The Yale football team left Brown Stadium on Saturday after passing for a season-high number of yards and holding its opponents to a season-low 194 passing yards. But a week after beating Columbia on the road, the Bulldogs couldn’t repeat their winning ways in a letdown defeat to the Bears.
The Bulldogs (2–6, 2–3 Ivy) pulled within five points of Brown (3–5, 2–3) twice in the fourth quarter, but ultimately could not finish off the comeback, falling 27–22. Led by defensive end Richard Jarvis — who sits atop the Ivy League in tackles for losses — the Brown defensive front gave the Yale offensive line trouble all game. The unit added four sacks to its season total, which is now best in the Ancient Eight, and pressured Eli quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 on most of his throws. Though the Eli secondary continued to improve on its previous performances, the Brown ground game nevertheless racked up 171 yards and more than half the team’s points.
“We knew the offensive line was young,” Jarvis said. “All week we’ve been licking our chops waiting to get after a young quarterback and show him what it’s like to play in the [Ivy League].”
In his first collegiate start, Rawlings threw for 252 yards and two interceptions. The freshman maintained a reliable connection with receivers Reed Klubnik ’20 and JP Shohfi ’20, but otherwise had a tough day due to the pass rush. Though he threw the deep ball better than any Eli quarterback this season, Rawlings also missed on a number of risky throws in tight coverage, one of which turned into a deflating fourth-quarter interception.
While it remains to be seen if Rawlings will start the final two games of the season, Yale certainly missed quarterback Tre Moore’s ’19 mobility in the pocket against Brown. The sophomore, who was replaced by Rawlings in the second quarter of Yale’s Week 7 matchup against the Lions, demonstrated an ability to extend plays with his legs after the pass rush had collapsed the pocket.
While the Yale offensive line had a tough day, it came against the best defensive line in the Ivy League. Injuries have resulted in a rotating door at some positions on the line, with several freshmen seeing significant snaps the past few weeks. Brown’s control of the line of scrimmage also hindered the Yale run game, with running backs Alan Lamar ’20 and Deshawn Salter ’18 totaling just 90 yards on 26 combined ground attempts.
Several members of the Yale freshman class stepped up against the Bears. Though Lamar had one of his least productive games of the season, he still put up 77 yards and two touchdowns. The Olive Branch, Mississippi native now has five scores in just four games to go with 121.5 total yards per contest.
Rawlings also looked most comfortable finding his fellow freshman wideouts Shohfi and Klubnik, with 177 of the quarterback’s 252 yards and 13 of his 20 completions going to his pair of first-year receivers.
“We put ourselves in a bad spot by not converting early on drives and we hurt ourselves with penalties,” head coach Tony Reno said. “We battled back and I thought that had to do with good quarterback play and the two freshman receivers stepped up and played well. I thought Kurt grew as the game went on.”
Yale’s development in the offense was matched with inconsistency on the defensive side of the ball. The unit held Brown’s primary ball carrier, Johnny Peña, to just 56 yards on 19 carries, but struggled to contain receiver Livingstone Harriott, who also took snaps at running back throughout the game. The versatile freshman finished with 92 rushing yards, including 52 on a first-quarter touchdown to open the scoring.
The Bulldog secondary had one of its best statistical performances of the season. Brown quarterback Thomas Linta managed just 194 passing yards against Yale’s air defense while also surrendering a red-zone interception to safety Hayden Carlson ’18. Eli safety Jason Alessi ’18 also jarred loose a fumble from Harriott, which set up a Lamar touchdown in the fourth quarter.
But even despite its two momentous turnovers, Carlson said he believes the secondary still needs to grow in order to give the offense more opportunities to score.
“We’re going to play as a unit defensively and try to put our offense in the best position to score points,” Carlson said.
Team 144 overall had a sloppier outing against Brown, especially compared to its performance in last week’s win. The two Rawlings interceptions were compounded by a botched punt return with under a minute to go, which killed any chances of a comeback. Yale also had an uncharacteristic eight penalties in the game, and its perfect red-zone efficiency — the best in all of Division I college football — was tarnished by a fourth-quarter turnover on downs at the Brown nine-yard line.
With two weekends to play and trailing undefeated conference leader Harvard by three games, Yale has been mathematically eliminated from hoisting its first Ivy League title since 2006. The Bulldogs, however, could still play spoiler to second-place Princeton with an upset next weekend.
Yale now gets a week off from road play to host the Tigers next Saturday, a team that has both the most points scored and least points allowed in the Ivy League.