Sports

Error-prone football team drops opener to Hoyas

Four turnovers in enemy territory undercut Bruno offense, which scores just three points on 303 yards

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 22, 2014

Penalties and turnovers set the tone Saturday for the football team, which lost its season opener to Georgetown University by a 17-3 margin.

The Bears (0-1) had hammered the Hoyas (2-2) in Brown’s first game of 2013, rolling to a 45-7 win. But with 18 new starters, including all 11 on offense, Bruno had some kinks to work out in this year’s faceoff with Georgetown.

“It definitely wasn’t what we were hoping for,” said linebacker and co-captain Dan Giovacchini ’15, who described the game as an “indicator that we still have a lot of work to do.”

“We made some mistakes that teams make in their first game,” said quarterback Marcus Fuller ’15.

Coming into the game, coaches and players emphasized the importance of the team — especially the offense — learning to play together. The absence of that cohesion was clear this weekend, as the offense failed to score a touchdown, turned the ball over four times and was called for four penalties, all in the first half.

“You can’t have (four) turnovers,” Giovacchini said.

The most successful member of the offense was the one player with the most experience from last season. Andrew Coke ’16, who rushed for 292 yards last season, was not expected to start but received 13 carries, eight more than presumptive starter Brian Strachan ’15. He found success in all phases of the game, rushing for 74 yards and catching three passes for 23 yards. Unfortunately, he also had a lost fumble in Georgetown territory, torpedoing a promising drive.

In his first career start, Fuller  made a few critical errors that derailed any offensive momentum the Bears might have built. He completed 18 of 31 passes for 202 yards, good for a 58.1 completion percentage and 6.5 yards per attempt. None of these numbers jump off the page, but they are also far from disastrous. Instead, what hurt Fuller so much was turning the ball over. He was responsible for two interceptions and a fumble.

Fuller expressed satisfaction with the offense in general, remarking that they were “executing plays,” but recognized that turnovers did them in.

The most harmful of Fuller’s three lost possessions was his first. The Bears opened the second quarter with the ball on the Georgetown 5-yard line in a scoreless game, but a false-start penalty pushed them back to the 10. Fuller rushed for 6 yards, but fumbled at the 4-yard line. The ball was recovered by the Hoyas at their own 1-yard line, depriving the Bears of what was by far their best goal-line opportunity.

Two possessions later, Fuller threw an interception that gave Georgetown possession at its own 46. In the third quarter, trailing 14-3, he threw an interception at the Georgetown 21, and Coke fumbled the ball away at the Georgetown 36 on the very next possession.

Six Brown possessions ended in Georgetown territory, while the Hoyas had seven end in Brown territory. But four of Brown’s ended with turnovers, while three of Georgetown’s ended in scores.
“You’ve got to be able to capitalize,” Fuller said. “Our inability to do that is why we lost.”

Despite their struggles, Fuller and Giovacchini noted some good signs in the offense’s performance.

“We were able to run the ball well,” Fuller said, adding, “You saw glimpses of what kind of team we can be … It’s just going to be a matter of putting it all together.”

Fuller said he was also happy with the effort he saw from his teammates. “It wasn’t a lack of effort,” he said. “We learned we’re a tough group.”

“We learned that we’ve got a lot of playmakers out there,” Giovacchini added, singling out the performances of wide receivers Troy Doles ’16 and Stian Romberg ’15.

The Bruno defense was better than the offense, but not by leaps and bounds. Holding another team to 17 points is a good result, but the Hoyas managed a whopping 427 yards of total offense.

The Bears anticipated a pass-heavy offense and did a good job in limiting Georgetown quarterback Kyle Nolan to just 177 passing yards. But the Hoyas gashed Bruno on the ground, rushing for 250 yards and 6.6 yards per carry. Their first touchdown came on a 57-yard dash from running back Daniel Wright, who had 90 yards on the ground.

Giovacchini hearkened back to the idea that the Bears had to learn about themselves during the game. “Defensively, we learned that we’ve got to stop the run. … We didn’t stop the run.”

He said he felt that the defense was ultimately undermined by “too many big plays, missed tackles, missed hits,” adding that they had to “be more aggressive.”

But the senior struck a hopeful tone. “We showed flashes of being the kind of defense we want to be. … I still feel pretty good about where we are.”

Clearly, the Bears have much to work on, though limiting mistakes is something that often comes with experience. They will need to be in top form for next week’s Ivy League opener, as 2013 conference champions Harvard come to College Hill for a game under the lights.

“We’ve just got to move on. … I’m really looking forward to turning the page,” Fuller said.

“It’s gonna be a battle,” Giovacchini said. “Guys are anxious to get on the field and get the taste of defeat out of our mouth.”

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