Does Yale have any real weaknesses? That's the question you have to ask yourself after looking at their record, roster, and team statistics. Sure, the defense has been questionable at times, but it truly seems to be getting better. And if you strip away the opening week blowout loss to San Diego, the entire team looks a lot better. With a 3-0 conference record and home field advantage to look forward to when they play the other 3-0 team, Princeton, the Elis definitely have a shot at winning it all.
Yale has a great runner, strong QB, 2-3 top-flight wide receivers, and perhaps the best offensive line in the league. What else could you ask for?
If I had to pick the top star on this offense, and the entire team, I'd have to go with sophomore running back Mike McLeod. McLeod has 863 yards rushing, a 4.9 yards-per-carry average, a whopping 10 rushing TD's and that's not including his 117 yards and one touchdown receiving. McLeod has been held under 100 yards rushing just once this season, and that was in that disastrous season-opening game against San Diego. Second year players in this league rarely make this kind of an impact, and Yale can look forward to two more years of this talented kid leading their offense.
Meanwhile, Matt Polhemus is a very dangerous option quarterback who averages 5.5 yards a carry and it getting more lethal with his throws as well. He only has four TD passes, but who needs to throw into the end zone when you have McLeod and your own legs to get you there?
But the wide receivers aren't just standing around. Chandler Henley and Ashley Wright have put up impressive numbers this season, Henley being the more productive with 30 catches for 408 yards and one touchdown. Wright is more of a deep threat with 17.3 yards-per-catch average and two touchdowns, including a 63-yarder.
Doing the blocking for all these runners and receivers is an offensive line anchored by All-Ivy shoo-in Ed McCarthy.
The only question anyone can reasonably ask about this offense is why Yale is scoring just 24 points a game and not a lot more.
A big part of Yale's defensive stats have been deceptively skewed by that loss to San Diego. So one has to sift through the game statistics from the Elis' other five contests to get a handle on strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, the defense is not as strong as the Bulldog offense, but it isn't a pushover.
If you strip out the San Diego game, the "D" is giving up a respectable 18.2 points and less than 180 yards passing per game. Those are hardly worrisome numbers when you consider how strong the offense is.
But there are some weaknesses. For one thing, the Elis have forced only eleven turnovers so far, and that's just two more turnovers than they've given up. Certainly not a bad stat, but weaker than what you'd expect on a 5-1 team. Also, Yale's defense seems to get tired as the game goes on. The Elis have allowed 81 second half points this year compared to just 53 points in the first two quarters. And the most surprising stat is that opponents are converting a whopping 51% of their third down situations against them.
This weekend, an added concern is the health of defensive end Kyle Hawari, arguably the best player on the defense. His status is listed as "doubtful," and his presence will be missed if he can't get into the game. But linebackers Chris Barry and Bobby Abare have stepped up this season and I expect them to work even harder if Hawari doesn't play.
The secondary is a young group that's improving from week to week. Sophomore Steven Santoro personifies the unit as he only played JV football last year, but now he has three interceptions and is one of the Elis' leading tacklers.
Placekicker Alan Kimball is talented, if a little erratic. He nailed a 48-yarder in week one but is six-of-11 in his other kicks this season. Punter Tom Mante seems to be just average. Wide receiver Chandler Henley hasn't been dangerous as a punt returner but Santoro is averaging almost 25 yards per kickoff return and he had 94-yard kickoff return for a TD against San Diego. Yale's coverage teams have done an excellent job.