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Bears look to keep rolling in New Haven

Two top league rushing attacks will face off as Bruno aims to build on a blowout against Penn

With its season back on track after two consecutive Ivy League wins, Bruno eyes its first winning conference record, an outcome that hinges on defeating Yale Saturday.

A 27-0 thumping of the defending Ivy champion Penn (4-3, Ivy 3-1) last weekend proved Bruno (5-2, 2-2) has moved past its early struggles fighting the Ancient Eight. With three games remaining, an undefeated streak would put the Bears in the mix for a conference title.

“You hope the wins carry some momentum. I think they have some confidence,” said Head Coach Phil Estes.

Standing in their way is a Bulldog team that is trending in the opposite direction of the Bears. Yale (4-3, 2-2) stomped the winless Columbia last week, but lost three in a row prior.

Estes called injuries driving forces behind the Elis’ mid-season struggles.

“They have some tools … that are as good as anybody in the league,” Estes said. “When those guys are together, they are a very potent offense, but they have been hurt.”

Fans at the Yale Bowl will be treated to a duel between two of the Ivy League’s top running attacks.

Against the Quakers last weekend, John Spooney ’14 was nothing short of astounding in his 232-yard performance, featuring touchdown runs of 93 and 94 yards. Spooney put the offense on his back using game-changing speed, proving he had overcome an injury that sidelined him for a game and a half.

But Spooney will not be the only explosive tailback on the field. Yale’s Kahlil Keys also broke a 94-yard touchdown run last week, and he is not even at the top of the Bulldog depth chart. Tyler Varga leads the team in carries and averages over 120 rushing yards per game. Varga broke the century mark in a losing effort at Brown Stadium last season but is questionable for Saturday as he nurses a foot injury that has caused him to miss two games.

Countering the Bulldogs’ powerful backfield is a run defense for Brown that ranks third in the conference in yards allowed per game and held Penn to only 86 yards in last weekend’s shutout. Defensive end and co-captain Michael Yules ’14 sees the shutout as a source of momentum the team will need against a tough Yale ground attack.

“Even without Varga, they have continued to have success,” Yules said, adding the defense is looking to “build on last week when we had success because we played fast and attacked fronts.”

Bruno might find an advantage through the air, where quarterback Patrick Donnelly ’13.5 averages 228 yards per game — 60 yards more than Yale starter Henry Furman. Bruno’s pass defense was a big reason the Bears shut out Yale 20-0 last season, as they held Bulldog quarterbacks to just four completions and two intercepted passes in the game.

Despite a dominating performance last weekend, Estes stressed that the focus at practice was to avoid resting on team laurels, adding that offense still had problems to work out.

“Other than those two big runs, I don’t think offensively we played our best game,” Estes said. “We need to understand that we can’t count on Spooney to make all these great runs. We have a lot that we need to correct.”


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