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Football overcomes the rain, drowns Harvard

Supreme battle gives U. first win over Crimson since 1999

Correction appended.

When quarterback and co-captain Michael Dougherty '09 took his final knee to run out the clock, the players and fans knew that the nine-year wait was finally over. With rain pouring down on Brown Stadium on Saturday afternoon for Brown's Homecoming matchup with defending Ivy League champion Harvard, the Bears overcame a 13-0 deficit and the Crimson's fierce fourth-quarter comeback to hold on for a dramatic 24-22 win, their first victory over Harvard since 1999.

"It's a good feeling, because it's been eight years since we've done that, and had this feeling," said Head Coach Phil Estes. "This group of guys has a lot of characters, in a good way, who really love to play football. They get up for a football game, and they play together."

It was a game defined by big plays, with five combined turnovers, two red-zone interceptions, a back-to-back-to-back turnover sequence in the second quarter, two dazzling touchdown catches by receiver Buddy Farnham '10 and a missed extra point in the first quarter that would come back to haunt the Crimson.

The Brown offense came up a yard short of a first down on the game's opening series, and on the ensuing drive, the Harvard offense looked unstoppable. Starting at his own 14-yard line, Crimson senior quarterback Chris Pizzotti, a 2007 first-team All-Ivy selection, moved the ball down the field with precise short passes, moving the ball to the Harvard 47. With the Brown secondary attempting to deny the underneath routes on first down, Pizzotti lofted a pass to receiver Matt Luft along the sidelines, and Luft went untouched into the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown. The Bears caught a break, though, when Harvard kicker Patrick Long's extra point attempt was rejected by the crossbar.

After a 30-yard kickoff return by outside linebacker Nkosi Still '09, Bruno began the drive at its own 46, and the Bears picked up three first downs with Dougherty completing passes to Farnham, tight end Colin Cloherty '09 and receiver Bobby Sewall '10. Brown moved the ball into field-goal range, but on third down with the ball on the 20, Dougherty's pass glanced off the hands of receiver William Averill '10, and fell into the hands of a Harvard defender, ending the drive for the Bears.

The Harvard drive did not fare any better for Brown, despite the defense forcing Harvard into several third-and-long situations. On third and 13 from the Harvard 4, running back Gino Gordon found room up the middle for a 15-yard gain, and on third and 6 from the 23, Pizzotti completed a 34-yard pass to Luft, who finished the game with 10 receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Pizzotti threw a 26-yard completion on first down, and on the following play, dumped the ball off to Gordon, who eluded several Brown defenders and ran into the end zone to put Harvard ahead 13-0 after the extra point.

"Sometimes you look forward to a game so much that you overplay it, and in that first quarter we were a little bit out of sync," Estes said. "But they kept cheering each other on the sideline, talking about that it was us, and as long as we took care of ourselves, we were going to be all right."

Then, things turned around for Bruno. With the drive starting at the Brown 25, Dougherty and the Bears' offense penetrated deep into Harvard territory with two third-down conversions as well as a 19-yard completion to Farnham. Then, on first and 10 from the Harvard 25, Dougherty rolled out to his left and lofted a pass towards Farnham in the back of the end zone. With Harvard cornerback Derrick Barker face-guarding him and clinging to his jersey, Farnham reached around Barker's head, tipped the ball in the air with his left hand, and brought it down in bounds, for a spectacular touchdown catch, even in spite of a pass interference call on Barker.

"I was just focusing on the ball, and trying to get a hand on it," Farnham said. "I can't really describe it, I just caught it."

The momentum continued to swing Brown's way when, on the ensuing kickoff, safety Chris Perkins '10 jarred the ball loose with a huge hit, and linebacker Miles Craigwell '09 secured the recovery for the Bears. But the cheers from the Brown crowd died down as quickly as they had grown, when Dougherty's pass on the opening play of the drive was picked off, and Harvard took over once again. But on the next play, Gordon fumbled the ball on his way to the ground, and linebacker Jesse Spartichino '09 fell on the ball to give it back to the Bears at the Harvard 13-yard line.

"We kind of caught a break, and whenever a team gives you a break like that, you want to take advantage of it, and when you do, that's when you win games," Dougherty said.

The Bears did take advantage of it, moving the ball down to the 5. Even after a holding penalty sent them back to the 15 and the rain intensified, Dougherty kept his composure and fired a 12-yard strike to Sewall on a curl route. On third and goal, with the ball on the 3, Sewall took the snap, and took the ball up the middle. He was hit at the line of scrimmage, but stayed on his feet and bounced to the outside, then dove over the goal line for the touchdown. In addition to his rushing touchdown, Sewall led the team with nine catches for 105 yards. After Sewall's touchdown, kicker Robert Ranney '09 converted the extra point to give Bruno a 14-13 lead.

The Crimson would re-gain the ball three more times in the second quarter, but the Brown defense forced them to punt each time because of excellent coverage by cornerback David Clement '10 and Perkins as well as a tipped pass by Craigwell on a third and 2. Playing without All-Ivy cornerback and co-captain Darrell Harrison '09 (knee), the secondary was also helped by a tremendous pass rush effort.

"Our defensive line and our linebackers are strong and fast, and they can put pressure, they can hurry a throw, or force a bad throw, and that's a big advantage," Estes said.

But he was quick to give praise to the defensive backs as well.

"I think Chris Perkins was unbelievable, and Miles Craigwell broke on the ball when you're supposed to," he said. "And when they tried to challenge Clement, he made big plays...I think our secondary is going to keep getting better every game."

The Bears went into halftime with the slim 14-13 lead intact, and on the opening kickoff of the second half, the Brown defense went right back to work. On Harvard's first play of the half, a draw play to Gordon, tackle David Howard '09 stripped the ball, and defensive end James Develin '10 covered it up. Though the Brown offense came out of the intermission a little bit cold and failed to score on its first two drives of the third quarter, the defense continued to stifle the Harvard offense.

"Coming off a game like last week's, we were expected to perform well," said linebacker Jonathan May '09, who finished with six tackles. "We were pretty tight on defense early on, and once we loosened up, we just started to play the way we're supposed to."

On Brown's third drive of the second half, Dougherty threw a perfect pass over the top to Sewall, who came down with the ball at the Harvard 34 for a 38-yard completion. Running back Dereck Knight '08.5 then found holes up the middle for gains of eight yards and three yards to pick up another first down at the 23-yard line. Knight, who suffered a season-ending injury early in last year's game at Harvard, had a strong game on Saturday, carrying the ball 18 times for 84 yards.

With first down on the 23, the offensive line gave Dougherty outstanding protection in the pocket, which gave Farnham time to get open. Once again, Dougherty found him with a perfect throw, and after making the catch at the 3, Farnham fought his way through multiple Harvard defenders to cross the goal line and give Bruno a 21-13 advantage. Not even the driving rain could stop the Bears' passing game, as Dougherty completed 20 of 36 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Dougherty and the receivers were ready in large part because of the coaching staff's interesting preparation method.

"There were a few periods where the rain was coming down pretty hard, and that was tough," Dougherty said. "But the past two or three days, we had buckets of water, because we knew it was going to be rainy, so we dumped the balls into the buckets of water before throwing, so that was pretty helpful, and we just went out there and executed."

The Crimson came storming back, though, and on the ensuing drive Pizzotti completed his first three passes for 39 yards, to move Harvard to the Brown 23. The Crimson would pick up another first down, but the defense kept them out of the end zone, and Harvard settled for a 27-yard field goal for a 21-16 game heading into the fourth quarter.

Knight carried the Bears on the next drive, picking up two first downs with runs of 11 and 18 yards. Then, with a fourth and 6 at the Harvard 28, just outside of Ranney's comfortable field goal range, Estes opted to go for the first down, and Dougherty found back-up receiver Matthew Sudfeld '11 on an out pattern for a 10-yard completion. This set up an eventual 38-yard try for Ranney, who drilled the kick through the uprights to widen Brown's lead to 24-16 with 8:54 left in the game.

Harvard's final drive began at its own 25-yard line, with 4:45 remaining. Pizzotti found his receivers with precisely placed throws, and the Crimson eventually moved the ball down to the Brown 3, thanks to two third-down conversions and one conversion on fourth and 5. On third and goal, from the 3, backup quarterback Liam O'Hagan came in for the Crimson and, on his only throw of the day, fired a pass into Luft's hands to bring Harvard to within two points, 24-22, the missed extra point looming larger than ever.

Under the downpour of rain, the players lined up at the one-yard line for the two-point conversion try. The Brown defense knew what was coming: a run up the middle.

"That was a no-brainer for them," Estes said.

Harvard running back Ben Jenkins took the handoff, and sure enough, ran directly up the middle, pushing towards the end zone. But Craigwell, lineman Jake Powers '09 and the rest of the Brown defensive line pushed back a little bit harder, and Jenkins came up short of the goal line. With 1:03 remaining, the game was not over yet, but when Farnham fielded Harvard's onside kick cleanly and covered the ball up on the ground, the rain-soaked crowd exploded with cheers, and the Brown players began to rejoice on the sideline as Dougherty kneeled down to run out the clock.

"It was a little bit of disbelief. You want to make sure that the refs are saying it didn't cross the goal line. You're looking to see if there's a flag, you want to believe it all," Estes said. "I knew all we had to do was take a knee, but I'm going, are you sure we're going to run that clock down, or you sure we're going to get off the snap?"

But the Bears came out on top against last year's league champs and the team that was tied for first in a preseason Ivy League poll. The team that Harvard was tied with, Yale, also lost in their Ivy opener, falling 17-14 to Cornell. Brown has now established itself as a legitimate contender to win the Ivy League title, but Estes emphasized the need to stay focused and not make too much of one win, no matter how dramatic.

"It just says that we're 2-0, really, it doesn't go beyond there. In the locker room, the first thing that comes out of our mouths is, 'It's over...' We're taking it one game at a time, not making too much of this," Estes said. "We're in the infant stages of what could be something very special."

Next week, the Bears will travel to Kingston to take on URI for the Governor's Cup, which they will try to reclaim for the first time since their Ivy League Champion 2005 season.

In the Sept. 29 issue of The Herald, a sports caption incorrectly identified David Clement '10 as Patrick Pakan '12.


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