1. Wash, rinse, repeat. The Bulldogs’ upset over Brown last week was classic Yale football. The defense was its same dominating self, limiting the vaunted Brown offense to just three points, while the offense turned in its most balanced performance of the season. The Elis won nearly every meaningful statistical category: time of possession (+6:00), total yards (+35), and third down percentage (+7 percent). If the Bulldogs can come even close to matching last week’s performance against a surprisingly mediocre Princeton team, Saturday’s game should be a blowout.
2. Stay balanced. For the first time this year, head coach Jack Siedlecki committed to throwing the football. Quarterback Brook Hart ’11 came through in a big way. The strong-armed sophomore threw for 292 yards with one touchdown and one interception, including a beautiful deep ball to Peter Balsam ’11 that went for a 78-yard score. Although the numbers may be inflated by a horrible Brown passing defense (ranked last in the Ivies), Hart has another favorable matchup this weekend against the Tigers’ secondary. Princeton is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 63.3 percent of their passes, worse than every team except Brown and Dartmouth, and has only recorded five interceptions. To put things in perspective: Paul Rice ’10 alone has four interceptions.
3. Give the MVP his space. On the surface, Mike McLeod’s ’09 numbers against Brown seem mediocre, at best. The star tailback only gained 63 yards on 24 rushes for a pitiful 2.6 yards per carry. What the stats don’t show, however, is the offensive line’s inability to open up holes for McLeod. For most of the season, McLeod has been seeing defenders in the backfield almost immediately after getting the ball. Against Brown, the backfield penetration was the main reason the reigning MVP’s final stats were so mediocre: McLeod lost 20 yards on the five carries that went for negative yardage. Without those carries, McLeod finishes the game with 19 rushes for 84 yards, a respectable 4.42 yards per carry average against the Ivy League’s stingiest rushing defense. Although the Tigers’ defensive line is a far cry from Brown’s dominant front, the Bulldogs will need better play from their big guys if they want to ward off any chance of a Princeton upset.
4. Stop Jordan Culbreath. The Bulldog defense has one goal this weekend: Keep Princeton running back Jordan Culbreath from dominating the game. Culbreath has done his best Mike McLeod impression as he enters Saturday’s game as the Ivy League’s best running back. The junior has averaged over 107 yards per game on 5.5 yards per carry, singlehandedly carrying an otherwise unimpressive Princeton offense. Culbreath has scored half of Princeton’s touchdowns, putting him in contention with Harvard quarterback Chris Pizzotti for Ivy League MVP. Although the Bulldogs have only given up 2.7 yards per carry this season, they have yet to face off against a running back of Culbreath’s caliber. If the Elis can stop Culbreath, the Princeton offense should grind to a halt against the Ivies’ most dominant defense.
5. Convert on third down. The Bulldogs’ biggest Achilles’ heel this year has been their inability to sustain drives. The Elis rank last in the Ivies in total first downs and third down conversion percentage despite scoring the second-most points in the league. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the Tigers are allowing their opponents to convert on nearly half of all their third down attempts. The Bulldog defense should have no trouble containing Princeton this weekend as long as their counterparts can pull their weight and win the time of possession battle, keeping the Tigers off the field.