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Defensive line protects football’s lead

Saturday was the first time the Bears were able to prevent a comeback after an early advantage

From the ashes of an 0-2 conference start, the Bears are reborn. From the cellar of the Ivy League, Bruno has climbed into a tie for fourth with its only remaining games coming against bottom-of-the-division teams. Dropping the conference favorite Penn in convincing fashion has the squad back in the picture, and this is how it happened.


What’s strong?

Eye-popping rushing statistics for John Spooney ’14 got him mentioned by more than just Ivy League football fans. Over 200 yards on the ground in the game’s first 17 minutes not only pushed the Bears out to a steep 21-point advantage, but it caught the attention of national media outlets, including a tweet from ESPN College Football. Head Coach Phil Estes called the back “game-changing” prior to the season, and he was just that. Twice Spooney scored on the first play of Bruno drives, taking the pressure off the offense and establishing insurmountable momentum for the Bears.

But in all the Spooney heroics, there was another Bruno unit worthy of attention: the defensive line. Though Penn starting quarterback Billy Ragone missed the game due to injury, backup Ryan Becker proved a commendable replacement with a big game against Yale last week. This week, Becker took hit after vicious hit. The defensive pressure led to sacks, bad throws, interceptions and, ultimately, a stagnant Quaker offense.


What’s wrong?

Even the staunchest of critics would have a hard time pointing out flaws in Bruno’s performance Saturday. For nitpickers, the team committed eight penalties for 68 yards versus just 25 yards in infractions for the Quakers. Another lopsided total in these categories is alarming for the Bears after penalties may have cost them a win earlier this season against Princeton. Penalties tend to be a difference-making category when games are close, and the Bears kept them from being a factor. But the pattern of undisciplined play showed itself again Saturday and could hurt Bruno again in the future.


What’s new?

Early in the second quarter, with the Bears holding a 21-0 lead, the Quakers marched all the way to the Bruno one-yard line. This must have seemed like the replay of a bad movie for Brown and fans. The Bears has been able to jump out to early leads in every Ivy League game this year, but Saturday was the first time they prevented a comeback. Even in its conference win over Cornell, Bruno lost a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter only to pull out a late victory.

The Bears’ second quarter goal line stand proved they had learned from past games. After holding up Becker on a fourth-down run to get the ball back late in the second period, the defense did not allow Penn to drive into the red zone for the remainder of the game.

Stingy defense and a heroic running back have changed the image of Brown’s 2013 campaign, and, with three games remaining, the Bears could make the Ivy League title race much more interesting if they continue to play like they did Saturday.


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