Why Penn football will lose to Brown

Why will Brown beat Penn football and spoil homecoming? Brown Daily Herald staff writer Andrew Flax explains why:

The 2014 season has been a bit of a roller coaster for Brown. It began with a thud, when the Bears lost at traditional punching bag Georgetown. But Bruno nearly upset Harvard just a week later, holding a fourth-quarter lead before falling apart. A few more up-and-down games later, the team finally put it all together last week against Cornell, grinding the Big Red into a fine powder in a 42-16 win that was not as close as the score indicated.

If Penn loses, it will be because the Bears are at the height of their powers.

A major part of the Bears' early-season inconsistently was the anemic offense, which was to be expected after the team replaced all 11 starters from last season. But the attack has finally hit its stride, setting a season high in points against Cornell.

Senior quarterback Marcus Fuller — who drew a comparison to Johnny Manziel from coach Phil Estes before the season — has embodied this growth. He completed barely 50% of his passes in the season’s first five games, though that includes an exceedingly strange 29-for-71, 454-yard performance against Princeton. But he had his breakout game against Cornell, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 306 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. A wide receiver remarked that he had finally found his confidence, and if that’s true, watch out.

Since falling asleep in the first quarter against Princeton, the stout Brown defense has found its footing once more. It limited the Tigers to three points after the first drive of the second quarter, and was pitching a shutout against the (admittedly anemic) Cornell offense until the second-team squad gave up a few long plays.

With stud senior linebackers Xavier Russo  and Dan Giovacchini anchoring the middle and senior cornerbacks Patrick O’Neill and Jacob Supron locking down the outside, this group is arguably more talented than the one that shut out the Quakers last season.

Now, this all seems fine and dandy. The Bears have the talent to defeat Penn and claw back to .500 in the Ivy League. But Bruno is not without its weaknesses, and the confidence and composure that it found last week could disappear again in a moment.

The key to victory for Penn will be to harass Fuller. Though their offensive line is strong, the Bears’ run game is weak, averaging a measly 84.6 yards per game on the ground. If the Quakers can accomplish the relatively easy task of stuffing the Bears’ tailbacks and sit back on the pass, they can make Fuller uncomfortable and perhaps force him to revert to the bad habits of a quarterback in his first year starting.

On offense, the best way to move the ball against the Bears is through screen, swing and bubble passes. Bruno has struggled to get to the edge to wrap up speedy running backs and wideouts, and if Penn can successfully establish the pass game behind the line of scrimmage, it will open up the middle of the defense for downfield passing.

To live up to the name of this article, I feel compelled to predict a Bruno victory and a spoiled homecoming, though all signs point to a close game. These teams have similar resumes, with Penn’s tougher strength of schedule but worse record. But come Saturday, only one will be back in the thick of the Ivy League race.

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