With just over a minute remaining in Saturday's game, members of the football team began to rejoice on the sidelines, as the clock ran down and Head Coach Phil Estes was doused with Gatorade. Saturday's 41-10 win over Columbia (2-8, 2-5 Ivy) improved Brown's record to 6-1 in the Ivy League (7-3 overall), clinching the Bears a share of the Ivy League championship.
"We said at the beginning of the season that this was our goal ... and thank God, it came true," said a smiling, but visibly tired, Estes. "I couldn't be happier right now."
Though the win may have seemed like a sure thing for the Bears, who were facing a Columbia team that had struggled all year long, Estes was quick to emphasize that his team was not taking anything for granted.
Columbia "worried me because of how they play up front and the type of players that they have," Estes said. "They play hard on every snap."
Quarterback and co-captain Michael Dougherty '09 led the way for the Bears in his last collegiate game, completing 18 of 35 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, while adding a 22-yard rushing touchdown. In his senior season, Dougherty led the Ivy League with 19 touchdown passes and finished second with 2,677 passing yards.
The Bears got on the board first on Saturday, less than three minutes into the game. After going three-and-out on their first possession, the Bears caught a break when a punt from Robert Ranney '08.5 glanced off the leg of a Columbia player, and linebacker Andrew Serrano '11 dove on the loose ball at the Columbia 42-yard line. On third-and-12, Dougherty hit receiver Buddy Farnham '10 on a short route, and Farnham, off a great lead block from receiver Matt Sudfeld '11, fought his way to the 9-yard line, for a 35-yard gain. Two plays later, Bruno found the end zone when receiver Bobby Sewall '10 lined up under center and ran a sweep to the right corner of the end zone to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
The Lions tied the game later in the first quarter when a play fake opened a seam up the middle for quarterback M.A. Olawale, who broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown run. Before leaving the game with an injury late in the second quarter, Olawale ran for 105 yards on eight rushing attempts.
Brown regained the lead with 11:31 left in the half, when Dougherty ran a sweep to the left off a play fake, then cut back to the middle of the field and found the end zone to put the Bears ahead, 14-7.
Bruno continued to widen its lead when Farnham returned a punt 28 yards to the Columbia 40, eventually setting up a 34-yard field goal for Ranney. On the ensuing possession, cornerback David Clement '10 broke up a third-down pass to force the Lions to punt, and on the second play of the Brown drive, Dougherty found tight end Colin Cloherty '09 wide open for a 32-yard touchdown catch. Cloherty finished his senior season with 40 receptions for 418 yards and three touchdowns.
The Lions got a field goal as time expired in the first half to cut Brown's lead to 24-10, but the Bears came out of the locker room looking to put the game away.
On Columbia's first possession, on third-and-7, defensive end James Develin '10 provided pressure from the left side, forcing backup quarterback Shane Kelly into a hurried throw to the right, directly into the hands of linebacker Steve Ziogas '09, who ran it back to the Columbia 21.
Ziogas added three tackles on the day, wrapping up a stellar season in which he led the team with 65 tackles, including three tackles for a loss and two sacks.
After the interception, the Bears resorted to some trickery. Running back Dereck Knight '08.5 took a handoff up the middle, then pitched the ball back to Dougherty, who lofted a pass to Farnham in the back right corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The touchdown was the sixth touchdown catch of the year for Farnham, who added three rushing touchdowns this year, and finished with 63 catches for 816 yards, both third in the Ivy League.
Following Farnham's touchdown, with the Bears ahead 31-10, linebacker Kelley Cox '10 jarred the ball loose on a quarterback keeper on the first play of the Columbia drive, and outside linebacker Miles Craigwell '09 recovered the fumble at the Columbia 25. Craigwell registered a game-high seven tackles for Brown, with two tackles for a loss.
On second down of the ensuing possession, Dougherty fired a 20-yard completion to Sudfeld, eventually setting up a 26-yard field goal for Ranney to give Bruno a 34-10 lead.
"The big thing about this defense and this offense, all year long, is that they've been able to capitalize on the big plays, to force turnovers and turn them into points," Estes said. "Some magic happened out there."
Tackle David Howard '09 helped lead the defensive effort with five tackles, including two sacks, to finish with a team-high 6.5 sacks on the season, good for third in the Ivy League.
After another defensive stop, the Bears put together a 93-yard touchdown drive on the shoulders of senior running backs Knight and Jonathan Edwards '09. Knight started off the drive with a 20-yard run up the middle and added a 14-yard run on third-and-5 on the next series.
Edwards followed that up with a 12-yard run to move the ball into Columbia territory, and the Bears found the end zone when Sewall caught a screen pass from the 13-yard line and picked up a few lead blocks to get across the goal line.
After the departure of All-Ivy receiver Paul Raymond '08, Sewall followed up an impressive sophomore season with a phenomenal junior year for the Bears, leading all Ivy League receivers with 69 catches, 948 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions. He also added six rushing touchdowns to finish with a league-leading 14 overall touchdowns.
"There was talk at the beginning of the year that we weren't going to have a deep threat, and I kind of took that personally," Sewall said. "This is my first championship in football in my life, so this obviously means a lot."
In the fourth quarter, the Bears continued to give the ball to Knight and Edwards to run the clock down. Knight played strongly in his last collegiate game, with 21 carries for 87 yards in addition to a 28-yard reception, while Edwards added 44 yards on 10 carries.
On Brown's final possession, as the clock wound down to zero, the cheers began to swell in the crowd, and the celebration began on the sideline, as the players and fans reveled in Brown's second Ivy League championship in four years. Though Brown will share the championship with Harvard (9-1, 6-1 Ivy), the Bears feel that the championship is theirs, in light of their 24-22 early-season win over the Crimson.
"As far as I'm concerned, that's the way I'm going to spin it," Estes said. "We won it, we beat Harvard, so we won the whole thing, and we won it outright."
After the departure of this year's senior class, the first in Brown football history to earn two Ivy League championship rings, the Bears will turn their attention to next season, when they will look to defend their title.
"When I came to the Brown football program, we decided that we were going to change everything ... it wasn't about the past, it was about this team, now," Estes said. "And next year, we'll move on and make it about next year's guys."