Love him or hate him, Patrick Witt IS the Elis this season
With the exception of Fordham, Yale is the most “Jekyl-and-Hyde” football team Columbia has faced over the last three years.
It’s very hard to nail down the answer to the essential answer to the essential question: “Is Yale a good team?”
Split the team up into units and it becomes a little easier to answer.
Yale is a very good defensive team, with the exception of the season opener when the Elis allowed Georgetown to score 35 points on them at the Bowl. But that was the first game and season openers are the game you usually have to discount the most.
The Yale offense is better than most people might think. When QB Patrick Witt plays, the Elis are a pretty good bet to put about 24 points per game.
Special teams are generally weak, but not a disaster. The kicking game is shaky with nine missed FG’s and three shanked PAT’s already this season. The Elis are giving up too many yards on kickoffs and punt returns, but they have a pretty good punt return average of their own at over 10 yards a pop.
Those are the overviews, here’s a bit more detail:
It’s all about Witt.
The polarizing transfer QB from Nebraska is outspoken, banged up, apparently not very popular on campus, but pretty darn talented as a passer any way you slice it.
Witt’s quick release, good completion percentage and decent ability to avoid too many INT’s, (he throws one for every 32 passes, not so bad), make him dangerous.
Some Yalies love him, some love to hate him, but it’s obvious the Eli offense moves a lot better this year when Witt is in the lineup.
Witt is doing a great job spreading the ball around. Gio Christodoulou, Jordan Forney, and Chris Smith are all making lots of catches and can be dangerous. But Forney is the guy Witt mostly looks for in the end zone.
Running the ball most of the time this year is the Connecticut high school legend Alex Thomas. But Thomas is having a rough time establishing himself with a 3.8 yards per carry average and 304 total yards on the season.
Most observers were more impressed with the bruising RB Mordecai Cargill, but he seems to be injured for at least another couple of weeks. Cargill was averaging a hefty 5.7 YPC before he went down with a torn labrum.
Yale’s O-line has been much maligned this season, but the unit has only allowed five sacks all year.
The Eli defense has picked up where it left off last season and seems to have improved a bit as well.
Leading the way is junior LB Jordan Haynes, a breakout player this season. Haynes only trails Columbia’s Alex Gross for the league lead in total tackles. He has 64, with five for a loss and three fumble recoveries.
Adam Money is making a big impact in the secondary with three picks and eight overall passes defensed.
Captain Tom McCarthy does a fine job anchoring the offensive line.
Yale is holding opponents to fewer than 20 points a game, and just barely allows more than 100 yards rushing per game. But opponents are converting 3rd down chances at a 40% clip, which is a bit high for a good defense. This can be indicative of not stepping up in the clutch.
Sophomore Philippe Panico seems to be providing some stability at the kicker position after a very rocky start from Alex Barnes. But his range on FG’s seems no better than 39 yards no matter what.
Christodoulou is a good threat on punt returns and seems ready to break one at any time.
Chris Smith has done most of the kickoff returns, but Deon Randall can be electric in the rare times he gets a chance to touch the ball.
This is a team that has a great knack for keeping games close and getting a good chance to win them in the end. The fact that the Elis haven’t put together a really solid 60-minute performance this year probably gives the coaches some pause, but a 4-2 record overall from a team that was just 2-5 in the league last year is a good start. Coming off a tough loss at home to Penn last week, Yale could be a very dangerous animal this Saturday.