Bears collapse in second half, fall to Lions 42-20 on Senior Day

Bears outscored 28-0 in second half, sit one loss away from another winless Ivy campaign

Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2018

Jakob Prall ’20 races past the Columbia defense on a 90-yard touchdown run in the second quarter Saturday. The score put the Bears up 20-14, but Brown proved unable to score for the rest of the game.

Following a five-game winless skid, Saturday’s contest felt different for the football team. In a game where 17 seniors made their final appearance at Brown Stadium, Bruno looked ready to deliver the best gift possible to its graduating class: a win. But try as they might, the Bears have simply not performed to their potential this season, and a second-half collapse precipitated another blowout loss, this time against Columbia. With the defeat, the Bears clinched last place in the Ivy League standings for the second year in a row.

“It was a tale of two halves,” said Head Coach Phil Estes. “First half, we made big plays. Second half, we failed to make plays. When we learn to play 60 minutes, we’ll have a chance.”

The Bears (1-8, 0-6 Ivy) came out of the locker room with energy and seized momentum early. In the first quarter, Columbia (5-4, 2-4), led by quarterback Ty Lenhart and wide receiver Kyle Castner, embarked on a long, eight-minute drive deep into Brown territory. But on 4th and 2 on the Bears’ 24-yard line, Brown’s defense forced an incompletion to stop the promising series.

Just two plays later, quarterback Michael McGovern ’21 threw to wide receiver Scott Boylan ’21 on a quick swing pass on the right side of the field. Boylan found the edge and sprinted downfield, speeding past Columbia defenders and tiptoeing the sideline on his way to a 76-yard touchdown.

“First half, we had a lot of big plays,” Boylan said. “I think we got complacent.”

On Bruno’s next possession, the offense faced 2nd and 10 on its 48-yard line. McGovern took the shotgun snap and fumbled the ball, but quickly scooped it up and launched a deep rocket to wide receiver LJ Harriott ’20. Harriott had snuck behind the Lions’ secondary and was wide open downfield for the 52-yard touchdown strike. By the end of the first quarter, the Bears led 14-0.

But Brown’s scoring barrage and stiff defense would not last, as the Lions drove methodically down the field for two touchdowns in the second quarter. In the span of just five minutes, Columbia had tied the score at 14 with eight minutes left in the half.

So when the Bears’ offense took the field on their own 10-yard line after blowing an early lead, hope was not abundant in the stands of Brown Stadium. But Estes dug into his bag of tricks, and the team ran a reverse handoff to wide receiver Jakob Prall ’20 who accelerated into the secondary. Though Columbia’s defenders had the angle, Prall zoomed past everyone en route to a 90-yard score to send the Brown sideline into a frenzy and put the Bears up 20-14.

After the Lions missed a 37-yard field goal before halftime, the Bears seemed to be in firm control of the game with a six-point lead. But the signs of a second-half collapse were already present. While the Bears had earned a lead, they had done so with big, chunk plays, as seen by the fact that the team only had five catches and averaged 29.6 yards per reception. Despite facing a halftime deficit, the Lions led in first downs 13-3 and yards 261-228. So when the big plays stopped materializing for the Bears and the Lions continued to play consistently on offense, the rout was on.

On the Lions’ first drive of the half, they marched down the field in just a minute and a half to score a touchdown and take the lead. Columbia got the ball back after a quick three-and-out from the Bears, and again cut through the Brown defense like a hot knife through butter. On a trick play that saw the Lions use a lateral behind the line of scrimmage, Ryan Young got the ball and weaved through the Brown defense for a 25-yard score. 

Despite giving away the halftime lead, the Bears still had life and only trailed by eight points. On back-to-back Columbia possessions at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth, Bruno’s defense earned big fourth down stops to seemingly shift momentum back to the home team.

But the offense was wildly ineffective, only gaining 26 yards in the entire half. McGovern was constantly under pressure and was forced to focus on escaping Columbia’s defensive linemen rather than throwing the ball downfield. The Lions’ defense earned 10 sacks throughout the game to push the Bears back 61 yards. 

With eight minutes left in the contest, Brown’s defense finally broke. On 4th and 1 at the Bears’ 31-yard line, Castner went untouched on a long touchdown gallop that put Columbia up double-digits and buried the Bears. The touchdown would be Castner’s fifth of the game, as he was credited with passing for two and rushing for three. Just a few minutes later, the Lions would reach the endzone again to bring the score to 42-20.

Senior quarterback Nicholas Duncan ’19 relieved McGovern in the last few minutes, but the offense did not fare any better.

“Next week, we just need to get up early like we did this week,” Boylan said. “(We need to) continue to play hard, keep up with those big plays and keep scoring touchdowns.”

When the final whistle sounded, the Bears’ early successes and touchdowns felt as if they had happened seasons ago. The Lions led in first downs 24-6 and total yards 515-254. McGovern passed 7-18 on the day for 164 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Brown defense recorded zero sacks and zero turnovers, giving up more than 40 points for the fifth time this season.

“It’s truly bittersweet,” said cornerback Jorquel Condomina ’19. “We would have liked to have come out on top obviously, but it has been a pleasure to be here. I love the program, and Brown changed my life.”

Since standardized Ivy League football began in 1956, Bruno has never gone 0-7 in the Ivy League for two consecutive years. The Bears will take to the field for their final game of the season away against Dartmouth Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and are at risk of making history.

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