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Know Your 2017 Opponents: Yale

The 2016 Yale Bulldogs might have experienced the biggest swings of any other school in college football.

They experienced the low of getting destroyed at home against Lehigh, giving up an amazing 63 points to the Mountain Hawks led that day by QB Brad Mayes in a 28 point defeat.

And they were dominated by some of their bigger rivals in Ivy League play, losing 42-7 to Penn and 31-3 to Princeton.

Yet of their three wins, they pulled off two enormous upsets - beating Ivy League title contender Dartmouth at home, 21-13, and finally breaking Harvard's nine year hex against them in "The Game", scoring a touchdown with 4 minutes left to secure a tremendous 21-14 win over their bitter Crimson Rivals.

The Ivy League starts play on September 16th, where Lehigh will find Yale travelling to Murray Goodman Stadium in the Bulldogs first game of the year.

The Mountain Hawks will be playing their third game of the season, and Mayes will be going against the team which he had a record-breaking performance.

The Eli will have had all offseason to bask in the glow of breaking the nine-game winning streak of Harvard against them - and once the enormity of their win over Harvard fades into the distance a little, to focus on avenging last season's 63 points that Lehigh put on them last year.

In the preseason Ivy League media poll, the Elis were picked to finish 4th behind two teams tied for 1st (Harvard and Princeton) and Penn, three teams that have recently won or co-won Ivy League titles.

In a way, it reflected Yale's Jekyll-and-Hyde season last year, in a sense acknowledging that they have the ability to beat anybody - or lose to anybody.

In terms of the Lehigh fan looking at Yale, the main head-scratcher is how the Bulldogs could give up 63 points to Lehigh on defnese, 55 points to Colgate, and 47 poins to Fordham, yet completely shut down Dartmouth (13) and Harvard (14).

Part of the reason for that was that the Mountain Hawks encountered Yale at the perfect time.

"We've got three guys out with injury. Three of our top four corners were out," Yale head coach Tony Reno said after the game. "We were very afraid we would be exposed by those guys. A lot of guys work hard, but they didn't get done the job we needed to get done, but we have to keep moving forward and keep getting better as players."

Indeed, when looking over Yale's lineup card that day, the situation at defensive back looked pretty dire.  A true freshman, CB Jaelin Alburg, was thrust into the starting role against Lehigh, and another player, CB Andrew Johnson, lined up opposite him.  By the Harvard game, CB Jason Allessi was back to lining up at corner, and four different players were starting on the defensive side of the ball.

That didn't make the game any less sweet for Lehigh, who not only broke a long losing streak at the Yale Bowl in a game with video game-like numbers, but allowed QB Brad Mayes to set some passing records as a result.  Mayes' 524 passing yards was a Yale Bowl record.  WR Troy Pelletier (13 catches, 213 yards, 3 TDs) and WR Gatlin Casey (6 catches, 169 yards, 2 TDs) both had days to remember in the iconic venue, too.

"Coming in we remembered what happened last time we were in the Yale Bowl," head coach Andy Coen said. "Our team was very excited to get back here and compete against Yale... we changed quite a bit of how we operated our offense and were able to find a lot of wide open wide receivers. I'm really happy for our team and our players and how they stuck together."

Mayes and Pelletier agreed.

"Things got in sync as the game went along, not only with Troy but with pretty much all the wideouts," he said.  "There was a lot of space out there, and [offensive coordinator] Drew Folmar kept doing a good job with calling plays that put us in good position, and the wideouts did a good job in getting open and catching the ball."

"They gave us a lot of looks that we liked, a lot of holes that we had to get advantage of," Pelletier said afterwards.  "Offense is clicking right now.  We've got a lot of weapons, and if they start double-teaming, we're going to start taking advantage of that."

This time around, Yale will be travelling to the friendly confines of Murray Goodman Stadium, and it will be their season opener.  The Bulldogs will also have a defense that will look different than the one that Lehigh saw last October.

Seven all-Ivy League players return, including two players that missed the 2016 season and are returning after sitting out a year, DT Copache Tyler and CB Spencer Rymiszewski, two additions that will plug immediate holes with some darned good players.

Tyler is a 6'3, 294 lb run stuffer who had 5 1/2 tackles for loss and four pass breakups, which are solid numbers for a guy in the middle of the D line.  It wouldn't surprise me if NFL scouts will be heading to Goodman to check him out.

And Rymiszewski led the Bulldogs in interceptions in 2015 with 4, adding eight pass breakups and two sacks.  Against Lehigh two years ago, a dominant 27-12 win, Rymiszewski had 8 tackles.

If 2015's game against Yale is a better indication of what this year's game might look like, it might spell unsuspecting trouble for the Mountain Hawks.  Lehigh was shut out in the first half of that homecoming game, never able to shake the pressure from Yale's defensive front.

"Not a good day, today, at all, particularly offensively," coach Coen said after that game. "I think Yale really dominated the line of scrimmage and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They were not allowing us to really get anything going in the run game at all. I've said this before, but we have to have the balance. We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be efficient throwing the football."

So for Lehigh, it would be foolhardy to over-interpret the big win in the Yale Bowl last year, or to under-interpret the dominating loss in Murray Goodman in 2015.  This year's game will likely be a tough game featuring a fresh team gunning for revenge.

YALE

When: September 16th, 12:30 PM
Where: Murray Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, PA
Overall Series: Yale, 17-7
TV: Service Electric 2, Patriot League Network
Last time out: 2016, Lehigh 63, Yale 35
Key player Returning: DT Copache Taylor

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