Coming off a much-needed win over Columbia, the Yale football team travels to Brown this Saturday to face another struggling Ivy League opponent.
The Bulldogs (2–5, 2–2 Ivy) pulled out an eight-point victory against the Lions last week thanks to three quarters of phenomenal defense and the solid play of quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20, who took over in the second quarter. Brown (2–5, 1–3) enters Saturday’s game as the second-worst offense in the Ivy League, but sports one of the stingiest defenses in the Ancient Eight.
“In our four and a half seasons, one of the things that’s been a trademark of [Yale] teams is an ability to respond to adversity,” head coach Tony Reno said. “I thought our kids really responded Friday night against Columbia. They played hard, played physical and played well.”
A matchup with Brown provides an opportunity for the Eli defense to build off its season-best performance from last week. Yale held Columbia scoreless through three quarters and also forced five turnovers before ceding 23 points in the final quarter.
Brown will come into this game with one win in the past six weeks, a 28–21 overtime victory against Cornell in Week 6. Yet through four games of Ivy League play, the Bears and Bulldogs match up very similarly: both teams have allowed 105 points, and Brown has scored 70 points to Yale’s 71.
“There’s a lot of parity in this league,” cornerback Jason Alessi ’18 said. “Any team can win any given week as seen throughout the season by teams beating some pretty high-ranked teams in the Ivy League. You go into it as just another week.”
While the Eli offense was solid against Columbia, accounting for 24 of the team’s 31 points, there was also room for improvement. The unit racked up just 249 yards of total offense, despite the defense forcing five turnovers.
After taking over for quarterback Tre Moore ’19, Rawlings threw for 152 yards and three touchdowns, plus another 46 on the ground. His top weapon on Friday was wide receiver Reed Klubnik ’20, who contributed 52 receiving yards on five grabs in spite of a few dropped passes. Rawlings’ first collegiate start could be buoyed if wide receiver Christopher Williams-Lopez ’18 can return from an ankle injury that has sidelined him since Week 4.
But beyond the receiving cops, Yale has seen its ground attack re-emerge. Against Columbia, running back Alan Lamar ’20 added 40 receiving yards to his 66 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Since first seeing offensive snaps in Week 4, Lamar has averaged 136.3 yards from scrimmage per game, making him statistically one of the most productive players in the Ivy League.
“Give the up-front guys the credit because they’re the ones up there doing the work,” Rawlings said. “Just to see [offensive linemen] Dieter [Eiselen ’20] and Sterling [Strother ’20] step into almost starting roles early in the season is pretty awesome.”
Lamar’s emergence has allowed Dale Harris ’17 to return to cornerback, a position he played for nearly three years, after he started the season as running back. Harris has seen just five total touches in games in which Lamar has played, and the return of running back Deshawn Salter ’18 from injury last week against the Lions permitted Harris to focus further on defense.
A peculiar Brown defensive unit will oppose the Eli offense on Saturday. While the Bears rank sixth in the Ivy League in terms of points allowed, surrendering 27.3 points per game, they are the best unit in terms of yards allowed, allowing 317.3 yards per game. Brown is solid against both the pass and run, ranking third in both categories.
The unit is led by defensive end Richard Jarvis, who leads the Ivy League with 12.5 tackles for a loss in his seven games. The defense as a whole has registered 18 sacks this season — second-most in the Ancient Eight — which may present a problem for a Yale offensive line that allowed Moore to be sacked three times in the first quarter of last week’s matchup.
On paper, the Brown offense is no more menacing than the Columbia offense was last week. Quarterback Thomas Linta, who took over three weeks ago for the injured starter Kyle Moreno, will likely lead the Bears against the Elis. Brown’s top target is receiver Alexander Jette, whose 63 receiving yards per game ranks fourth in the Ivy League.
“Brown is a team that has the ability to strike at any time,” Reno said. “They have arguably the best receivers we’ve seen all season outside of the Lehigh team. We’re going to be in a situation Saturday where we will have to play our best football.”
The Bears offense has fumbled an Ivy-worst 14 times this season, leading to eight turnovers. It is also the worst red zone offense in the Ivy League — by comparison, the Elis own the best red zone efficiency in all of college football, a perfect 21 for 21 on their red zone trips.
Yale will seek to extend a win streak against Brown that dates back to 2012. The game will be held in Providence this Saturday at 12:30 p.m.