Sports

Late-game heroics lift football over Princeton

Touchdown from Pena ’17 with 57 seconds remaining in contest secures win for Bruno

By
Staff Writer
Monday, October 19, 2015

On the first play of the game, electrifying All-Ivy kick returner Alex Jette ’17 took the opening kick and raced 99 yards to give the Bears a seven-point lead. On the last play of the game, Richard Jarvis ’17 slammed the Princeton quarterback into the ground for a sack that clinched a Bears victory by the same margin. The plays bookended the football team’s 38-31 win over Princeton Saturday and represented two of the team’s most impressive elements: Jette and the defensive line.

The Family Weekend win marks the third consecutive week that the Bears (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) have taken the lead late in the fourth quarter of a victory. Suddenly the down-and-out, 0-2 Bruno team of three weeks ago has transformed into a formidable 3-2 squad with a taste of Ivy League success.

“I’m proud of the way we fight,” said Head Coach Phil Estes P’18. “We fought all the way to the end, and that’s happened three games in a row now.”

A sizeable, parent-filled crowd watched the team battle neck and neck for the whole contest, with the teams remaining within one score of each other for all but two brief minutes in the second quarter. As the clock wound under seven minutes remaining in the final quarter, the teams were knotted at 31 apiece.

Princeton had marched into Bruno territory with eyes on its first lead of the game. But as it had done all day, Brown’s defensive line broke through to apply pressure on Princeton’s Chad Kanoff. The Tiger quarterback was forced to lob the ball as he fell backward, and Quintin Rizek ’16 intercepted the errant throw.

Unfortunately for the Bears, their drive stalled around midfield, and the Tigers had yet another chance to mount a winning drive with three minutes left. But, once again, the Bruno defensive front was standing in the way. Robert Hughes ’17 motored around the Princeton tackle to lay a hit on Kanoff just as he released the ball. The pass fluttered over the line and into the waiting arms of linebacker Will Twyman ’16, who overcame a massive cast on his right hand to make a critical sliding interception.

“Most of the credit goes to the line. We have a lot of speed up front, and our front four showed a lot of determination,” Twyman said.

With momentum and the ball inside Tiger territory, the Bears turned to an unlikely hero: running back Johnny Pena ’17. The junior stepped in after two injuries to power the final drive. Pena’s four carries in the possession amassed 25 yards, and his final rumble found the end zone for the game-winning score.

The Bears showed off a running attack Saturday they had not exhibited in the season’s first four games. The usually pass-happy offense ran exactly as many times as it threw, even after injuries depleted the unit. With one of the top backs Seth Rosenbauer ’16 out with an injury, Andrew Coke ’16 exploded for 99 yards on the day including Bruno’s second touchdown, which made the game 14-7 in the second quarter.

But in the second half of his breakout performance, Coke also suffered an injury to his ankle, which sidelined him for the rest of the game. Determined to keep the ball on the ground, Estes turned to lightly-used Pena and rookie Garrett Robinson ’19, who answered the call with a combined 62 second-half yards.

“That’s just guys stepping up — belief in the system,” Estes said of the production of his third- and fourth-string running backs.

Bruno’s second-half heroics were made possible by a first half that saw the home squad jump to yet another early lead. Jette’s opening return fell right in line with the play-making prowess the receiver has showed the last three games.

“The spark he gave us was pretty incredible,” Estes said. “That guy makes things happen.”

But mistakes left Bruno lamenting some missed opportunities in the first half. Quarterback Marcus Fuller ’15.5 lost a fumble on his first play from scrimmage and tossed two interceptions before halftime. But the senior captain rebounded.

“A big part of playing the quarterback position is having a short memory,” Fuller said. “I’m glad that (the running game) was there behind me this time.”

Even on a day that he was not throwing much, Fuller racked up 285 yards and two touchdowns. Wideout Troy Doles ’16 added another 100-yard game to his remarkable season and made a juggling, 55-yard catch down the sideline for Bruno’s third touchdown. Jette did his part with eight catches for 93 yards.

The 21-7 Bruno lead resulting from Doles’ catch was quickly cut to seven by the Princeton offense. The Tigers found some success in the air, throwing for 373 yards on the day. But the ground game never showed up, and the Bears defense forced Princeton to become a one-dimensional offense. The Tigers clawed back to tie the game, 24-24, late in the third quarter.

Fuller somehow managed to sneak a pass over a jungle of limbs for a 15-yard touchdown to Brian Strachan ’15.5 early in the fourth quarter. But the Tigers answered back minutes later, tying the game and setting up the late-quarter drama.

Amidst the high-pressure conference action, Estes was most impressed with the way his team overcame injuries and backups filled in holes.

“I didn’t know half the names of the people playing for us,” Estes joked. “We’re like the land of misfit toys — it’s the next toy in.”

“We’re 1-0 in Ivy play,” Estes said after the game, purposely ignoring a loss to Harvard last month. “The new season started three weeks ago.”

Unfortunately for Bruno, the Ivy League does count the Harvard game, and the Bears will have to continue their hot streak against Cornell next week to stay in the Ivy title race.

A previous version of a photo caption in this article misidentified a player. The photo is of Quintin Rizek ’16 and Zachary Gillen ’16. The Herald regrets the error.