The Yale Bowl. Nearly 94 years of college football history. More than 64,000 people on hand. The Bulldogs’ season-opener. Can a road game get much tougher than that?
Add Yale’s 17-3 record over the past two seasons to the equation and you realize exactly what Georgetown will be up against.
“I’ve coached in the Yale Bowl before,” Georgetown Head Coach Kevin Kelly said. “Our guys will be excited.”
Following a 24-6 defeat at Lafayette – a contest that was much closer than the final score indicates – the Hoyas (1-1, 0-1 Patriot League) hit the road one last time before their home-opener, as they visit West Haven, Conn., and the campus of Yale University tomorrow for a 12:30 p.m. matinee.
Led by an experienced line, the Georgetown defense will look to continue its strong play against another team with an effective rushing attack. Senior tailback Mike McLeod leads the Yale ground attack, as he looks to finish out an extraordinary NCAA career. Last season, he rushed for 1619 yards and 23 touchdowns, and he has an excellent chance to leave West Haven with more than 70 career trips to the endzone.
“We’re going to be facing a very similar offense as last week,” Kelly said. “They like to run the football and McLeod is one of the leading rushers in the country.”
A season ago, the Bulldog offense was grossly one-dimensional. Of the nearly 374 yards the team averaged per game, 265 of them were on the ground – that’s a mind-boggling 71 percent. With a weak passing game, it is surprising that Yale was able to average just less than 30 points per game in 2007. Thirty-one of the offense’s 35 touchdowns came via the run.
Senior quarterback Matt Polhemus is also lethal with his legs, as he put together a 447-yard season on just 90 carries. Two other backs ran the ball for over 200 yards as well.
The good news for the Blue and Gray is that they have held opponents to a little more than three yards per carry and 15.5 points per game. The bad news is that the Georgetown offense has been worse. Through the first two games of the season, the Hoyas have not had much of a running game, and while they have shown flashes of big-play ability through the air, the offense has been unable to sustain productive, time-consuming drives. Mistakes at crucial times doomed Georgetown last week – late in the first half of a 7-0 game, freshman quarterback James Brady was intercepted in Lafayette territory. The game’s momentum shifted for good.
“We’re obviously still very young on that side of the ball,” Kelly said. “We have two young quarterbacks who have played in two college football games. Generally, at the beginning of the season, the offense is slower to get into a rhythm. We’ll get better.”
The key to being able to eat clock and move the ball on offense is clearly the running game. It allows the offense to create balance and have opportunities to utilize play-action passing.
The Hoyas are struggling to develop continuity on the ground, and that is certainly something they will need if they want to have a chance to win tomorrow – and if they want to find success this season.
Another issue facing the Georgetown offense is simply scoring touchdowns. They have had relative success at times moving the ball between the 20-yard lines, but have struggled in the red zone – and to make things worse, when drives have stalled inside the 20, field goals have been hard to come by.
In fact, freshman kicker Casey Dobyns has yet to convert an extra point. Inconsistent place-kicking could cost the Hoyas dearly should they find themselves in a close game in the fourth quarter.
When asked what he most wants his team to improve on in the Yale Bowl, Kelly responded with one word.
If the Hoyas are to pull off an upset tomorrow, they’ll need to turn the flashes of brilliance into consistency.
Or else it will be a long day at the Yale Bowl.