In New Haven, Conn., this Saturday, there's no rest for the weary -- or, more precisely, for the Penn football team's run defense, which will face its second stud running back in as many weeks. Last week on Franklin Field, the Quakers faced Columbia running back Johnathan Reese, the Ivy League's second-leading rusher, and held him to two touchdowns and 113 yards on 28 carries, 33 yards below his season average. This week, the test gets tougher for the Red and Blue, as they face Yale's Rashad Bartholomew, the Ivy League's leading rusher, who is averaging 182.4 yards per game. "He's good," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said of the Yale back. "He's very durable. He's got good speed, and he can break the long ones." Indeed, Bartholomew logged the longest run in the Ancient Eight this season, when he scampered for 79 yards at Dartmouth two weeks ago. But perhaps the main reason for Bartholomew's undeniably impressive numbers this season -- 912 yards and eight touchdowns -- is his familiarity with the Elis offense. "He's their main guy," Bagnoli said. "They basically built the offense around him, and he's a two-year starter, so he's had time to get used to [the offense]." Bartholomew -- in the middle of his third season starting for the Elis -- has already eclipsed the rushing mark that earned him second team All-Ivy honors last year and is only 29 yards away from the 941 yards that garnered him first team honors during his first season at Yale. Bartholomew's first season at Yale was actually his second in collegiate football. He spent two years at Air Force -- where eligibility problems in his freshman year and a broken hand during his sophomore campaign allowed him to play only a handful of games -- before heading to New Haven. Three years later, Bartholomew maintains a firm grip on his starting halfback role while he sets his sights on becoming just the ninth back in Yale history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Only 88 yards away, Bartholomew is a virtual lock to reach that mark. Meanwhile, another more impressive record waits on the horizon -- Bartholomew needs only 252 yards to become the Elis all-time leading rusher. "I would say, when healthy, there are four really good backs in this league," Bagnoli said. "Reese, Bartholomew, [Brown's Mike] Valan and [injured Penn running back] Kris [Ryan]." So, how will the Quakers handle facing their second ultra-productive back in a row? "We're trying to approach it the same," Bagnoli said. "[Bartholomew]'s going to get some yards. We want to stop the long plays, prevent the home run." Bartholomew's propensity for the "home run" is reflected in his sparkling 6.9 yards per carry average. "He's averaging almost 200 yards a game," Quakers linebacker and defensive captain Dan Morris said. "But a bunch of that comes on a couple of 40- or 50-yard carries. We have to limit that." "No one shuts him down to 40 yards on 20 carries, that's just not going to happen," Bagnoli said. "We've got to put a hat on him and keep him from busting out." In addition to his speed, Bartholomew has an impressive ability to reverse his field. And, although he stands six-feet tall and weighs 200 pounds, he can be a hard man to bring down. "He's a tough runner; he doesn't go down easy," Morris said. "He's one of the best runners in the league. He's real fast, and he's real good, especially on the cutbacks." Morris sees facing the Ancient Eight's top two backs on consecutive weeks as a positive, preparation-wise. Bagnoli agreed that Reese was a good tune-up for the Quakers defense, even though the Lions back is a straight-ahead bruiser while Bartholomew is more of a slasher. "[Reese and Bartholomew] are not exactly the same type of runner," Morris said. Morris added that the defense would have to work at not overplaying Bartholomew's initial cut, in order to not get burned when he cuts back the other way. "We'll have to be playing with a little more patience," Morris said. "It's about just being aware that he's going to cut it back."Comments powered by Disqus
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