Sports

Bears to take on formidable Princeton team this weekend

By
Sports Editor
Friday, October 12, 2012

The football team will return to conference play Saturday at Princeton, looking to defeat a Tigers team that has crushed its last two opponents.
Bruno (3-1, 0-1 Ivy) comes into this week having topped its last two foes. But last Saturday’s victory over the University of Rhode Island, which kept the Governor’s Cup at Brown for the second consecutive year, may have been soured by what Head Coach Phil Estes called a mediocre Bears performance, along with a foot injury to running back Spiro Theodhosi ’13 early in the game. Theodhosi ­- who led Bruno in rushing yards in each of the first three games of the season – will not be on the field in this weekend’s game.
The Bears will miss him against Princeton (2-2, 1-0 Ivy). The Tigers have finished in the bottom half of the Ivy standings every year since 2007, but a formidable running game and an imposing defense have put them in the Ivy conversation this season.
“People wrote them off as being a bad football team and no chance of winning the Ivy League,” Estes said.
Especially on defense, the Bears have shown themselves to be contenders in their own right. But their success this Saturday may hinge on containing Princeton’s ground attack, which could prove to be a tall order.
The Tigers have a deep and talented running corps that places them third in the Ivy League for rushing yards per game. Four different ball carriers registered at least 45 yards each against Lafayette last week, led by running back Akil Sharp with 60 yards and two touchdowns.
There’s also wide receiver Roman Wilson, a double threat who racked up 55 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 69 yards through the air. And the Tigers have two quarterbacks, Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly, who are both capable of scrambling for yardage as well as passing. The duo has split playing time in each of Princeton’s four games this fall.
“They do a lot of different things, they can run all different types of plays,” said co-captain and defensive lineman Ross Walthall ’13. “They have a good offense.”
But the Bears’ biggest challenge this weekend may be putting up points of their own. They’ll come up against a Tigers squad that “could be as good a defense as we’ve seen all year,” Estes said.
With Theodhosi out of commission, running back Mark Kachmer ’13 and fullback Cody Taulbee ’14 will have to rise to the occasion as they did against URI, when they rushed for a combined two touchdowns and 117 yards. Some of the best players in the conference will be across the line of scrimmage, including linebacker Andrew Starks, first in the Ivy League for tackles per game with 10.5.
Princeton will also be looking to put pressure on quarterback Patrick Donnelly ’13, who is third in the league in both passing yards per game and touchdowns.
“They have a tremendous pass rush,” Estes said.
The Tigers sacked Lafayette College quarterback Zach Zweizig four times last week, and their defensive lineman Mike Catapano leads the league in quarterback hits.
“Their defensive linemen are guys who are very good with their hands,” Walthall said. “They’re explosive.”
The Bears’ offensive line will have their hands full keeping them off Donnelly, but the quarterback said he is ready.
“I’m excited to get another chance to play another football game,” Donnelly said.
Co-captain and cornerback A.J. Cruz ’13 mirrored Donnelly’s enthusiasm, saying his team’s trajectory this season has made him optimistic.
“I feel like each week, we are getting better,” he said.
Estes has also stressed constant improvement, saying it is the Bears’ only chance at league success.
“I’m not being negative with my football team when I say we can do better,” he said. “The minute when we start to be satisfied that we’re getting it done is when we’re going to get beat.”
But rather than falling into complacency, Walthall said recent practices have shown that the team is heating up as the weather cools down.
“This has been one of our best weeks of practice,” he said. “We’re loving the fall weather. I call it football weather.”
“We’ve been having fun out at practice,” Walthall added. “We feel ready. We feel prepared.”

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