams said Rice - knocked out of the game after he was the recipient of a crushing block on a special teams return - could have come back in. The status of Koury will bear watching while kickoff returner Ricky Galvez was also knocked out of the game.

Defensively, Larry Abare had 11 tackles and forced a fumble on the opening kickoff. Tim Handlon had 10 tackles while Adam Money had seven tackles and an interception. Yale's defensive linemen finished with six solo tackles and should have been more involved. They were pushed off the ball on a regular basis by Lafayette.

The good news is that Lafayette might be the best team Yale sees this year and the loss does not hamper the Bulldogs' Ivy League championship hopes. The Bulldogs return to Ivy League play when they host Dartmouth on Oct. 10.

The offensive balance was much better for the Bulldogs who ran the ball 29 times and threw it 31 times. A 13-yard run showed the potential of freshman running back Mordecai Cargill while freshmen receivers Chris Smith and Allen Harris continue to work their way into the rotation.

One last note, I spoke with Yale's director of athletics Tom Beckett who said that the 2014 game against Army at the Yale Bowl will happen. There are details to be worked out but the two sides have agreed to play a game in the 100th anniversary season of football at the Yale Bowl.

Just a reminder that the second of my weekly live chats will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Go to nhregister.com/chat to log in and ask questions.

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