Sports

Crimson overcomes Bruno football team in collision

After an early lead, Bruno fell to Harvard in the second half with a score of 41-23

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 30, 2013

Despite owning the first quarter of its Ivy League opener — played at Harvard Stadium — the football team was on the wrong end of a 28-0 second quarter, which vaulted Harvard to a lead it would not relinquish in the 41-23 decision.

“For a quarter, we were a pretty good football team,” said Head Coach Phil Estes. “After that … it turned the momentum their way and when that happened, we didn’t really have an answer for it.”

The Crimson (2-0, 1-0 Ivy) looked good early, holding the Bears (1-1, 0-1) to a three-and-out and driving down the field in their first possession. But Xavier Russo ’15 sparked Bruno by undercutting Harvard quarterback Connor Hempel’s pass to snare his first interception of the year.

With newfound fire, the Bruno offense marched 78 yards for the first score of the day. The Bears converted three third downs including a wild scramble by quarterback Patrick Donnelly ’13.5 to convert a third and five in Harvard territory. Running back John Spooney ’14, hero of last weekend’s game, sprinted around the right edge for a 10-yard touchdown run.

Estes did not waste any time putting Harvard back on its heels, as Bruno executed an onside kick after its first touchdown to retain possession. Four plays later, the Bears celebrated another touchdown. This time, receiver Brian Strachan ’14 was able to battle two defenders as well as the sideline to grab a 22-yard loft into the corner from Donnelly.

The first quarter ended with Bruno riding momentum with a13-point lead, but turnovers and a quick-strike Harvard offense made for a second quarter the Brown faithful would like to soon forget. Four unanswered touchdowns swung the game severely in Harvard’s favor.

We got off to a little bit of a sluggish start,” said Harvard Head Coach Tim Murphy. “We got behind the eight-ball … but once again, I thought our kids showed a little bit of resiliency and character, and we just hung in there and fought back.”

Hempel’s running game powered the Crimson to their first score early in the second quarter. From there, the Bears were done in by turnovers. Spooney lost a fumble at the Brown 27 yard line, setting up a two-play drive for the home team to take its first lead of the day 14-13.

In the next possession, Bruno receiver Jordan Evans ’14 let a pass bounce off his hands and into the waiting arms of Harvard safety Jaron Wilson. Wilson weaved his way through the Bruno offense and dove into the end zone for the third Crimson touchdown. Harvard capped the monster quarter with a five-play, 63-yard drive that took just 79 seconds late in the half to push the lead to 15 at the break.

The up-tempo, no-huddle offense of Harvard gave Bruno fits all game as Hempel was able to pass for 296 yards and the Crimson racked up 451 total yards — despite possessing the ball for less time than Brown.

“They picked up the tempo,” Estes said. “We didn’t block well, we didn’t tackle well and we certainly didn’t finish very well.”

Bruno looked to be mounting a comeback in the middle of the third quarter when Spooney — whose 110-yard, two-touchdown effort was the lone bright spot in the Bear’s attack — broke loose for a 34-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 31-20. But a Crimson dagger came on the next possession in the form of a 63-yard touchdown strike from Hempel to receiver Ricky Zorn.

Zorn was able to get behind the defense because of a blitz by his defender, cornerback Emory Polley ’14. Zorn said Polley disguised his blitz well, but Hempel read it just in time to float the ball up for his receiver.

A last gasp came for the Bears early in the fourth quarter as they recovered a muffed punt and drove to the one yard-line, but the Harvard defensive front held strong, forcing Brown to settle for a field goal.

The Bears’ attempts to crawl back into the game were stifled by a dominant Harvard defensive line led by All-Ivy defensive end Zach Hodges.

“We like the fight,” Hodges said, adding that the team didn’t panic after the early deficit. “We know what we need to do and we’re ready to do it.”

“Zach Hodges is just a beast, and we didn’t have too many answers for (him),” Estes said. “When you can put pressure on the quarterback with a three-man rush … and you can drop eight behind it, there are not many holes back there.”

Harvard iced it in the fourth quarter, scoring on kicker David Mothander’s second field goal of the day to drive the lead up to its final tally at 41-23.

With the victory, the Crimson increased their winning streak at Harvard Stadium to 13 games, dating back to 2010, and took their third in a row from the Bears.

“It’s a big game, but its just one game,” Estes said, adding that the team just needs to focus on next week.

Bruno welcomes the University of Rhode Island to Brown Stadium next week, looking to retain the Governor’s Cup in the 98th installment of the rivalry.

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