Yale Running Game vs. Pennsylvania Run Defense
Pennsylvania’s run defense last season was legendary. This season’s team allows 40 more yards per game, but that still puts them at first in the Ivy League with 96 yards. Yes, Yale has the second-best rushing offense in the Ivy and three players (Rob Carr ’05, David Knox ’06, and Alvin Cowan ’04) in the top 15 for individual rushing, but the Bulldogs had a tough time against Colgate — which has a run defense that is not as good as that of the Quakers. To make matters worse for the Elis, Carr has hit a low point in his season. He has been held to less than 100 yards in each of the last two games; in each of Yale’s first three contests, Carr had an over-the-century mark on the ground. One thing the Bulldogs have going for them is speed — all the more so because the game will be played on the artificial turf at Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field. If either Knox or Carr gets loose, no one will catch them.
Yale Passing Game vs. Pennsylvania Pass Defense
The Eli passing attack has proven that when teams load the box, Yale can create havoc with the pass game. Cowan is coming off a 421-yard passing performance last weekend, and Yale is tenth in Div. I-AA passing offense at 273-yards per game. But Pennsylvania is third in the Ivies in pass defense and first in pass efficiency defense. They also lead the Ancient Eight in interceptions with ten. Pennsylvania’s run defense will force Yale to go to the air, but the Elis have proven themselves able to meet that challenge.
Pennsylvania Running Game vs. Yale Running Defense
Runningback Sam Matthews has come on strong for the Quakers, averaging 115 yards per game and placing 13th in the Div. I-AA and second in the Ivy League. But Yale is no slouch against the run. They held the leading rusher in Div. I-AA, Jamaal Branch of Colgate, well below his average last weekend. It will take another effort like last weekend’s to keep Matthews under wraps.
Penn Passing Game vs. Yale Passing Defense
Penn’s all-time leading receiver Rob Milanese graduated and last season’s first-team All-Ivy Quaker quarterback Mike Mitchell has a sprained ankle. One would think Penn’s passing offense would be struggling. Wideout Dan Castles has proved a more than apt replacement for Milanese. Mitchell’s ankle is also on the mend — well enough that he threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns against Columbia last weekend. Yale’s passing defense is average, and a taller wide receiver like Castles (he is 6-foot-3-inches) always gives the Bulldogs’ diminutive defensive backs trouble.
This is the Achilles’ heel of the Elis. Though their kick return team is tops in the conference and P.J. Collins ’04 has done well as a punt returner, every other special teams unit has cost the Bulldogs this season. In addition to having two punts blocked, Yale is second to last in net punting this year, averaging just over 27 net yards per punt. The Elis kickoff team has been an even bigger problem. Out of bounds kicks have been a constant issue for the Bulldogs, who have had three different kickers this season. Even when the Elis manage to keep it on the field, they have had trouble guarding the return. Last week’s 58-yard kickoff return by Colgate’s Mike Chrystie came at a critical point in the game and sealed the Eli fate.
Pennsylvania, on the other hand, returns unanimous All-Ivy selection and third-team All-America Peter Veldman at kicker. The Quakers also have one of the better punting units in the Ivies, and are right behind Yale in kick return average.
In a battle of statistical titans — Yale and No. 14 Pennsylvania are among the top three in the Ancient Eight in almost every category — turnovers may be the deciding factor. But the Elis and the Quakers are first and second, respectively, in turnover margin. Yale has the best scoring offense in the Ivy League at 40 points per outing; Pennsylvania has the league’s best scoring defense, allowing just under 15 points per contest. When Pennsylvania’s offense, third in scoring in the Ancient Eight at 32 points per game, takes the field, it will face the third best defense in the Ivy League — Yale has allowed 24 points on average.
This is one of three games between the Ivy League’s Big Three — of football, at least — that will decide the conference championship. If Yale can establish the kind of running attack that dominated opponents in its first three contests and avoid special teams miscues, the Elis are more than capable of beating the Quakers. But if Pennsylvania’s Mike Mitchell stays healthy throughout the game, and first-team All-Ivy linebacker Steve Lhotak can be effective in his return from injury, then Pennsylvania has to be the favorite.
Penn 38, Yale 34