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Football holds on versus Columbia for winning Ivy record

NEW YORK - Things had taken a disastrous turn for the football team in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, the last collegiate game for its seniors. Brown's 24-3 halftime lead over Columbia had shrunk to 24-22 with 11:37 left in the game, and hopes of a winning Ivy League record were in danger.

"Throughout our careers, we've learned that you can't panic, you have to respond," said tri-captain guard AJ Tracey '08. "But I, of course, was worried, and I was saying my prayers that we'd hold on to win the game."

The Bears did respond, and big defensive plays and a few key offensive drives helped Brown to hold off the Lions' comeback for a 30-22 victory in New York City.

Brown's offense got rolling in the first quarter, scoring on its first three drives to open up a 21-0 lead. Quarterback Michael Dougherty '09 consistently found open receivers in the middle of the field, before completing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Buddy Farnham '10 for a 7-0 lead on the opening drive.

"We had good timing, and the offensive line was giving good protection," Dougherty said. "Our receivers were getting open, and I was making good throws. Everything was going right."

On the ensuing Columbia drive, the Lions opted to go for it on 4th-and-5 at the Brown 30, but linebacker Frank Nuzzo '09 and safety Jose Yearwood '08 broke up a pass in the end zone to give the Bears the ball back.

On the next drive, the big play came when receiver Paul Raymond '08 made a great turning catch on a slightly under-thrown pass from Dougherty for a 38-yard gain. Brown then moved the ball down to the 3-yard line, where wide receiver Bobby Sewall '10 took a direct snap in the shotgun, broke a tackle in the backfield and ran the ball in for a touchdown.

Brown kept its third drive alive with two consecutive third-down conversions. The Bears then turned again to Sewall, who caught a 12-yard pass, and then ran the ball in on the next play for his second touchdown of the day.

Though his performance was not as flashy as in last week's game, when he ran for four touchdowns and threw for another, Sewall put in another solid effort, with 23 carries for 80 yards in addition to 83 yards on 12 catches. Though listed as a wide receiver, the coaches have been using Sewall as the Bears' primary running back for the past two games.

In the second quarter, the defense was led by sacks by tri-captain linebacker Eric Brewer '08 and lineman David Howard '09. With 1:24 remaining in the first half, the Lions finally got on the board with a 23-yard field goal, but the Bears answered with a 36-yard drive, including a 25-yard completion to tight end Colin Cloherty '09, which set up a 42-yard field goal for Steve Morgan '08 to give the Bears a 24-3 lead at the half.

"We had a good balance of play-calling in the first half," Tracey said. "We were picking up their blitzes and defensive fronts, and we were able to effectively counter their defense."

But the Lions came roaring back in the second half. A 46-yard kickoff return gave Columbia the ball at the Brown 49 to start the drive, and a 15-yard pass interference penalty as well as several short runs and passes moved the ball deep into Brown territory. On 2nd-and-goal at the 9, quarterback Craig Hormann threw a pass over the middle and receiver Nico Gutierrez made a diving catch in the end zone to make the score 24-10.

Brown was forced to punt on its next two drives, which resulted in two short Columbia field goals that cut the lead to 24-16 early in the fourth quarter.

"I think we started to play a little flat, and we lost the enthusiasm we came out with initially," Brewer said. "I give a lot of credit to the Columbia seniors, who were making some big-time plays."

The Brown offense finally started to click on the next possession, but Columbia defensive end Matt Bashaw hit Sewall to force a fumble, and Eugene Edwards scooped up the loose ball at the Columbia 31 and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown.

With Brown's lead down to two points after the touchdown, the Lions opted for the two-point conversion. The Bears appeared to have stopped them when cornerback Darrell Harrison '09 batted away a pass in the end zone, but the officials called interference, giving Columbia another shot. But the defense stopped Hormann on a keeper to hold onto the lead.

The Lions got the ball back after another three-and-out possession for Brown, but on second down, Harrison stepped in front of a short pass to the left sideline, intercepted the pass and ran the ball back to the Columbia 9.

"That was the play that just gave Brown back the momentum," Brewer said. "That really sparked us to pull out the victory."

Harrison's interception and return set up a 25-yard field goal for Morgan, who nailed it to put the Bears up 27-22. Morgan added a 32-yarder with 2:48 left to make it a 30-22 game.

The Lions kept fighting, though, and their offense converted a 4th-and-12 opportunity to move the ball to the Brown 41. On the next play, the defense's seniors came through, as Matt Mullenax '08 made a leaping deflection on a throw to the right sideline, tipping the ball to fellow senior Yearwood to give Brown the ball.

Columbia would get another chance with 50 seconds remaining, but linebacker Steve Ziogas '09 intercepted a pass over the middle to seal the win - and third place in the Ivy League - for the Bears.

At 4-3 in the Ivy League, and 5-5 overall, the team exceeded the predictions of the preseason media poll, in which the Bears ranked seventh in the league. Despite the team's winning record, some players are disappointed with the team's final outcome this season.

"I'm glad we exceeded some people's expectations, but we had higher expectations internally," Brewer said. "We had some things go against us, but we won some big football games. I'm definitely going to walk away proud of the way we played as a team."

The day was bittersweet for the seniors, who likely played their last football game.

"We all love the game. I've been playing football for the last 10 years of my life, and it's going to be a weird transition," Brewer said.

Tracey echoed these sentiments, but also spoke of a sense of relief.

"I think a lot of us are ready to be done," Tracey said. "Physically, my body is just completely destroyed."

Though the ability and leadership of the seniors will be missed, the team will have a great crop of players returning next season, and no one sees any limits. Dougherty hinted that running back Dereck Knight '08, who was expected to have a big season before getting injured in the second game this season, might return to Brown for a fifth year. He would give the Bears another weapon on an offense that led the league in scoring and yards gained this season.

"I think it's pretty obvious that the future for Brown football is very, very bright," Brewer said. "The amount of talent coming back is unparalleled, and there's no reason why next year's team shouldn't be the best in the league."


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