They say revenge is the best motivation. If so, Harvard football has plenty of anger to take out on Brown tomorrow.
Harvard (6-1, 4-0 Ivy) is alone atop the Ivy League, but some players still feel that they have something to prove against the Bears.
The last two years, Brown (5-2, 2-2 Ivy) 1995's 47-8 final was followed by a 31-7 rout last year.
"There's definitely a revenge factor involved," said sophomore running back Chris Menick. "They crushed us the last two years. And they were the only team which kept throwing, trying to score more points. We'll be fired up."
"Our whole defense remembers that game," said sophomore linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski.
Not everyone is as anxious to emphasize revenge, however.
"I think it's a motivator but not the main one," said Harvard Coach Tim Murphy. "The major fact is that Brown stands in the way of an Ivy title."
Furthermore, Murphy does not necessarily agree with the premise that Brown has been piling points on Harvard late in the game.
"If you look at the last two years, they put some points on us in the first half by running the ball extremely well," Murphy said.
This year, Brown's offense boasts some of the best numbers of any in the league, including 31 points and 461 yards per game.
Quarterback James Perry has thrown for 16 touchdowns in replacing two-time All-Ivy first teamer Jason McCullough.
His favorite target, wide receiver Sean Morey, already has gone over 1,000 yards receiving for the season. His 49 catches, 10 of which have been for touchdowns, have resulted in six 100-yard games this year. Last week, in a 37-12 shellacking of Cornell, Morey caught seven passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
"We're not going to do anything special against him, but we're going to make sure we pay attention and know where he is," said junior cornerback Glenn Jackson.
But the players stress that Brown is far more than a one-dimensional attack.
"They've got so many weapons," Kacyvenski said. "They're real balanced."
Harvard's defense comes off of what may have been its best performance of the season, a 24-0 blanking of defending Ivy champion Dartmouth (5-2, 3-1 Ivy). The secondary held the Big Green to just 16 of 40 passing and intercepted five passes.
"I think we're a better defense than last year," Jackson said. "Last year against Brown, we made mistakes. We're going to eliminate as many of them as we can."
Furthermore, the return of sophomore safety Aron Natale from a hamstring injury last week seemed to give the defense a spark.
"Aron's an outstanding football player," Murphy said. "He definitely helps our pass defense because he's a great open field tackler and can cover. Plus, he rarely makes a mental mistake."
Offensively, Harvard matches up well against Brown, especially along the line. It will be important for the Crimson to run well and keep the ball away from the Bears' offense.
"They are a really good defense and lead the league in forced turnovers," Menick said. "But their linebackers are small. The biggest one is maybe 200 pounds.
"Our offensive line outweighs them, and we feel confident we can run well," he added.
Last week, the offense struck for two long scoring plays, a 45-yard bomb and a 62-yard reverse by sophomore wide receiver Terence Patterson. This could be a sign that the effective Crimson running game is making defenses overcommit to the line of scrimmage.
"We have some really athletic guys, and Terence was due for a big play," said Menick, who has rushed for 822 yards and eight touchdowns this season. "Our running and passing complement each other."
Harvard's offense has put up numbers just as impressive as Brown's: 32 points and 436 yards per game. Quarterback Rich Linden has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,579 yards, already the fourth highest single-season total in school history.
Weather could become a factor, however, since the forecast is for rain both today and tomorrow. The last time the Crimson played in mud was a 14-12 nailbiter over Princeton two weeks ago in which the offense failed to score a touchdown.
"We obviously like a fast track," Murphy said. "But we'll play on whatever field there is."
Tomorrow's game in Providence has major implications for the Ivy race. A Harvard victory would mean the Crimson has to win just one of its last two to clinch a share of the title, while the Bears would be mathematically eliminated from contention.
Despite recent problems against Brown, Harvard has made a living in defying history this year in beating Cornell for the first time in 11 years and shutting out Dartmouth. The Crimson is also 3-0 on the road.
"We're not the same team as the last two years," Murphy said. "I'm not worried." The Sports Cube Predicts David S. Tang, Sports Photo Chair Harvard 17 Brown 10 Jamal K. Greene, Assoc. Sports Editor Harvard 35 Brown 24 Robert J. Coolbrith, Design Chair Harvard 28 Brown 14 Eric F. Brown '97, Ex-Sports Editor Harvard 17 Brown 3
FOOTBALL GAME PREVIEW
(4-0-0) Ivy, (6-1-0) Overall
Head Coach: Tim Murphy
Captain: Brendan Bibro
Site: Brown Stadium
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.
On Radio: WHRB 95.3 FM
Last Meeting: Brown won 31-7
Series History: Harvard leads series, 26-15
(2-2-0) Ivy, (5-2-0) Overall
Head Coach: Mark Whipple
Captains: Joe Karcutskie Dan McClutchy