Sports

Football team grabs Governor’s Cup, season’s first victory

Holding URI’s offense to just three rushing yards, Bruno’s defense leads to hard-fought win

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, October 6, 2014

Wide receiver Reiley Higgins ’15 celebrates against Harvard. Catches were uncommon in the rain at URI, but Bruno ground its way to a win.

This weekend, the football team finally escaped its losing start to the 2014 season, traveling to the University of Rhode Island and winning the Governor’s Cup for the 71st time in 99 tries by a score of 20-13.

After laying an egg in a season-opening loss to Georgetown University, the Bears (1-2, 0-1 Ivy) posted a strong showing against Harvard, though they lost narrowly again. It was not until Saturday that Bruno managed a complete game, when a stout defense and ball-controlling offense helped the Bears past the Rams (0-5, 0-1 CAA).

The score was tied, 7-7, at the half, but Bruno scored 10 points in the third to take a 17-7 advantage into the fourth. The team fell short against Harvard in the final period, when it was outgained by 160 yards, but the Bears hung on Saturday. Bruno sealed it with a clock-killing, nine-minute, 70-yard drive that ended in a field goal. Brown outgained the Rams 76-39 in the fourth and held the ball for 11:52 of the quarter’s 15 minutes.

“It’s nice to finally get that first W,” said quarterback Marcus Fuller ’15. “It wasn’t easy.”

Defensive captain Dan Giovacchini ’15 said the win “feels great,” and is “huge for our confidence.”

The story of the game was the Bears’ defense, which bottled up the URI attack all game. The Bruno defense absolutely eliminated the URI running game, as the Rams lost 13 yards on eight rushing attempts in the second half. Over the whole game, URI had as many total rush yards as it had turnovers: three.

“We played physical, we played tough, we came out with good intensity,” Giovacchini said.

Reflecting on the Bears’ second half success, Giovacchini said getting back fellow linebacker Michael Walsh ’15 was “big.” Walsh was suspended for the first half of the game after being called for a targeting penalty against Harvard. But overall, the key to the team’s strong showing after the intermission was simple, Giovacchini said.

“Guys just started to feel a lot more confident,” he said.

Though their ground attack was nonexistent, the Rams were able to find some success through the air. Quarterback Mack Lowrie completed 21 of 35 passes for 229 yards, a touchdown and a pick. But URI was not assailing the Bruno secondary — instead, it gained many of those yards with screen and swing passes, getting its running backs and wide receivers the ball near the sidelines with room to run. Bruno had a much tougher time stopping these throws, as running back Harold Cooper led the Rams with 95 receiving yards.

The Bears’ defense had been stout all season, but a lack of offensive production held the team back in their first two games. Against the Rams, the offense stepped up, posting a season-high 20 points, and showed the potential for more. But poor conditions limited their output — there was a strong wind throughout the game, and a decent rain began to fall in a chilly second half.

With a wet ball, the Bears had some trouble; wide receivers dropped more than a few passes from Fuller, and the Bears fumbled four times, though they were fortunate that only one was lost. Kicker/punter Grant Senne ’16 also missed a 27-yard field goal, though he made two others and a pair of extra points.

Fuller had a solid game, completing 20 of 35 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. But his numbers are much more impressive considering the on-target passes his receivers couldn’t handle. With a completion percentage that should be past 60 rather than the 57.1 he posted, Saturday may have been Fuller’s best game yet.

But the key to the offense was a weapon who had not been exploited much, but was a revelation on Saturday. Quarterback Seth Rosenbauer ’16 is not much of a passing threat, but he absolutely obliterated the URI defensive line, rushing for 53 yards on only 10 carries, including a 38-yard scamper. His total was just eight yards short of starting running back Andrew Coke ’16, who ran for 61 yards despite having 12 more carries.

“He was instrumental in the victory, no doubt,” Fuller said. “We’ve been trying to devise ways to get him the ball … He’s a tough guy to bring down.”

Rosenbauer is massive, and at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, he was larger than some of the Rams’ defensive linemen. But despite his ground success, he fumbled twice, so he may have to remain simply as a change-of-pace bench weapon for the time being.

Having locked down the season’s first victory, the Bears expressed confidence but were not satisfied.

“We’re starting to see our identity unfold a bit,” Giovacchini said. But he also noted that the Bears “didn’t quite clean up everything we needed to.”

Fuller said he was happy with the offense’s improvements, adding that the Bears “just executed better.”

But after breaking a two-game losing streak, players exhibited a newfound optimism.

“Coming out with a victory in a tight game like that should do wonders for our confidence going forward,” Fuller said.

With a win in their pockets, the Bears will look to move back to .500 when they host the College of the Holy Cross Saturday.

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