The field has been groomed, the players have been prepped. There are no more ands, ifs, or butts to be kicked.
On the turf of Brown Stadium this afternoon, Harvard must beat the Bruins. Because if the Crimson loses, all hopes for a bite of the Ivy League pie are baked.
And browning the Bruins will be no easy task. Brown (3-2-1, 2-2 Ivy) is the surprise of the Ancient Eight, a team that combines eye-opening offense with head-banging defense to give opposing squads fits.
The Bruins' 500 Ivy record is deceiving. Brown lost to league-leading Penn--in Philadelphia--by only three points, and the Bears lost a one-point heartbreaker to Yale at the Bowl.
Brown routed Princeton and Cornell by a combined 39-0, and the Bruins tied traditionally potent Holy Cross squad last week.
"We want to prove ourselves against the acknowledged leaders of the league," said second-year Brown Coach John Rosenberg, a 1967 Harvard graduate. "Being able to win one and not just be close would be a plateau for us."
Harvard (4-2, 3-1 Ivy) has played a vastly weaker Ivy schedule and has beaten the three most pathetic teams in the league. The Crimson's 10-9 loss to Princeton last week means that against the Ivy iron--Brown, Penn, and Yale--Harvard must sweep.
That won't happen, though, until the much-heralded Crimson offense wakes up from its mid-season nap. Quarterback Brian White, fullback Robert Santiago, and the rest of the Multiflex crew haven't scored three touchdowns in a game since opening day.
And scoring today is going to be very, very difficult. Brown hasn't shut Harvard out in more than 50 years, but this season the kids from Providence have a good a chance as any.
Led by cornerback Mark Kachmer, safety Walt Catlado, and linebacker Tom Cole, the Bruin defense has grudgingly given up only 10 points per game against perhaps the toughest early-season schedule in the league.
In fact, the enormous Bruin front has held opponents to less than three yards per rush, and last week held Holy Cross All-American Gil "The Thrill" Fenerty to a measly 54 yards on the ground.
Harvard's offensive line--the squad's most problematic area--will try to match up with the big bears. Crimson blockers have failed to give quarterback Brian White any semblance of protection, and have not consistently opened holes for Santiago, wingback George Sorbara and running back Joe Pusateri.
The Crimson defense, however, is a different story. The swarming corps of linemen--led by senior K.C. Smith--together with hard-hitting linebackers Scott Collins and Captain Brent Wilkinson, will aim to contain Brown's Jamiebacks: tiny tailbacks Jamie Potkul (422 yards) and Jamie Simone (205 yards).
The Harvard rush defense will also have to respect quarterback Steve Kettleberger, a legitimate double-threat (885 yards passing, 223 yards rushing).
Kettelberger may have trouble throwing against the Crimson secondary, however. Harvard held highly-touted Princeton signalcaller Doug Butler to a subpar afternoon last week, and the defensive backs have played like a pack of mad dogs all year.
Brown's secondary is not nearly as impressive, and this is the one real question mark for the Bruins. So White will have to put the ball up, and do so with some consistency, or the Bears will snack on Crimson sweeps and off-tackle plays.
But the option--which White has used successfully this season--could also pose some problem for Brown. "Holy Cross had a little--well, you could say they had a lot--of success with the option against us," Rosenberg said. "I expect to see Brian White run the option against us."
If the contest is close, the Bruins have a valuable asset in kicker Chris Ingerslev, who played soccer for Brown last night. The senior sidewinder has had a superlative year, booting nine consecutive field goals in the past two games and just missing his tenth in a row in the closing seconds last week.
And don't be surprised if it gets that close, because the Harvard-Brown matchup pits two of the toughest and most evenly matched teams in the league against each other.