With the Ivy League’s best defensive team, second and third best running backs, and two equally matched quarterbacks all on the same field, tomorrow’s game between Yale and Brown at Brown Stadium will certainly be one of the conference’s most interesting match-ups this season.
Both the Elis (4-3, 2-2 Ivy) and the Bears (4-3, 1-3) have been through a rough season so far, after having lost several crucial Ivy games and any shot of winning the conference title. But the Bears have made one thing clear among the Ancient Eight: their defense is still a force to be reckoned with.
“I think that’s the strength of the league this year — defense,” Brown head coach Phil Estes said. “We’ve started to turn around from offense to defense. That’s why games have been so close.”
The University of Pennsylvania experienced first-hand the strength of Brown defense last Saturday at Franklin Field. Despite escaping with a 20-16 victory, the Quakers by no means had an easy time getting the ball to the end zone.
The Bears held Penn to a minuscule 75 yards rushing on 30 attempts. Meanwhile, the Quakers’ quarterback and leading rusher Pat McDermott, who was averaging 86.4 yards rushing per game, barely squeezed out 33 yards on the ground.
The Quakers ran into several problems in the air as well. Brown safety Jamie Gasparella picked off two passes from McDermott, one of which allowed the Bears to retake the lead, and linebacker Dan Doublin picked off a third pass late in the game.
With last weekend’s thriller, the Bears are now fully awake from hibernation and are looking to do some major damage against the Bulldogs.
“Brown is certainly a very different team from recent years,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “They lead the league in total defense and their running back [Nick Hartigan] has more carries than their quarterbacks [Anthony Vita and Joe DiGiacomo] have pass attempts.”
The Bears offense has been solid this season. Hartigan is currently third in the rushing for the Ivy League and leads Brown in rushing, averaging 126.3 yards per game. Eli running back Rob Carr ’05 is ranked second in the Ancient Eight, edging Hartigan with 128.4 yards per game.
Both teams have equivalent passing games as well. While Alvin Cowan ’05 is the Bulldogs’ sole signal-caller this season, the Bears have two quarterbacks leading the sloth. Although he is not performing as well as he did last season, Cowan still holds some formidable statistics, averaging 192.4 passing yards per game. DiGiacomo and Vita average 178.7 and 109.2 yards passing, respectively.
In the end, it is Brown’s defense that will be the deciding factor of tomorrow’s game. While the Bulldogs’ defense this season, which struggled against Columbia last weekend, has allowed its opponents to gain 378.9 offensive yards per game, the Bears’ superior defense has only allowed 294.3 yards.
“I do not expect a repeat of last year’s 55-44 game,” Siedlecki said. “Last week we scored the most points, 21, in the league, and had the largest margin of victory, seven points. If things hold to form you can expect a low scoring, close football game.”