Yale Running Game vs. Brown Run Defense
Though Rob Carr ’05 — 4th in the Ivies in rushing — is two places behind Brown’s sophomore standout Nick Hartigan in the race for the Ivy rushing title, Carr is still one of — if not the — premier backs in the league. In addition to Carr, Yale’s Alvin Cowan is the best rushing quarterback in the Ancient Eight now that Harvard’s Ryan Fitzpatrick is hampered by an injury. The speedy number two back David Knox ’06 is also capable — as he demonstrated last week with a 70 yard run — of big plays.
Brown’s run defense, allowing an average of 162 yards per game, is average for both the Ivy League and Div. I-AA. The Bears need better than average against the Elis and I think Yale will rush for over 200 yards for the second straight game, despite the fact that Brown lines up in a 4-4 front.
Yale Passing Game vs. Brown Pass Defense
In addition to being the league’s top rushing quarterback, Cowan leads the Ivy League in passing yardage. 6-foot-7 tight end Nate Lawrie ’04 and wide receiver Ralph Plumb ’05 are among the top 10 in both receptions and receiving yards. Plumb and big-play wide-out Ron Benigno ’04 have each caught six touchdowns this season. Yale’s passing offense is edging steadily closer to Columbia’s 286 yard per game clip, which leads the Ivy League. At 283 yards per game, Yale is 8th in Div. I-AA.
They might meet their match this weekend, however, in a Bear defense that is second in the Ancient Eight and third in pass efficiency defense. Defensive back Anjel Gutierrez is second in the league with three interceptions. His cohort in the secondary, Jason Ching, returns after starting for Brown as a freshman last season. He is fourth on the team in tackles, immediately behind Gutierrez.
Brown Running Game vs. Yale Run Defense
Despite Nick Hartigan’s 134 rushing yards per game, which puts him at seventh in Div. I-AA and second in the Ancient Eight, Brown’s ground attack is amongst the bottom half of the Ivy League. Aside from Hartigan, the rest of the Bears combine for a pathetic three rushing yards per game.
Yale’s run defense isn’t the “Steel Curtain,” but it can definitely get the job done against a team this one-dimensional. Hartigan will break the century mark and could become the third Brown player ever to rush for 1,000 yards in one season — but he’ll be the only one doing any running.
Brown Passing Game vs. Yale Pass Defense
Last season, quarterback Kyle Slager completed 230 passes, the 8th highest season total ever posted by an Ivy signal-caller. He will repeat no such feat this year. Without last season’s second-team All-American wide receiver Gessner, the Brown attack has fizzled. Brown is second to last in passing offense, and has scored only seven touchdowns this season.
In fairness, Brown’s sophomore wide receiver Lorenza Hill has emerged a dependable pass-catcher who is sixth in Div. I-AA in receptions per game. Yale’s pass defense is below average and Hill’s 6-foot-4 size might give the shorter Eli cornerbacks difficulties. But this is still not a good passing team, and I see no reason why it will become one this weekend.
The Ivy League selected John Troost ’05 as the Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Columbia this past Saturday. Troost, who kicked a career-best 44-yarder last weekend, is 9th in Div. I-AA in field goals made at 1.43 per game and is also on pace to break the Ivy record for points by a kicker in a season.
But the Elis have allowed a number of big kickoff returns — including a 68-yarder last weekend — and have a propensity to have their extra points, field goals, and punts blocked. Yale’s net punting average is close to last in Div. I-AA.
Implausibly enough, Brown isn’t much better. While the Elis at least excel in kick returns, Brown is last in the Ivy League. Their kickers have yet to make a field goal, and have attempted only four all season. They average close to half as many yards per punt return as Yale’s P.J. Collins ’04 does. Brown’s kickoff coverage team makes Yale’s look pretty good as it gives up five more yards on average than the Elis.
The Eli special teams unit has been maligned — often by me — because of its very noticeable failures. On average, however, it is not the worst of the Ivy League. Brown, Harvard, and Princeton — Yale’s last three opponents — are battling for that honor.
Both defenses are comparable. The offenses are not. Yale is sixth in Div. I-AA in scoring at 38 points per game; Brown is among the 20 worst in Div. I-AA with their 17 point mean output.
Yale didn’t have the killer instinct in the Columbia game to blow the doors off the way they did to early opponents like Towson (62-28), Holy Cross (41-16) and Dartmouth (40-17). Likely, Yale will get ahead in this one and then grind out yardage on the game — not keep attacking a defense that is second in the Ivy League in taking the ball away. The only way this game will turn into a blowout is if the Bears — who are the worst in the Ancient Eight at turning the ball over — start fumbling or Slager tosses a pick or two. Yale’s offense won’t waste those opportunities and things will get ugly fast, as Towson found out when they lost the ball six times against the Elis.
Yale 31, Brown 21
— Alex Hetherington