Coming off a resounding 35-21 victory over the University of Rhode Island to reclaim the Governor's Cup Saturday night, the football team will host Holy Cross Saturday in its final non-conference game of the season.
"We know we're facing another really good team," said co-captain quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero '11.5. "It's a really good test for us before we get into league play."
Recent matchups between the Bears (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) and Holy Cross (2-2) have been close. In 2010, the Crusaders edged out Bruno 17-13 in Worcester, Mass. The season before, the Bears eked out a 34-31 victory on a field goal in the game's final seconds.
This year's contest should be another tight matchup. Despite falling 39-32 last weekend to No. 7 University of New Hampshire (3-1), the Crusaders generated over 500 yards of offense and hung with a top-10 FCS team.
Head Coach Phil Estes said quarterback Ryan Taggart is Holy Cross' most potent weapon. Taggart threw for 412 yards and two touchdowns and was the leading rusher with 55 yards against UNH. Overall, he is the second-best rusher on the team with 118 yards total, behind starting running back Reggie Woods.
"(Taggart's) offense does a very good job of keeping you off-balance," Estes said. "He does a good job of finding open receivers. We're going to have to find a way to disguise coverages to confuse the quarterback, but also we have to do a good job of breaking their protection."
But Brown's Newhall-Caballero has also been a force on offense this season. Against URI (1-3), he threw for 203 yards and had four touchdowns, two in the air and two on the ground. He has been named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week two of the past three weeks.
Every time Newhall-Caballero has faced Holy Cross, it has been a quarterback battle, he said.
"Most of them have been aerial shootouts," he said. "They execute. It's just a matter of us executing better than them."
Against URI, the Bears struck a consistent balance between the passing and rushing attacks. Running back John Spooney '14 ran for a career-high 97 yards, and fellow back Mark Kachmer '13 was a weapon both as a rusher and receiver. He ran for 37 yards and was the team's leading receiver with 62 yards and a touchdown. The team rushed for a season-high 221 yards on the day.
Newhall-Caballero said he is not sure whether the Bears will show a balanced approach like they did last week or not. "We'll kind of see how it goes early in the game and adjust to what they're showing us."
Regardless of how the Bears choose to get the ball down the field, Spooney said speed will be key.
"Defensively, they're definitely beatable," he said. They're "slower than what we've seen with URI."
Linebacker Matthew O'Donnell '12 leads Bruno's defense with 30 tackles, 18 of them solo. On the other side of the ball, junior defensive back Tom Mannix has been a wall for Holy Cross' defense with 35 tackles, 30 of them solo.
In addition to the Crusaders' talented players, the Bears will have to overcome their mistakes. When Brown played Harvard, Bruno's five turnovers made the difference in the 24-7 loss. Though the Bears defeated URI, they committed 12 penalties, costing them precious yardage at key times.
"The biggest thing for us is to cut down on some of the dumb penalties," Estes said. He cited a personal foul against kicker Alex Norocea '14 for a late hit and a penalty the Brown sideline received "for talking too much" as two of many preventable penalties. "We need to cut that down, otherwise it's going to come back to bite us," he said.
The Bears will likely take the field Saturday without tight end Nicholas Faber '12. Faber was taken off the field and loaded into an ambulance last Saturday after landing on his head in the fourth quarter. Estes said there were no fractures in his neck and he did not suffer a concussion. But he does have a broken jaw, according to Newhall-Caballero, which may mean he cannot play in the upcoming game. Tight end Alexander Harris '13 will replace Faber in the starting lineup, if necessary.
Spooney said the team hopes to limit mental errors in the final conference game and keep the momentum rolling from the URI win.
Kickoff at Brown Stadium is set for 12:30 p.m.