1. Slow down Dougherty. Brown senior quarterback Michael Dougherty won Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week after his impressive performance last Saturday against Penn, which has one of the Ivies’ best passing defenses. En route to the first 4-0 conference record in Brown history, Dougherty threw for 234 yards and four touchdowns, putting the Bears in sole possession of first place in Ivy standings. Considering the offense’s struggles in the past few weeks, the Bulldogs can’t afford to let Dougherty get into any kind of rhythm if they hope to pull off this upset.
2. Air it out. Although Mike McLeod ’09 scored three touchdowns against Columbia last weekend, his rushing numbers are still average at best. The reigning MVP averaged less than four yards per carry against a mediocre Lions defense and had 16 of his 23 rushes go for three yards or less. The Bulldogs aren’t going to be able to sustain many drives against the Bears’ top-ranked rushing defense with that kind of performance. So far this year, Yale has shown a remarkable lack of offensive balance, running the ball over 55 percent of the time despite recording a mediocre 2.4 yards per carry. With Brook Hart’s ’11 arm and poise on full display the past two weeks, the Bulldogs have no excuse not to give their young quarterback as many opportunities as possible.
3. Convert on third down. A dominant defense doesn’t need a great offense to win games. All it needs is an offense that can keep drives alive, win the time of possession battle and give the defense solid field position. The Eli offense is failing on all three fronts. So far this year, Yale has converted just 28 percent of its third downs, explaining the Bulldogs’ two-minute time of possession disadvantage . Against Columbia, Yale only moved the chains on two of their 11 third downs, forcing the defense to stay on the field a lot longer than it should have. In fact, until the fourth quarter, the Lions had a 28:07 to 16:53 advantage in time of possession.
4. Take advantage of the short fields. Only one of the Bulldogs’ five scoring drives against Columbia started in Yale territory. In fact, three drives started within the Lions’ 25-yard line. That’s a gift, and the Bulldogs took full advantage of it. Although Dougherty is one of the league’s best quarterbacks, he’s also prone to mistakes. The senior is third in the Ivies with eight interceptions and will be going against a Yale defense that has averaged two picks per game. Any hope of a Yale upset starts with the defense’s ability to keep forcing turnovers and shortening the field for a struggling offense.
5. Gamble. The only reason the Bears were able to take down the Quakers was Penn’s inability to take care of the football. Penn lost three fumbles and threw an interception, allowing Brown to escape with a 34-27 win. Although most people would view Brown’s defensive performance as a sign that the Bulldogs should put together a conservative offensive game plan, the season’s statistics point to the contrary. Brown ranks fifth in the Ivies in forced turnovers and fifth in total defense. The Bears’ mediocre defense is buoyed by an incredible defensive front seven that is limiting opponents to just 80 yards per game on 2.6 yards per carry. Instead of running its predictable ball-control offense, Yale needs to open up the playbook and throw the kitchen sink against Brown, especially since the Bears only have perennial doormats Columbia and Dartmouth left on the schedule.