Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Still all about Mike?

Mike McLeod hasn't done too many flips lately

Jim Fuller at the Yale Portal 31 Blog is trying to put the best face on Mike McLeod's surprisingly ineffective season by mentioning that McLeod still broke the Ivy League's all-time carries record Saturday. Of course, that's a 4-year total and the Ivies have only allowed Freshmen to play since 1993. But it's still a testament to how much the Elis have relied on McLeod and despite his reduced production this year, it certainly serves as a hint that Yale won't exactly be looking for radically different strategies this Saturday.

This Bulldog team has been built around McLeod, or at least that was the plan. In reality, Yale's offensive line hasn't stepped up this season and neither the QB's (Ryan Fodor and Brook Hart) nor the Eli receiving corps have provided enough of a consistent alternative weapon.

Actually, in a reversal of Vince Lombardi's famous saying, Yale's best offense has been it's defense. The Elis best offensive performance in Ivy play came against Dartmouth thanks to a bevy of Big Green mistakes forced by the defense.

For a Columbia team that's been error-prone lately, that's the biggest challenge. Opportunistic Yale defenders like Bobby Abare and company are going to try to overcome the Bulldogs offensive problems by picking off passes and forcing fumbles. This could be an argument to start M.A. Olawale and simply let him run very basic QB draws and straight ahead rushes until the Lions offense settles in, gets relaxed and avoids the kind of pressing that leads to mistakes and turnovers.

But in the end, there still has to be a focus on McLeod. As good as the 95 rushing yards allowed to Dartmouth looks, that stat is skewed a bit by the three Lion sacks and some of the fumbles the Big Green just fell on that were deducted from the rushing totals. A number of Dartmouth options and QB draws gained enough yards to cause some concern. But luckily, neither Yale QB has run the ball much this year, and McLeod is not an option runner. Since the Lafayette game, and the emergence of nose tackle Owen Fraser absolutely plugging up the middle and drawing numerous double teams, the Lions seem to have that kind of straight ahead running well covered. My guess is that Yale Head Coach Jack Siedlecki will still try to test Columbia in that way, and I think that scenario will be one key to the game.


Will this Saturday be another rough weather game? The current forecast definitely says "no." The weather guys are calling for partly cloudy skies and 59 degrees in New Haven. I'm still bringing my winter ski jacket though because the Yale Bowl pressbox is open air and I learned my lesson the hard way about those open air deals at Penn. I had a hat and a heavy leather jacket at Franklin Field, but being shaded from the sun and getting nailed by the wind did me in. I was shuffling back and forth for most of that game to keep relatively warm.

Meanwhile, practice yesterday for everyone in the Ivies must have been interesting. The rain turned to snow in some parts of the Northeast and the wind was fierce again.


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