There’s a reason that Bears hibernate in cold weather.
On a miserable Saturday afternoon, the Bulldog defense received plenty of help from a consistent downpour, shutting down a vaunted Brown passing attack en route to a 17-7 victory and Yale’s first 7-0 start since 1981.
“That kid trying to throw the ball in the fourth quarter — that was about the toughest duty that you’re ever going to have,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said about Brown quarterback Michael Dougherty. “This was just not a day to throw the football.”
With the nation’s third-ranked rushing offense, the Elis had the luxury of not having to rely on the pass in the sloppy conditions. The Bulldogs only attempted six passes — compared to 70 rushing attempts — but still finished the day with 359 yards of total offense.
The Elis dominated the Bears at the line of scrimmage, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt despite running a one-dimensional offense less complex than that most Pee-Wee football teams.
“We really got down to two plays in the second half,” Siedlecki said. “We were running the counter and the veer, one offsetting the other.”
The Bulldogs set the tone of the game early on, picking up 149 yards rushing in the first quarter. Despite their early success on the ground, the Elis were unable to take advantage of their red-zone opportunities, coming away with only three points on three trips. After the two teams traded punts to begin the second quarter, the Brown offense come alive, albeit momentarily.
Dougherty found wide receiver Buddy Farnham streaking down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive, giving Brown an early 7-3 lead. The completion was one of the few bright spots for an otherwise inept Brown offense that failed to reach the red zone even once during the game.
“You know what we do,” Brown head coach Phil Estes said. “We throw the football. We don’t have a great run game. It was throw it or we don’t have an offense. We just don’t have the horses up front to get it done.”
Despite entering the game as the nation’s leading passer, Dougherty ended the day 10 for 31 with only 99 yards passing while also throwing two interceptions. The Brown rushing attack did not fare much better, as the Bears finished with only 70 yards on 23 carries. Although the final statistics were far from impressive, Brown held the lead until late in the third quarter.
After relying heavily on Mike McLeod ’09 for most of the first half — the star tailback picked up 151 yards rushing on 25 first half carries to become Yale’s all-time leading rusher — the Elis turned to quarterback Matt Polhemus ’08 and tailback Jordan Farrell ’10 in the third quarter as the Bulldogs sought to take the pressure off McLeod and his broken big toe.
On third and three in Brown territory, the Elis looked as if they were about to take the first lead of the game after Polhemus broke off a 37-yard touchdown run behind seemingly great blocking. But before the celebrations could start, the play was called back because of a holding penalty on the Bulldogs.
Polhemus made sure Yale did not leave empty-handed. The elusive quarterback picked up a key first down on third and seven with a 10-yard run, setting up perhaps the most crucial play of the game.
On first and 10 from the Brown 31-yard line, Farrell took a handoff from Polhemus and started going left before coming to an abrupt halt. With the rest of the players on the field slanting left, Farrell cut back in the opposite direction and busted off an impressive 31-yard touchdown run, putting the Bulldogs up for good, 10-7.
“I was just joking around with the guys in the locker room that I looked like a fifth grader running the football,” Farrell said. “The conditions were so bad — I pretty much stopped, and everyone flew by and I started again. I don’t really want to watch the film on that. I think I ran like a 5.0 40 or something like that.”
A brutal fourth-quarter wind kept the Bears from making a comeback. In an indication of just how bad the conditions were, Bulldog punter Tom Mante ’10 boomed a 60-yard punt with the wind at his back despite only managing a 29-yard punt in the opposite direction on the Elis’ previous drive.
Bears punter Steve Morgan felt the effects of the weather first-hand after booting a 12-yard punt from the Brown 25-yard line, setting up the Bulldogs in Brown territory. The Elis took advantage of the favorable field position, capping off a nine-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run by McLeod, which provided the final 17-7 margin.
With three games left to play, McLeod has already broken the school records for rushing touchdowns, rushing attempts, rushing yards and all-time scoring.
“It’s always great, but, like I said, it’s not really about the records right now,” McLeod said. “We’ve got to win, and right now we have to focus on Princeton.”
The Bulldogs will look to avenge last year’s heart-breaking loss to the defending Ivy League co-champions on Saturday before coming back to Yale for The Game on Nov. 17.