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Bears gear up for Hoyas in second homecoming match-up

After a disappointing loss to Harvard in last weekend's homecoming Ivy opener, the football team will take part in another homecoming match-up Saturday afternoon - except this time, the game won't be at the familiar Brown Stadium. Instead, the Bears (1-1, 0-1 Ivy) will travel down to Washington, D.C. to battle the much-improved Georgetown Hoyas (3-1). The Bears will look to rebound from a lackluster performance under the lights and get another nonconference win in the books.
The Hoyas' narrow 21-20 victory over Princeton last Friday night broke their streak of 13 consecutive losses against Ivy League opponents. They are looking to continue the trend in their third Ivy bout of the season.
"They're 3-1," Head Coach Phil Estes said. "It's not like we're going in on a cakewalk."
One key to Georgetown's recent success may lie in its strong ground attack. Led by junior running backs Nick Campanella and Dalen Claytor, the Hoyas have averaged 211 yards of rushing offense in their first four games, in comparison to the Bears' 135. Sophomore quarterback Aaron Aiken, who was taken out of last weekend's game because of an injury, has accounted for 248 of the Hoyas' 845 total rush yards. Third-string quarterback Stephen Skon took over for the remainder of the Princeton game, leading the Hoyas to victory.
"It comes down to stopping the quarterback from scrambling around and making plays," said co-captain and defensive lineman Ross Walthall '13. "Those are the guys that are adding to the rushing totals."
Though limiting the Hoyas' mobile QB and overall run game will be important to the Bears' defensive strategy, Estes said "it's not about one thing."
The team will also need to do a better job of making stops on critical third down situations, Estes said, adding that it was particularly unacceptable to allow teams to convert on third and long. Bruno allowed the Crimson to convert on nine of 13 third down opportunities in Saturday's 45-31 loss.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears will continue to rely on the talent of running back Spiro Theodhosi '13, whom Estes said is critical to the team's offensive success.
"We've done some things that compact the defense and make holes, but we also need to get him out on the open field," Estes said. "He's a tough guy to arm tackle."
Theodhosi has had a strong start to his first season back after being out with an injury the past two years. He ran for 120 yards in the season opener at Holy Cross and scored an important touchdown in the Harvard match-up along with gaining 85 rushing yards.
"Harvard has a very good defense, but so does Georgetown," Theodhosi said. "So it won't be much different - we still have to be on point with our assignments and not make any mistakes."
"As a running back, I'm going to have to be prepared to pick up linebackers on pass protection," Theodhosi added. "Their linebackers are very athletic and very aggressive. They're not afraid to hit you, and they bring a lot of pressure."
Some of that pressure will likely come in the form of zone blitzing, which Estes said is a trademark of the Georgetown defense.
Aside from this focus on the run game, Estes said the team continues to have confidence in quarterback Patrick Donnelly '13.
Though balance is often seen as a precursor for success in football, "you only need to be balanced if that helps you win," Estes said. "I don't mind throwing the ball 80 times or running it 100 times if we still win."
A significant part of the team's strategy each week will depend on its opponent's strengths and skill set on both sides of the ball. "We need to figure out what they're trying to hang their hat on and what are our answers to that," Estes said.
Being on the road will add to the Bears' challenge. A large homecoming crowd is expected to come out in support of the Hoyas, but Estes said the large Brown alumni base in D.C. will ensure a substantial showing of support for the away team as well.
Regardless, Walthall said that Georgetown's excitement would not affect the Bears.
"For us, it's not a homecoming," he said. "It's like any other game."
Estes said there are some advantages to travelling. It's tougher for players to focus on the game and get a good night's sleep when there are parties and other activities taking place on campus, he said.
While travelling, "we can control the environment," Estes said. "We put them to bed and we wake them up."
He added that the excitement on campus for the homecoming showdown at Brown had an effect on the players. "They exhaust themselves with emotions alone," Estes said. "I think they expended more energy in the locker room than on the field."
But with the Crimson behind them, the Bears are ready to move on to their next opponent.
"It's about taking the bad taste in our mouth from Harvard and getting rid of it so we don't let it linger," Estes said, stressing the importance of looking at it as just another game.
 In 2005, the Bears fell to Harvard early in the season, but that ended up being their only loss of the year on the way to an Ivy League championship.



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