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Know Your 2014 Opponents: Yale

As you meander to Yale's website, you're greeted by an intro video when you click on the link to bring you to "Inside Yale Football".

The video, featuring a pump-up-the-faithful talk by head coach Tony Reno, has a gothic soundtrack, panning over Yale's 100 year old stadium, and also panning over walk of fame involving players from as far back as 1872.

That's not going to be Lehigh's issue, however, when they're Yale's opponent in the Eli's opening-day game, where the Bulldogs will be celebrating their 100th season playing in the Yale Bowl.

Yale saw its first game played there 100 years ago, minus six days, with a team that was one of the college football powerhouses in the entire nation.  This time around, though, they'll be a team that is picked to finish fifth in the eight-team Ivy League, and is a very young team.

Lehigh and Yale actually played in that first season at the Yale Bowl in 1914, with the Brown and White and Blue and White both having exceptional teams.

"That Yale has much more to lose than Lehigh is evident," The Brown and White said in the run-up to the game.  "None are more aware of this than the New Haven coaches, and the decisive, aggressive way in which Lehigh disposed of the [Carlisle Indian School] has made them decidedly uncomfortable."

The New York Sun added: "Lehigh was not reckoned on as especially formidable when the schedule for Captain T Bud Talbott's team was compiled, and it was believed that with a gruelling game with Virginia, known to be strong, for the purpose of bringing out Yale's most exposed weaknesses, a somewhat easier bout with Lehigh might follow on the succeeding Saturday."

Expectations were low for a Lehigh victory as they headed up to unseasonably hot New Haven to the newly built, state-of-the-art football shrine, and even though the hosts would rally for a 20-3 win, Lehigh students were overjoyed that they took a 3-0 halftime lead against the Eli and were in the game until the very end.

"Yale was more than scared on Saturday afternoon when Lehigh completely outplayed them in the first half," The Brown and White reported under the headline LEHIGH SCORES AGAINST YALE.  "obtaining a three-point lead in the second quarter on a field goal by HB Billy Cahall, but finally succumbing to the Eli attack and being defeated to the tune of 20 to 3.  The Brown and White team was out-weighed by about a twenty-pound average and the insistent attack of the Blue defenders meant that they would fall sooner or later, but the Lehigh fighters stood by their colors and postponed this until late in the third quarter."

(In case folks thought that attendance was different back in 1914, The Brown and White also noted that there was a "crowd of 6,000 in the stands, including more than twenty Lehigh supporters.")

In that 1914 season, Yale would finish 7-2, losing to Washington and Jefferson and Harvard in the first-ever Harvard/Yale game played there.  Lehigh, though, would win the rest of their games that season, going 8-1 and making a case for them being among the best teams in the land.  Cahall, with his running and kicking ability, would be an All-American, and in the Yale game the Brown and White competed against two other All-Americans, Talbott and FB Harry LeGore.

"Cahall Dropkicking Field Goal", Lehigh/Lafayette, 1914
(Lehigh would beat Lafayette 17-7 in the 49th meeting between the Rivals, with Cahall drop-kicking a critical field goal to seal the win.)

In 2014, Yale will not be outweighing Lehigh's lines by 20 pounds, nor will the game have the same national championship ramifications as then.

But preparations will be underway for Yale to face off against Army the following week, the first time an FCS school has officially hosted an FBS school at home in a long time.

Complicating matters is the fact that their top running back may not be ready for the upcoming season.

Senior RB Tyler Varga, who almost singlehandedly manhandled Colgate last year to the tune of 236 yards, had a foot injury in the second half of the season and "it's still unclear whether he'll be ready for the season opener," The New Haven Register reported.  If he's unable to go, it's likely a two- or three-headed rushing attack with a bunch of experienced players, sophomore RB Candall Rich and senior RB Kahlil Keys, will shoulder the brunt of Yale's throwback, rushing-intensive pro set, though the emphasis will be on speed, not necessarily raw power.

Junior QB Morgan Roberts, a transfer from Clemson (yes, that Clemson), will take over the duties more at quarterback this year after splitting time last season.  He's mobile and offers mobility in Yale's offense, which resembles Colgate's attack, and seems to have a "better understanding of the offense", according to the Register.  An offensive line whose members come from across the country, notably senior OL Ben Carbery and senior OL Will Chism, helps protect Roberts and pave the way for the rushing attack.

Worthy of mention too is senior WR Deon Randall, who has the ability to be a versatile back that can either line up as a speedy running back or catch passes as a wideout.

While Yale also boasts one of the best kickers in the nation, senior P/K Kyle Cazzetta, Yale's achillies heel might be the defense, which could be starting up to eight sophomores on opening day.

But for Lehigh, after facing a very tough gauntlet to start the season against James Madison and UNH, the tough part might be making the giant mistake of possibly having a letdown.  As you can see, Yale boasts some great talent.

In 1914, Yale was worried about Lehigh.  In 2014, Lehigh ought to be heading to New Haven looking to guard against any sort of letdown against a tough, talented Yale team.


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