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Football looks to stay undefeated in Philly

The remaining unbeatens in Ivy League football will square off Saturday when Brown (4-2, 3-0) and No. 21 Penn (5-1, 3-0) meet at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. The two sides are tied atop the league standings, and Saturday's winner will claim the outright lead in the conference with only three games left on the schedule.

"Every year, it seems we get into this game and it's a big game," said Head Coach Phil Estes. "Penn's a team that plays very hard, very fast — they're always well-coached."

Penn is coming off a 27-20 victory over Yale (4-2, 2-1) and has now won 11 straight Ivy League games, dating back to last season, when the Quakers took home the league title. The defending champions have continued their success this year behind a strong and physical defense known for making big plays and forcing turnovers.

"They're not afraid to blitz on all downs (and) players buy into their aggressive mentality," said Brown quarterback Joe Springer '11 about the defense he'll be facing Saturday. "They hit really good, but you have to hit them right back."

On the other side of the ball, the Brown defense will have to be ready to stop a run-heavy Quaker attack that has outrushed its opponents 1,215-375 yards this season.

"Watching them offensively, they grind it out," Estes said. "Not only are the backs really big and physical and can run at you, but they also have a quarterback that you have to contain and keep in the pocket."

That quarterback, sophomore Billy Ragone, alternates with freshman Ryan Becker, more of a drop-back passer, to create a dangerous two-quarterback system that presents multiple looks.

"All you can do is know what you're going to get with each," said linebacker Chimso Okoji '11. "(We have to) know when they come into the game and what they like to do and what their tendencies are."

In all facets of the game, the physicality is expected to be high, as both teams pride themselves on hitting hard and winning the battles in the trenches.

"As it always is for us, the Penn game is a very physical football game," Estes said. "They seem to bring out the very best in us, as far as being physical goes. That's their style, and we like that."

The Brown offense has made significant strides in the past two games, and Springer's play at quarterback has made a great difference in getting the team back on track after two straight non-conference losses following the Harvard game. In last week's win over Cornell, Springer totaled 287 yards in the air to lead a balanced offense that did not turn the ball over once.  

"We've been getting a good mix of run and pass. Early in the year, it was one or the other," Springer said about the offense's improved consistency. "We're going to definitely have to run and throw the ball well against tough opponents the rest of the way."

Despite Penn's record, the team's status as defending champion and its winning streak in league play, the Bears are approaching the game with the same mindset they do every game — "one Ivy League championship game at a time," as Springer calls it.

"There's so much parity in the league," the senior quarterback added. "Every game is a must-win. If you're trying to win the title outright, you have to win every game."

Okoji echoed Springer's sentiment. "Right now this is a four-game season," he said. "And every game you have to win to control your own destiny."

As Bruno prepares to set out for Philadelphia, the team is ready for a hard-fought game — the result of which will have vital implications for the outlook of the Ivy League.

"We always try to go in and play our game no matter who the opponent is and not let any exterior rankings or defending titles make a difference," Springer said. "It only matters who's better for that 60 minutes on Saturday."

Kickoff at Franklin Field is set for 1:30 p.m.


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