No team has won an Ivy championship with two league losses since the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth and Harvard shared the title in 1982. If Yale (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) is to capture the Ancient Eight championship, the Elis have to defeat Penn (4-1, 2-0) this weekend. Unlike the past two years, No. 22 Penn is fallible — but they still haven’t lost a league contest since the 2001 season.
Yale Pass vs. Penn
As Yale’s own press release says, the Penn defense is clearly the best in the league. What it doesn’t say is how much better the Quakers are against the run than the pass (of course, that might be because teams have given up running against them). Their ineptitude against the pass is somewhat surprising since first-team All-Ivy corner Duvol Thompson is back, as is second-team All-Ivy safety Bryan Arguello, who doesn’t even start. Penn plays a lot of dime defense, which should give Alvin Cowan ’05 more time in the pocket, though the Quakers are not afraid to blitz out of the dime set.
But the bottom line is that Penn allows the second most passing yards per game and Yale has a great passing attack.
Chandler Henley ’06 made last week’s Ivy honor roll on the merits of an Ivy League-best eight catches for 99 yards. Regardless of what happened last weekend at the end of the game, Henley is still one of the best (and certainly most exciting) receivers in the Ancient Eight.
Nothing more needs to be said about Ralph Plumb ’05 than the fact that he needs only 30 more receptions to eclipse the Yale career record set by Eric Johnson ’01 — the current NFL leader in that category. Tight end Alex Faherty ’05 had a huge game last weekend, and hopefully that will translate into a larger role in head coach Jack Siedlecki’s offensive “wizardry.”
Yale Run vs. Penn
Rob Carr ’05 has looked even sharper this season than he did last year, but Penn’s run defense is unreal. The Quakers yield only 82 yards per game on the ground; the second best team, Yale, allows 136. At least as impressive is that the average running play goes for only two yards against the Quaker D.
Last season, Cowan averaged 43 yards per game on the ground, but this year he’s netting negative seven yards per game. Carr has picked up a lot of that slack, but you can’t expect him to break free too often against a squad that gives up rushing yards quite sparingly.
Penn Pass vs. Yale
Last weekend, Lehigh QB Matt Borda didn’t know what to do against the Bulldogs defense. By rushing as few as three people, and rarely bringing more than four, Yale defensive coordinator Rich Flanders and Siedlecki succeeded in confusing poor Borda, who probably hadn’t had that much time to throw since he played touch football with the 10-Mississippi rule — with a stuttering kid counting.
I understand that Borda himself was a threat to run, and I’m not saying that blitzing constantly is the formula to victory. But you have to blitz enough so that I don’t have to watch a quarterback look for open receivers, wonder why he hasn’t been hit yet, pump the ball a couple of times, look around surprised that he’s still all alone, and finally deliver the ball to someone who is by now — of course — open.
Penn’s offensive line has never played together before this season, and quarterback Pat McDermott is inexperienced (at least compared to Mike Mitchell, who spent what seemed like 11 years at this institution of higher learning).
Penn has allowed more sacks this year than any other Ivy League team except Columbia. Please turn Cole Harris ’05 loose a couple of times and be sure they can’t double team Brandon Dyches ’06 and Don Smith ’05. No defensive back is good enough to stay with any wide receiver indefinitely — especially not a receiver as good as Penn’s Dan Castles. Castles was the only unanimous first-team All-Ivy wide receiver last season.
Penn Run vs. Yale
As a first-team All-Ivy rusher his sophomore season, everyone knows Sam Matthews is good. But so were the four All-Ivy offensive linemen that paved the way for him — and graduated last spring. This season, Matthews is finding out how different it is to run behind five linemen who have never played before. Last year he torched Yale for 204 yards in the midst of a season during which he averaged 127 yards per game on the ground. This year he is averaging 75 yards — and you have a better chance of seeing a Yale Anti-Gravity Society vs. DKE brawl end in defeat for the brothers of Mother Phi than you do of watching Matthews break the 200 yard plateau again against the Elis.
Last year, Yale mounted a stunning comeback with 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points, only to lose in overtime. The Elis are again the underdogs, but they were even more so last year. I don’t think Penn is as good as Lehigh, and it seems that the Bulldogs play up (and down) to their competition. Since Yale only fell by a field goal last year, I think home-field advantage (Yale was first in Div. I-AA attendance last season) gives the Elis the edge in this contest.
Yale 20, Penn 17