In a battle for second place in the Ivy League football standings, the Yale Bulldogs and Brown Bears will meet up at Brown Stadium in Providence on Saturday at 12:30. The Elis are fresh off an emotional 31-28 victory against Columbia, in which Jesse Reising preserved the win by knocking down a fourth-down pass attempt with just over two minutes to go in the game. Both teams are 3–1 in Ivy League play, and cannot afford a loss here if they are to stay in the hunt for the Ivy League title.
Make room for Thomas
Given the offensive philosophy of the Bulldogs, allowing Thomas the chance at having a good game is the most important key for Yale for the rest of the season. The importance of the running game was made evident after the Elis lost two out of three games in the month of October that the entire offense failed to surpass 100 yards rushing; the Bulldogs bounced back in a major way last Saturday. Thomas ran for 137 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries; more like the workhorse effort we’d gotten used to seeing from him earlier in the year. This performance adds to the proverbial stack of evidence suggesting that when Thomas and the Yale running game are effective, the rest of the team prospers as well. In Yale’s two losses, the running game was a non-factor. Brown’s rushing defense is ranked fourth in the Ivy League, and tied for 40th in the country. The Yale offensive line will have their hands full against Clayton McGrath and Jeremy Raducha, who have accounted for a combined 13 tackles for losses, holding Brown opponents to 3.8 yards per rush.
Pressure the quarterback
Brown senior signal-caller Joe Springer started against Penn last week, but missed most of the game after being injured in the second quarter. Springer started the season second on the depth chart to All-Ivy quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero, who broke his right wrist against Rhode Island in the third game of the season. After Springer went down, it was up to sophomore Patrick Donnelly to fill in, and he proved to be effective. Donnelly finished the game throwing for 194 yards and rushing for 68 in the Bears’ 24–7 loss to the Rams, more than double the total that Yale running backs were able to manage against the Quakers. Even though Donnelly proved he was comfortable making plays with both his legs and his arm, it is imperative that the Eli defense pressures him early and often. Saturday will mark his first varsity start, and the Yale defense has an opportunity to make it a day he’ll want to forget. If the Yale front four is getting pressure on Donnelly, then the Bears’ offense shouldn’t be on the field for long.
Consistent tight coverage
Faced with an inexperienced quarterback, the defense should look to neutralize his most reliable weapons. Brown senior wideout Alex Tounkara ranks second in the Ivy League in receptions per game, and 17th in the FCS in receiving yards per game. If the Elis can successfully stop Tounkara, the defensive front will have more time to wear down the offensive line and collapse the pocket. As Brown ranks sixth in the Ivy League in rushing offense, it is of great importance that Drew Baldwin ’12, Adam Money ’11, and the rest of the Bulldogs secondary neutralize the Bears’ most legitimate offensive weapon. Solid secondary play forces the opposing offense to make more conservative playcalls, and since the Bears’ gameplan will already be limited due to the inexperience of their quarterback, the coaches will likely be hesitant to go for any big plays downfield. This will force the Bears to run plays to Yale’s strengths; the Elis rank third in the Ivy League in rushing defense.
Saturday will be the 115th meeting between the two universities. The Bulldogs hold the series lead, 77–32–5. The last time these teams met, Brown rallied from a 12–7 deficit to defeat Yale 35–21 at the Yale Bowl. The Elis have won three of the last four meetings.