Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday morning quarterback

Just finished watching the YES broadcast of the Yale/Brown game and here are a few observations.

The game-clinching touchdown pass from Brook Hart to Peter Balsam was a perfect play call. All game long and all season long the Bulldogs have relied on screens. On the play, Hart's pump fake drew three Brown defenders toward Patrick Sedden. Balsam was uncovered 18 yards down field and took care of the rest during the 78-yard scoring play.

I broke down the amount of times Brown quarterback Michael Dougherty tried to take advantage of the inexperience of sophomore cornerback Adam Money. Of Dougherty's 54 pass attempts, 14 went in Money's direction. Money, starting at cornerback because Paul Rice was injured while covering a punt, allowed eight receptions for 66 yards. Allowing less than 5 yards per pass attempt is a pretty impressive ratio at any level, especially playing against a Brown team with a veteran quarterback, the two most productive receivers in the Ivy League and a gifted tight end. What might be surprising is that linebacker Jay Pilkerton received the second most amount of action on pass defense. The 11 targets against Pilkerton resulted in seven catches for 87 yards. Defensive end Brady Hart was next with seven passes thrown against his man. Hart's strong game is proven by the fact that he allowed just three receptions for 25 yards. Casey Gerald gave up 3 catches for 35 yards and he was targeted seven times including the final pass of the game which resulted in his first career interception.

The fact that 24 of Dougherty's 54 attempts came against either linebackers or defensive ends speaks volumes about how effective the Bulldogs' defensive scheme was. For most of the game the Bulldogs rushed the passer with only their three interior defensive linemen and dropped eight players into coverage. Yale was willing to give up getting free runs at Dougherty and rely on its pass coverage abilities. The strategy worked as Brown only managed one field goal and that came while senior linebacker Bobby Abare was out of the game with back spasms.

If statisticians review the tape, Kyle Hawari will be credited for a forced fumble which was given to Joe Hathaway. If the change is made, it will be the third forced fumble in the last two games for Hawari.

Of all the numbers from the final box score, none may be more surprising than Yale failing to recover any of Brown's four fumbles. Yale did intercept two passes and are tied with Grambling among the Football Championship Subdivision stats with an average of two interceptions per game but dropped the fifth in turnover margin after finishing the game at plus one in the turnover department. The normally sure-handed Pilkerton dropped an interception which was significantly easier to corral than the remarkable one-handed pick he had earlier in the game and the Bears altertly fell on all four of their own fumbles. Yale did extend its lead in the FCS scoring defense category as the Bulldogs' average of 11.9 points per game is a full two points ahead of second place Prairie View. Yale is also tied with Grambling in red zone defense, giving up scores on just 60 percent of opponent's drives inside the Yale 20. Of the 25 drives into the red zone, the Bulldogs have given up just eight touchdowns and seven field goals. Grambling has allowed 15 touchdowns and three field goals in 30 red-zone possessions.

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