After starting off strong with three consecutive wins in Ivy League play, the football team has lost two weeks in a row and now seems all but out of the race for a conference title. But for the fourth-place Bears (4-4, 3-2 Ivy League), there is still much to play for, and the squad will look to bounce back as the team travels to Hanover, N.H., Saturday to take on Dartmouth (5-3, 2-3) in what should be a competitive game.
Last week, the Bears lost a close game to Yale, 27-24, in a matchup of second-place teams. The loss relegated Bruno to fourth in the standings, where they now sit below Penn (5-0), Yale (4-1) and Harvard (4-1).
"We had ourselves in a position to stay in the race this past weekend against Yale," said Head Coach Phil Estes. "We just didn't do enough to win. Yale's a good football team and they did what they had to do to win and we didn't."
The tough schedule will not let up Saturday, as Dartmouth has experienced a rebirth of sorts this season. After records of 3-7, 0-10, and 2-8 their previous three seasons — highlighted at one point by a 17-game losing streak — the Big Green have played impressive football all year, with wins over Columbia and Cornell and a close loss to first-place Penn in overtime.
"I really look at a sign of a good team as overcoming adversity, and they've done that all year," Estes said of the Big Green.
"They've been down in first halves and come out and outscored everyone they've played in the second half."
The Dartmouth offense has shown great prowess in 2010, averaging over 25 points a game. Running back Nick Schwieger leads the Ivy League in rushing, averaging 134.6 yards a game, and he needs only 58 more yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Quarterback Conner Kempe ranks third in the Ivy League in passing yards, leading a balanced attack that will challenge the Bruno defense this weekend.
Kempe is "very poised, very confident and he seems to make the right plays at the right time," Estes said. "I think Schweiger is the most dangerous big-play back in the league right now, so they've got the complete package… It makes it very tough for us to load up on the pass or the run because one or the other is going to hurt you."
On the other side of the ball, the Brown offense is looking to maintain a consistent attack for 60 minutes. Throughout the season, the offense has made big plays, but also fallen victim to quick three-and-outs. It has also failed at times to establish the run, one thing that Estes sees as a necessity Saturday.
"I think we need to take the pressure off (quarterback Joe Springer '11)," Estes said. "We need to run the ball better and have a little more patience with the run so that we can open up a little more of the passing game."
Key to the success of the rushing attack this season has been the play of Mark Kachmer '13, who left the Yale game in the second quarter with a leg injury and did not return. Kachmer's status for Saturday is unknown, and it appears as if the Bears will have to rely on Zach Tronti '11, who has himself been playing through injuries all season. In the air, Springer has formed a nice rapport with his troupe of wide receivers — Alex Tounkara '11, Jimmy Saros '12, Tellef Lundevall '13 and Jonah Fay '12 — and will look to spread the ball all over the field against a Dartmouth side that ranks last in the Ivy League in pass defense.
A league championship does not appear to be on the horizon for either side, but both coaches are nevertheless excited for what should be a great football game between two evenly matched squads.
"Brown is always a very physical team," said Dartmouth Head Coach Buddy Teevens. "They're very, very competitive and have some older guys on both sides of the football that are very physical… Historically, they're just a powerful, explosive, physical team, so we need to prepare well."
Kickoff is set for noon in Hanover. The game will be nationally televised on the Versus network.