Sports

Fourth-quarter rally batted away by Crimson

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 28, 2009

A week ago, Drew Plichta ’10 missed an extra point and a last second, 40-yard field goal in the football team’s loss to Stony Brook. After the tough loss, Head Coach Phil Estes said he would give the kicker a chance to “come back.”

But with 4.1 seconds left on the clock Friday night at Harvard Stadium and the Bears down 24-21, Estes didn’t give Plichta a chance to send the game into overtime against the host Crimson. Instead of trying a 42-yarder that could have tied the game, Estes chose to go for the end zone.

“That’s a no decision for me,” Estes said. “I don’t have a kicker that can kick the ball that far.”

Estes decided to heave one up for grabs in the end zone, and hope someone from one of the most highly touted receiving corps in the nation could come up with it and win the game for the Bears.

No one did. The pass, intended for Bobby Sewall ’10, was broken up by Harvard’s senior cornerback, Ryan Barnes.

“It was a good thrown ball,” Sewall said. “I thought I was in good position and went up for it … There was a swarm of Crimson there.”

The swarm ended a dramatic, fourth-quarter comeback for the Bears.

Just minutes earlier, the game appeared to be all but over when Harvard receiver Matt Luft caught a touchdown, giving the Crimson a 24-14 lead with 12:43 left in the fourth quarter.
Harvard Head Coach Tim Murphy said with his defense playing well and a two-possession lead in the fourth quarter, he thought the game was decided.

“Your mind naturally goes to the point that, okay, we’re going to get the ball back, kill the clock and the game is over,” he said.

He got the win, but it wasn’t that simple.

With 7:23 left, Brown got the ball at its own 20-yard line, still down 24-14.

Quarterback Kyle Newhall ’11 threw a series of short passes to the center of the field, which advanced the ball to midfield. But with Harvard guarding the sidelines, the clock kept running.

“I didn’t have that much time and they weren’t giving us the boundaries,” Estes said. “So, what you’ve got to do is get first downs and stop the clock. And we did that.”
The Bears finally found the sideline on a 14-yard pass to Sewall, stopping the clock at 1:28 with the ball on the Harvard 39.

Six plays later, Sewall found the end zone for the third time on the night. Newhall spotted him on a slant route with single-man coverage and hit him a step over the goal line.
With a little more than 30 seconds left, the Bears lined up for an onside kick. The ball skidded out of the hands of a Harvard player, and a pile of players dove on it. As the officials peeled players off of the pile, the Bears jumped up and motioned that they had the ball.

The Bears set up in a four-wide, shotgun formation on the first play after the onside kick. But seeing nowhere to throw, Newhall stepped up in the pocket and ran 18 yards to Harvard’s 39-yard-line.

A 14-yard pass to Trevan Samp ’10 put the Bears at the Harvard 25.

An incompletion to Sewall in the end zone stopped the clock with 10 seconds left. Newhall looked to Sewall again, though he was heavily covered. Harvard’s Barnes got both hands on the ball, but dropped the interception, giving Brown one more play, with 4.1 seconds left.

Newhall looked to Sewall in the end zone once more, but Barnes made up for his dropped interception by batting the ball out of the air to end the game.

The Harvard secondary was under attack all night, as the Bears threw 41 times to 32 rushes. Newhall was 25-of-41 passing with 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Estes said Newhall missed some reads and did not play perfectly, but added, “It’s also two weeks in a row that he has given us a chance to win.”

Running back Zach Tronti ’11 had 13 carries for 45 yards. Newhall, the Bears’ leading rusher on the night, had 13 carries for 50 yards.

Harvard went to the air on offense almost as often as Brown. Quarterback Collier Winters was 18-of-27 passing with 223 yards and two touchdowns. Harvard’s running backs had only 18 carries combined.

“This is not the style that we like,” Murphy said after the game. “Our thing is all about balance. On the other hand, it’s also about taking what the defense gives you. And you know, Brown is a team that had nine seniors, three All-Ivy kids up front and we knew it was going to be very difficult to run the football.”

The loss puts Brown at 0-1 in the Ivy League with a two-week break until conference play resumes.

Last year, Brown’s 24-22 win over Harvard began the Bears’ 6-1 Ivy campaign that ended with a share of the league championship.

“This one was really special for us after what happened last year when we went down to Brown,” said Harvard safety Collin Zych.