Sports

Bears seek to improve Ivy record in Bulldogs game

By
Sports Editor
Friday, November 2, 2012

Bruno’s chances at the Ivy League championship slipped away when Penn split the uprights in the final seconds of last weekend’s disappointing 20-17 away loss.
But almost a third of the schedule is in front of the Bears (4-3, 1-3 Ivy), who will battle Yale (2-5, 1-3) Saturday at Brown Stadium for pride if not for a title.
The Bulldogs also stumbled in their last matchup, falling at Columbia 26-22 last week. With 45 seconds to go, a two-yard touchdown reception by tailback Marcorus Garrett boosted the Lions to their second victory, and first Ivy win, of the year.
Yale was in a tight spot against Columbia without its starting freshman quarterback Eric Williams. With only two other quarterbacks on their roster, also freshmen, the Bulldogs relied on Tyler Varga, a running back, to take most of the snaps. Varga attempted only eight passes but ran for 220 yards against the Lions, boosting his rushing average per game to 122.5, the highest in the league.
Whether as a wildcat quarterback or as a running back, Varga will test Bruno’s run defense. But Head Coach Phil Estes said the Bears’ greatest challenges Saturday may come from their own squad.
“We’ve got to cut down on the mistakes. We’ve got to be able to be a little bit more consistent,” he said.
Quarterback Patrick Donnelly ’13 spoke about a similar priority, saying Yale’s uncomplicated defensive strategies will allow the Bears to play a steady offensive game.
“They don’t do a lot of the exotic defenses we’ve been seeing recently,” he said, but added that “they’re pretty tough.”
Inconsistency is beginning to look like a Bears hallmark this season, especially on offense. Two weeks ago, Bruno put up 452 yards in its 21-14 victory over Cornell. But last week, the squad compiled an unimpressive statline, including four interceptions from Donnelly and 83 total rushing yards.
Despite the tough game at Penn, Donnelly still ranks third in the league for passing yards per game and fourth in touchdown passes. But injuries have taken their toll on Bruno’s offense at the running back position: the Bears’ top five tailbacks have all sustained injuries this year, and none was healthy for the Penn game. Donnelly said Jeffrey Izon ’13, Cody Taulbee ’14 and Jordan Reisner ’14, despite his broken wrist, may all get a chance to run Saturday.
Their misfortune has made the Bears’ rushing attack as variable as the Providence weather. As it has been for most of the season, “the hard part is trying to create a run game and put some things together,” Estes said.
Other Bears, like wide receiver Tellef Lundevall ’13, have stepped in to help patch things up. Lundevall registered 17 catches and 170 yards against Penn, placing him sixth in Bruno’s record book for receptions in a single game and bumping him up to 10th nationally for receptions per game.
The Bulldogs have had similar hardships. As Varga’s unlikely position last week suggests, their big loss has been at quarterback. With a conference-worst 180.7 passing yards per game, Yale has had little in the way of an aerial attack even with Williams, who has thrown 12 interceptions, at the wheel.
Staying out of the air against Bruno may serve the Bulldogs well. The Bears are first in the league for interceptions with 10, led by cornerback Emory Polley ’14, who has picked off three passes this season. And Yale is well-armed on the ground, with running back Mordecai Cargill supporting Varga with 60.2 yards per game, making him fifth in the league.
The Bears’ defense is second in the league with an average of 97.4 rushing yards allowed per game.
Co-captain and defensive lineman Ross Walthall ’13 said the Bears will need to live up to that high standard.
“Our key to success on Saturday will be stopping the run,” he said.
Yale likely won’t match the Bears in stopping power, having allowed the most points per game in the Ancient Eight and the second-most overall yards.
Both the Bears and Bulldogs will be trying to play the role of spoiler in the final weeks of an Ivy season marked by upsets. This week, Bruno will battle another bottom-dweller striving to grab a second conference win.
But Estes said regardless of the larger season picture, the team’s “job is to compete.”
“Whatever you play for, it’s ‘shake it off and step up,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he added. “There are no excuses. We’re not crying. We’re just, ‘Okay, let’s see what kind of a team we can be this week.'”

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