Grounded to a Halt?
James Develin leads the Bears run "D"
Brown's surprise strength this season has been rush defense. The Bears are giving up just 71 yards per game on the ground. That's way down from the 181 yards per game they allowed in 2007, as Brown is enjoying a similar turnaround as Columbia is this season in that category.
Brown's big defensive line, led by junior end James Develin hasn't racked up many sacks, but they've closed down the middle for the most part and haven't allowed anyone to push them around. The best performance of the season on the ground this season against the Bears seemingly came during the game against Princeton when Jordan Culbreath was getting better than four yards a clip against them. But a lot of those yards were gained after the game was decided and Brown pretty much had Culbreath contained.
But are the Bears really that good against the run? Yes. But have they had to face a running QB as fast and strong as M.A. Olawale and a rushing attack as varied as the Lions? No. And I think Brown would be caught off guard defensively if Columbia didn't cower in the face of that run defense and showed them a ground attack right off the bat.
Speaking of catching a teamm off guard, how tough is the sell job Bears head coach Phil Estes has this week? After lecturing his team all last week about how they couldn't sleep on Dartmouth despite the Big Green's 0-8 record, Brown ended up leading 14-0 before Dartmouth had even taken two offensive snaps! Now Estes, has to convince his players that the Lions can sneak up on them too if they're not careful.
People who have followed up close Columbia all year know that's true, but I'm not sure after last week's easy win that Estes' players will go for it this time. I think they'll look at the Lions' weaker passing numbers the last few weeks and figure this is a game that plays to their strengths. I think they'll figure it'll be as easy to stop Olawale as it has been to stop Mike McLeod, Gino Gordon, Mike DiMaggio, etc.
The conventional wisdom on beating Brown is to find a way to stop their passing game. But I think the way to beat them on Saturday is to run it down their throats, get and early lead, and then see if they can stop Olawale on QB draws, Austin Knowlin on reverses and piches, and Zack Kourouma on sweeps... with a little Ray Rangel and Jordan Davis mixed in.
Getting back to Kourouma, I wonder if this will be the week where we find out if Kourouma is as impressive after getting 10-15 carries as he is after getting just 2 or 3.
This is the deepest running attack in both personnel and scheme that we have seen at Columbia in decades. No Ivy team comes close to presenting the kind of variety the Lions can on the ground. Let's see if Brown can stop it. If they do, then Millie or Shane Kelly can throw the ball too.