The end of the 2014 Ivy League football season is rapidly approaching, and three strong opponents remain for the Bulldogs. A loss to any of them would virtually end Yale’s chances at an Ivy League title.
That challenge begins tomorrow at Brown (4–3, 2–2 Ivy), the fifth-place team in the Ivy League that should pose a strong test for the Eli offense. Yale (6–1, 3–1) will look to overpower a Bear defense that has allowed just 18.9 points per game to its opponents, including only 22 points to the undefeated, No. 17 Harvard Crimson.
“Defensively, the Brown defense has always been a physical group that puts a lot of guys in the box and makes you throw the ball,” head coach Tony Reno said. “They’re not going to let you run it.”
Brown sits one spot below Yale in the Ancient Eight standings at 0.500 in conference play. But the Bears have not yet lost to any teams that the Bulldogs have beaten, as Brown’s only two Ivy losses, Harvard and Princeton, still remain on Yale’s schedule as its last two contests of the season.
Both of those conference defeats were close, with the Harvard-Brown game featuring the narrowest margin of victory the Crimson has had all season. The Bears had a chance to tie the score with two minutes left, but an interception on the second play of their final drive gave Harvard a 22–14 win.
Yale and Brown were also nearly even last year when a last-minute, 32-yard touchdown rush by wide receiver Deon Randall ’15 was the difference in a 24–17 Eli victory.
Much has changed since then, as both teams have improved. Behind new starting quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16, Yale has emerged as an offensive power in the Football Championship Subdivision, while Brown has taken a different path, improving its defense to second-best in the Ancient Eight in both total yards allowed and points allowed.
On the other side of the ball, however, the Bears are just above the three worst teams in the Ivy League — Penn, Cornell and Columbia — with 20.4 points per game, less than half of the Elis’ figure of 42.6.
But Brown’s offensive attack has steadily improved. After putting up just a field goal in a 17–3 season opening loss to Georgetown, the Bears peaked two weeks ago with a 42–16 win over winless Cornell, a similar result to Yale’s 51–13 victory.
“Offensively, they’ve got weapons everywhere,” Reno said.
And last week, the Bears found another offensive weapon, perhaps unexpectedly, in backup quarterback Seth Rosenbauer.
The 6’3”, 240-pound Rosenbauer emerged as a serious rushing threat in Brown’s 21–13 victory over Penn, both out of the wildcat formation and in the tailback spot.
Rosenbauer finished with 206 rushing yards, narrowly topping the 202 yards that Yale running back Candler Rich ’17 had on the same afternoon at Columbia. Reno said that he expects to see both Rosenbauer and Brown quarterback Marcus Fuller in action tomorrow.
Yale will head into the contest looking to improve on its most disappointing win of the season last week at Columbia.
The Bulldogs’ 25 points in the game were both the fewest points Yale has put up all season and the fewest points that the Lions have allowed in 2014.
While Rich’s 202-yard performance was stellar, Roberts finished just 21–42 with zero touchdowns in windy conditions, and the Elis failed to reach the end zone on seven of their nine red zone chances.
The defense’s performance, by contrast, was the best Yale has seen this year, with just seven points allowed to Columbia’s offense, which has been the worst in the conference for nearly two years.
“That’s what good teams can do,” safety Cole Champion ’16 said. “When the offense is not having the day that it wants to have, the defense can step up a little bit and vice versa.”
The Elis held the Lions to 53 rushing yards, forcing quarterback Trevor McDonagh to turn to the air and throw four interceptions, even without injured cornerback Spencer Rymiszewski ’17 on the field.
Rymiszewski’s backup, Jason Alessi ’18, was golden in his first starting opportunity, leading the team with nine tackles and two of the four interceptions.
“Nothing really bothers [Alessi],” Champion said. “He really learned what it’s like to watch film and prepare for a game … so I wasn’t very surprised with his performance on Saturday.”
As the team enters its final stretch of the season, the remaining three games will be important not just for Yale’s title chances, but also for the Eli seniors, who will end their Yale football careers after the game at Harvard on Nov. 22.
Kicker Kyle Cazzetta ’15, however, said that the focus remains on tomorrow’s game, as Reno stresses each week.
“[The season is] going to end at some point, and maybe when that ends, we’ll sit down as a senior class, all my best friends, and we’ll feel that,” Cazzetta said. “But right now, we’re in the process, we’re in it for Brown this week. We’re focused just like it’s week one.”
Yale and Brown will kick off in Providence at 12:30 p.m. The contest will be broadcast on FOX Sports College Atlantic.