Running back Zach Tronti '11 probably won't get many carries in the first three quarters of the Brown-Penn game this Saturday. And that's OK with him.
"Everyone's attitude is, let's just do what we have to do to win games," Tronti said. "If that means me blocking the first three quarters and then trying to run the clock out at the end, I'm fine with that."
Tronti is used to being a running back in a passing offense. His high school team was known for its spread offense. It was also known for a quarterback who graduated a year ahead of Tronti — Florida's 2007 Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Tebow.
Tronti got many of his high school carries when his team was ahead in the fourth quarter and he had to help run out the clock.
That's exactly what he has done for Brown the last two weeks. He had only four rushes in the first half of Bruno's win over Cornell last Saturday. The previous week, another victory, 14 of his 29 rushes came in the fourth quarter.
Lately, the final quarter has been his. With a 27-17 lead over Princeton two weeks ago, the Bears ran a 19-play drive that chewed up 11:08 in the fourth quarter. Tronti ran 14 times on the drive, including a three-yard touchdown to cap it off.
In the fourth quarter against Cornell last Saturday, Tronti ran 10 times on a 12-play touchdown drive that took 7:12 off the clock.
"That's how any team would love to write it up — to get ahead and then try to burn the clock running the ball in the fourth quarter," Tronti said.
But it probably won't be that easy this weekend.
Tronti and the rest of the Bear offense will have to go up against the Quakers this weekend, a team that ranks third in the nation in rushing yards and total yards against.
"They're very strong up front," said Brown Head Coach Phil Estes of the Penn defense. "They can beat you with the four-man rush, and they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Their secondary is outstanding. They really come to play week in and week out."
The Quakers gave up only 25 rushing yards in their 9-0 win over Yale last weekend. The previous week, Columbia managed negative-20 yards on the ground against them.
Penn's pass defense has given up only 149.7 yards per game, making it the best in the Ivy League. But the Bears' offense leads the league in scoring and yards.
"On paper, you're facing a very, very explosive offense against a pretty good, sound defense," said Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli. "Obviously, something's going to have to give."
The Bears are averaging 290 passing yards per game, and it is likely they will stick with what has worked so far on Saturday.
"Our strength is Kyle Newhall-Caballero ('11) at quarterback and then our receivers," Estes said.
But if the Bears need to run out the clock at the end of the game, Tronti will likely be called on again to grind it out.
"What he has been able to do the last couple of weeks in the fourth quarter has been tremendous," Estes said. "We have a lot more confidence in our run game."
But not as much as Penn. The Quakers focus their offense around the run. Last week, Penn gained 177 yards on the ground and only 94 through the air.
"They're basically going to try to run it down our throats," said safety Chris Perkins '10. "They'll run it right at you."
Penn has started three quarterbacks in the last three games. In two of Penn's last four games, the team has managed less than 100 yards passing. But with a defense that has held its opponents to just 12.3 points per game, Penn has not needed high offensive production to win.
Both teams will come into the game on a four-game winning streak and with identical 4-2 records. Brown has yet to lose at home.
"Everybody is playing with a real confidence, a real swagger that winning teams need to have," said wide receiver Bobby Sewall '10. "We go out on the field, whether it's home or away — and especially at home — and say, ‘No one is going to come in here and beat us.'"