Brown will play football at Harvard Saturday night, but I’m sure the mind games began last Saturday after Harvard’s 41-10 romp at Rhode Island and Brown’s frustrating 20-16 loss at home to Bryant.
Make no mistake about it. Every fall, Harvard gets in the head of the Brown football team, as if some mist floats to College Hill from Harvard Square and billions of H cells infiltrate the brains of Bears. Cells with stats, records, results. Gridiron DNA.
A biopsy would reveal this information packed into 2015 H cells. Harvard is ranked 24th in the Football Championship Subdivision; is the defending Ivy League champion; boasts a 15-game winning streak; has 11 consecutive Ivy League victories and nine consecutive September victories. Researchers would also see that quarterback Scott Hosch is 7-0 as a starter and running back Paul Stanton has 30 career touchdowns. And they would notice that Harvard has five wins in the last six Brown games.
Digging deeper among those H cells, they would see that as good a coach as Phil Estes is – he has won three Ivy League championships -- he is only 4-13 against Harvard. His teams have dropped high-scoring thrillers -- 42-37 in 2000, 42-38 in 2001, 35-34 in 2004, 38-35 in overtime in 2005 – and heartbreakers -- 26-24 in 2002, 24-17 in 2007. They have absorbed only two drubbings, 52-14 in 2003, 38-21 in 2006.
The H cells glow in the dark. Seven of the last eight Harvard-Brown games have been at night, and Harvard has won six. The Crimson won the first night game in the history of Harvard Stadium, 24-17 in 2007 and almost rallied for a victory in the first night game in the history of Brown Stadium in 2010. The Bears won, 24-19, their last victory in the series that began in 1893.
And the H cells proliferate in Harvard Stadium. Brown’s last win there was in 1998, Estes’s first year as Brown’s head coach. Final score, 27-6.
The Bears also won in 2008, 24-22, when they thwarted a two-point conversion attempt in the waning seconds at Brown Stadium, and in 1999, 17-10, en route to the Ivy League championship.
For many years this game occurred toward the end of the season. Title hopes sometimes rode on the outcome. But since the Ivy League revamped its calendar in 2000, Harvard and Brown kick off the league season against each other. Given that one or the other, sometimes both, is a predicted contender, much rides on the outcome. Brown knows all too well how difficult it is to come back from a loss to Harvard and win the championship. Only the 2005 team did it.
Brown should execute better than it did last week against Bryant. I do not expect another five-turnover debacle, but I do not expect a victory, either.
The Pick: Harvard
URI AT MAINE
After blowout losses to Syracuse, Albany and Harvard, this is just what URI needs, a 12-hour round trip to Maine. You could fly to London in the time it takes to get to Orono from Kingston.
There’s no need to recount URI’s woes this week. We’ve been over that. The good news is the Rams played a little better against Harvard. At least they didn’t turn the ball over. And the offense finally moved the ball.
Maine is just as eager to win. The Black Bears have lost to Boston College and Tulane – their bank account must look good -- and are on their home turf for the first time. Against the Rams they have won eight in a row and 13 of the last 14. This is the 94th meeting.
The Pick: Maine
BRYANT AT COASTAL CAROLINA
The win over American International was expected. The victory at Brown surprised those who never bothered to take a close look at the Bulldogs. But Saturday night, Bryant kicks off against the No. 1 team in the FCS coaches poll and the No. 2 team in the FCS Stats media poll.
Coastal Carolina is in Conway, S.C. The Chanticleers are 3-0 and 35-10 under coach Joe Moglia. They have reached the NCAA FCS quarterfinals the last two years. QB Alex Ross is completing 70 percent of his passes, and RB De’Angelo Henderson is averaging 132 rushing yards and 71 receiving yards.
The Pick: Coastal Carolina
SALVE REGINA AT COAST GUARD
The 2-0 Seahawks scored 73 points in their two non-league games. Now they start their New England Football Conference schedule against a team they have beaten four times wihout a loss. Catholic University racked up 566 yards on offense last week against the Bears (1-2), which bodes well for Salve Regina’s passing attack.
The Pick: Salve Regina
NAVY AT UCONN
The 2-0 Midshipmen are trying to open 3-0 for the first time since 1966. They are sailing on a six-game winning streak.
The Pick: Navy
LAST WEEK: 5-0 SEASON: 5-0