When Brown defeated Columbia in a preseason scrimmage in August, the Bears didn't even know who their starting quarterback would be. Now, Kyle Newhall-Caballero '11 is at the top of nearly every statistical passing category in the league. And when the Bears meet the Lions for the final regular season game on Saturday, the game may rest on his throwing arm.
Newhall-Caballero leads the Ivy League in completions, yards and touchdowns. But he is also second-worst in the Ancient Eight in interceptions, with 12 on the season. This Saturday, he will face Columbia, whose defense has a league-leading 18 interceptions on the season.
Columbia is "a dangerous football team that has had opportunities to explode on both sides of the football," said Brown Head Coach Phil Estes. "The one thing I look at that stands out is their pass defense. It's very good. … They really do a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback and making him sometimes throw into some bad coverage."
Columbia Head Coach Norries Wilson knows the challenge his team will face in stopping Brown's offense this weekend.
"The quarterback is a good player," Wilson said. "And then you've got wideouts that you probably couldn't triple-cover to keep them from getting the ball. So we've got our work cut out for us."
Wilson said his team has had trouble defending the deep ball on defense this year. And he knows Brown has had big plays all year.
"They've got experienced wideouts who are used to catching deep balls and taking them the distance," Wilson said. "We've got to do a better job of playing the ball in the air. And our pass rush has to get home."
The Lions will likely blitz Newhall-Caballero often this weekend, and it will be up to the Brown quarterback and offensive line in front of him to keep the Bears' passing attack alive.
But Brown running back Spiro Theodhosi '12 — who has 305 rushing yards in the last two games — will probably get plenty of touches, too. Against a Columbia defense that is second-to-last in the league against the rush, the Bears may keep it on the ground.
The Lions' attack — which will be directed by quarterback M.A. Olawale — is typically run-focused. After missing two games to injury, Olawale stepped in during the third quarter for Columbia last week and eventually scored the winning touchdown over Cornell.
Olawale is a threat through the air and on the ground, having passed 157 times and rushed 111 times this season.
"Olawale is tough to tackle," Wilson said. "When you turn him loose and let him run the ball and he protects the football, he's tough to get down."
Against a Brown defense that held Dartmouth's scrambling quarterback Greg Patton to just 35 yards on 19 carries last week and that gives up — on average — just 86.8 yards per game, the Lions will probably look to the air more often this weekend.
The Bears are last in the Ivy League in passing defense, having given up 246.8 passing yards per game. Then again, the Brown defense is second in the league in interceptions — behind only Columbia.
Brown "is a lot like Harvard, where they don't have any kinks in their armor in any phase," Wilson said. His Lions are "really going to have to play their butts off to have a chance in this one."