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Brown shuts out Yale

The SportsXchange

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- From the eyes of Brown's preseason All-American defensive back AJ Cruz, it was almost like Yale's offensive signals were being broadcasted over a surround-sound speaker system in his helmet.

Or maybe it was because he and the Bears' defense knew Yale was incapable of throwing the ball.

Brown took advantage by blanking Yale 20-0 on Saturday.

Twice, Cruz picked off Bulldogs freshman quarterback Eric Williams, the only healthy passer on the roster -- although coach Tony Reno said Williams was playing at less than 50 percent. Yale was forced to use running back Tyler Varga under center for much of Saturday's game.

Yale's one-dimensional offense could muster just 22 passing yards as the Bulldogs (2-6, 1-4 Ivy League) were shut out by the Bears (5-3, 2-3) for the first time since 1949.

"The situation we're in, we don't have a quarterback healthy," said Reno. "It's tough. We have to be really inventive."

With Williams operating at half-mast (he was knocked out of the Bulldogs' 27-13 win over Penn on Oct. 20 and didn't play last weekend at Columbia) and backups Logan Scott and Derek Russell out with injuries, the Bulldogs began the game with Varga at quarterback.

At first, the Wildcat formation looked promising, with Verga, who entered Saturday averaging an Ivy League-best 122 rushing yards per game, spinning and bulldozing his way through the Brown defense. But once the Bears stacked the box and forced the feeble Yale passing game to show itself, a bright day turned cloudy for the struggling Bulldogs.

Brown's defensive unit, which entered Saturday allowing 238 passing yards per game, quickly compressed the Yale front line, almost daring the Bulldogs to throw the ball.

And when they did, Cruz intercepted Williams twice.

"AJ is just incredible when he's back there," said Brown coach Phil Estes. "He can bait you into making a throw over the top and take it right away from you."

While Varga -- whom Estes called one of the scariest backs he's seen, rushed for 124 yards on 20 carries -- Williams was 4-for-15 passing for 22 yards.

The Bulldogs were 0 for 10 on third-down conversions.

"We didn't see too much of a threat from the pass, so it's easier to be aggressive in that situation," Cruz said. "I think the coaches did a good job preparing us for the week. The way we executed the game plan was well done."

Brown senior quarterback Patrick Donnelly, in his first year starting after the graduation of two-time All-Ivy League selection Kyle Newhall-Caballero, played an efficient game, completing 24 of 38 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

Donnelly drove the Bears 80 yards after the first interception by Cruz in the first quarter, ending with a 3-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Cody Taulbee.

Frequently leaving the pocket to extend the play, often by design, Donnelly again found the end zone in the third quarter, connecting with a wide-open Jordan Evans on a 25-yard strike.

"He's efficient; that's a good word to use," said Estes. "I think there's a lot of pressure on Patrick to make a lot more plays because our running game is something in the works right now.

"Can he get better? Absolutely. I think Patrick will tell you there are a lot of throws he missed over the top. But I think that's natural too. You get kind of the touch and feel back there. He's done a good job and he'll get better."

Notes: Cruz moved into fourth all-time on Brown's career interceptions list with 12. The late Penn State coach Joe Paterno is tied with Greg Parker for first all-time with 14. ... Verga lost a fumble in the second consecutive week while trying to handle the ball out of the wildcat formation. ... Williams was knocked out of the game in the third quarter and limped to the sidelines. He returned briefly, but was held out late in the fourth. Reno said Russell, the team's third-string and a former receiver, was available only in an emergency situation. ... Yale sophomore Kyle Cazzetta averaged 46 yards per punt, four of which he pinned Brown in its own 20. He also booted a 72-yard punt. ... Brown junior kicker Alexander Norocea was 2 for 2 in field goal attempts, including a 46-yard boot in the third quarter. ... With the win on Saturday, Brown still trails Yale, 78-34-5 in the 117-game series dating back to 1880.
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