1. Defense wins championships. The last time Yale won the Ivy League title, the Bulldog defense dominated a dangerous Crimson offense. The Elis limited Harvard to just 218 yards, shutting down future NFL running back Clifton Dawson. That aggressive Yale defense forced four turnovers, including an interception by then-sophomore Larry Abare ’10 to end the game. This year, the Bulldogs enter the 125th edition of The Game with arguably the best defense in school history. The Elis limit teams to just 10.6 ppg while forcing nearly three turnovers a game. Considering the Bulldogs’ mediocre offense, any chance of leaving Cambridge with a victory rests on Yale’s defense shutting down the Crimson and shortening the field for the Bulldog offense.
2. Make Pizzotti make mistakes. Crimson quarterback Chris Pizzotti is the heart and soul of the Harvard offense. The senior leads the Ivies in passing efficiency — trailed closely by Brook Hart ’11 — and has thrown fewer interceptions per attempt than any other QB in the league. That’s not a good sign for the Elis. In the last five games, the Yale offense scored just two touchdowns without a forced turnover. Even last week against Princeton, the Elis failed to score a single point without the defense’s help. If the Elis cannot put pressure on Pizzotti and force mistakes, the Yale faithful will be in for a long day.
3. In Gerald we trust. The Crimson offense is getting a big assist from the Rhodes Trust. Cornerback Casey Gerald ’09, a Rhodes finalist, is flying to Houston today for an interview and will catch an evening flight back in order to make it to The Game on Saturday. Gerald has been the prototypical shutdown corner this season. One of the biggest names on an outstanding Yale secondary, Gerald’s play is a key reason the Bulldogs limited two of the top three wide receivers in the Ivies to just 70 yards on eight catches. Yale will have its hands full against Crimson wide receiver Matt Luft, who destroyed the Bulldogs last year with 160 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
4. Slow down the three-headed monster. Although Harvard doesn’t have a single running back averaging more than 45 ypg, their rushing offense is ranked third in the Ivies (130.3 ypg). The Crimson’s running back by committee approach is headlined by Gino Gordon, who averages 5.125 yards per carry. Despite Harvard’s versatility, the Yale defense should have no problem slowing down the Crimson. The Elis held the Ivy League’s best running back, Princeton’s Jordan Culbreath, to just 69 yards on 16 carries. Granted, the Bulldogs were helped by Brian Anderson’s horrible performance, but Yale’s rushing defense has been a constant strength — the Elis are only giving up 2.7 yards per carry.
5. Keep the emotions in check. The Game will not be decided by a talent difference. Last year, the Elis featured one of the most talented rosters in Yale history, and still got blown out by Harvard. With a rivalry like this, anything can happen, as this year’s seniors know too well. Their first Game — the only one in four years without title implications — was a triple-overtime heartbreaker in front of 53,000 at the Bowl. Despite all the game-planning, film study and preparation before The Game, a little bit of luck is often the single biggest deciding factor.