The Yale football team will square off against Brown tomorrow with a chance to move closer to a share of the Ivy League championship. The Bulldogs enter as favorites over the Bears, but a strong defense and steadily improving offense in Providence poses a threat to a Yale team that had its weakest offensive game of the season last week. If the Elis can protect against both the rush and pass, convert in the red zone and succeed through the air, they can take home a win and remain in control of their destiny.
PROTECT ALL PARTS OF THE FIELD
A week ago, the scouting report for Brown’s offense would have been straightforward: Defend the pass.
Brown quarterback Marcus Fuller has enjoyed success in the pocket in his senior season, spreading the ball around to many receivers for 255.1 passing yards per game, third-best in the Ancient Eight. Through six weeks, the pass had accounted for 75.6 percent of all Brown offensive yards. That included a 454-yard performance from Fuller in Brown’s 27–16 loss at Princeton, in which the Bears attempted 71 passing plays.
Then, an unexpected weapon, backup quarterback Seth Rosenbauer, showed that despite the graduation of league-leading rusher John Spooney — who doubled as a sprinter, winning the Ivy League 100-meter dash three straight years — defenses still cannot rule out the Bears on the ground. Taking snaps both as tailback and as wildcat quarterback last week against Penn, Rosenbauer rushed 30 times for 206 yards, the most yards an Ivy League player has accumulated on the ground all season.
With a new aspect of their offense now discovered, Brown is likely to come after Yale with all weapons on display. In order to keep the Bears’ offense from being explosive, Yale cannot let Brown beat the Bulldogs at their own game — overpowering defenses with a multi-faceted offense.
Like the Elis’ performance at Columbia, when they picked off four passes while holding the Lions to just 53 rushing yards, Yale will need to protect all parts of the field.
CONVERT IN THE RED ZONE
Before Yale’s 25–7 victory last week, it would have been easy to forget about the Ivy League’s second-leading scorer, kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15. As the Elis consistently scored via touchdown rather than field goals, Cazzetta was used mostly for kicking extra points, only being brought out for multiple field goal attempts twice in Yale’s 5–1 start to the season.
Last week in New York, however, Cazzetta entered the spotlight when Yale failed to score touchdowns in the red zone seven times and Cazzetta was needed for six field goal attempts. His four field goals were enough to assure victory over the Ivy League’s perennial doormat, but Yale will need to improve in the red zone if it hopes to win against Brown, which has the second-best defense in the Ancient Eight.
AIR IT OUT
Perhaps the reason Yale had little success near the goal line last week was a weakened passing game. Quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 had his quietest day yet, completing just 21 of 42 passes for 267 yards. That inefficiency, in turn, made running plays predictable in the red zone, despite their success at the beginning and in the middle of drives.
It turns out that passing also seems to be the key against Brown’s tight defense. The only team that has passed for more than 300 yards against the Bears this season was Princeton, also the only team that has scored more than 25 points on Brown.
In order to continue the offensive success of its first six games, then, Yale will almost certainly need a return to its outstanding passing attack. Roberts has recently gone heavily to wide receiver Grant Wallace ’15, who has been an exceedingly strong target this season. If more pass catchers can match that production, Yale has a chance to best Brown’s defense in a way that no other team has done thus far.