Sports

Bears’ valiant comeback falls short against Crimson

Bruno recovers from 24-3 halftime hole, falls to Harvard 31-17 in national television broadcast

By
Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tight end Anton Casey ’19 catches a touchdown pass under the lights against Harvard Friday. The touchdown trimmed the Crimson lead to just seven points in the fourth quarter, and Casey finished the game with four catches, 64 yards and a score.

Moral victories are not often desired in sports, but as the football team walked off of the field following a 31-17 loss to Harvard Friday night, the Bears could hold their heads high. After coming out of the locker room flat under the lights, Brown (0-2, 0-1 Ivy) faced a 24-3 halftime deficit. But Bruno was defiant and fought back to be within one score of the Crimson deep into the fourth quarter before Harvard (2-0, 1-0 Ivy) pulled away for the final time.

“What I saw was a team that fought, had life, never gave up and was just a few plays away from being a good football team,” said Head Coach Phil Estes P’18. “We need to be complete and make a few more plays.”

Bruno’s offense came out firing on their first drive of the game, and quarterback Michael McGovern ’21 made a few impressive plays with his feet to get out of the pocket and gain first downs. The offense stalled deep in Crimson territory, but the Bears kicked a field goal to put the first points on the board. McGovern was five-for-nine with 55 yards on the drive.

But the rest of the half belonged to the Crimson. Harvard exploited the Bears’ missed tackles to get into Brown territory, and Crimson quarterback Jake Smith threw a 22-yard touchdown pass down the seam to Henry Taylor for six. On Harvard’s next drive, running back BJ Watson broke away for a lightning-quick 43-yard touchdown run to gain an early 14-3 advantage.

Later in the half, McGovern made a bad read and threw a pick to Harvard defensive back Cole Thompson, who took off toward the end zone to give the Crimson a seemingly insurmountable lead.

Yet the Bears had their chances and showed life, too. Estes demonstrated some of his gutsy play-calling, and McGovern flashed his arm strength on a deep flea-flicker pass to Jakob Prall ’20 for a 53-yard gain. Prall would finish the game with 120 receiving yards. Bruno also halted a promising Crimson drive with an interception in the red zone by Jorquel Condomina ’19. But stalled drives, interceptions and failed fourth down conversions put an end to many of Brown’s scoring opportunities.

Down 24-3 at halftime, the Bears came out of the locker room looking like a reinvigorated squad. Special teams put Brown back in the game and shifted the momentum, as Harvard missed a field goal on their first drive of the half, and a bad snap on a Crimson punt put the Bears’ offense on the Harvard 13-yard line.

Bruno took advantage of Harvard’s punting gaffe, and McGovern rocketed a play-action pass to Jaelon Blandburg ’20 for a four-yard touchdown to cut the Crimson’s lead to 24-10 with seven minutes to go in the third quarter.

“Energy changes the game,” Blandburg said. “We get (an) interception and everyone is going crazy, and the offense comes back. Now we’re ready to roll.”

From that point onward, the Bears’ defense took control of the game as the once-potent Harvard offense shifted into neutral. With 13:35 left in the fourth quarter, Sebastian Dovi ’19 out-muscled a Crimson receiver for a critical interception to stop Harvard deep in Bruno’s territory.

“We can run with everybody, we can run with every team in the Ivy League and tackle with every team in the Ivy League,” said defensive lineman Michael Hoecht ’20. “We’re going to win. This team is going to win a lot of football games.”

McGovern then led the offense down the field, and with the help of a 55-yard gain by Prall, put the Bears on the outskirts of the red zone. On third down, and with the pocket collapsing around him, McGovern managed to fire a strike to tight end Anton Casey ’19.  Casey caught the pass and broke free from the linebacker to gallop into the endzone for a crucial touchdown to put the Bears within one score of the Crimson with only 12 minutes left in the game.

But on the Crimson’s next series, it was clear that the tough and physical nature of the game had caught up with Brown’s defense. Harvard faced four third downs on the drive, and all four times the Crimson converted. Harvard’s last conversion was a touchdown pass to Adam Scott that put the game out of reach for Bruno.

“This is the difference from last year,” Estes said. “After this, we’d be down, and nobody would have their heads up, and they wouldn’t see what we can become. … It’s different now, they understand that we (have) things to fix, but we can fix this and be better.”

McGovern finished the game 22-43 from the field for 293 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. The Bears were six-for-16 on third downs and gained 325 total yards.

“We’re going to learn how to win, we’re going to learn how to fight and we’re going to learn how to finish,” Estes said. “When we do that, watch out.”

The Bears will return to the field Saturday at 1 p.m. for a home contest against Georgetown University.