With the ball at the 17-yard line and just seconds left in a 31-31 game against Holy Cross on Saturday, Brown Head Coach Phil Estes didn't turn to his kicker for the Bears' field goal attempt. He sent in a wide receiver instead.
Before Saturday, Patrick Rooney '11 hadn't kicked a field goal in a varsity game since high school. In fact, he hadn't even been in a varsity game at Brown. But with just seconds left, he lined up for the 34-yard attempt that would either win the game for the Bears or force them into overtime.
"He's got a pretty strong leg. It just kind of goes a lot of different directions," Estes said.
Rooney put it right down the middle when it mattered most, giving Brown (2-2, 0-1 Ivy) a win over Holy Cross (4-1), which was ranked 19th in the Football Championship Subdivision.
"He's got to have ice in his veins. I mean, he didn't even hesitate," Estes said.
Rooney said he needed to take a huge breath to calm himself before the snap. After the ball split the uprights, he and the rest of the Bears let their emotions show.
"Everybody rushed the field," Rooney said. "We were lucky we didn't get penalized for that because it looked like three-fourths of the team was out there."
Drew Plichta '10, who had attempted all three of the Bears' field goals this season but had yet to make one, missed two field goals and an extra point earlier in the game, prompting Estes to give Rooney a try.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Rooney made his first varsity field goal on an attempt from 31 yards out. His two field goals won Rooney the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.
Rooney's second kick was the final play in a 1:39 drive engineered by quarterback Kyle Newhall '11. Newhall started the drive at the Brown 26-yard line with 1:42 left on the clock. He completed his first six passes, hitting four different receivers, on his way to the Holy Cross 17-yard line.
The final drive capped a game in which Newhall broke the Ivy League record for most completions in a single game, with 46. On 61 attempts, Newhall had 431 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Newhall won the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 12 after the win.
"He just made a lot of plays," said Holy Cross Head Coach Tom Gilmore. "When we did get pressure on him, he did a great job of escaping … He made the plays, and we didn't."
Gilmore said his team was focused on limiting Brown's standout receivers Buddy Farnham '10 and Bobby Sewall '10. Farnham had a relatively quiet day with only four catches for 30 yards, but Sewall had 14 receptions for 97 yards.
With the Crusaders focusing on Farnham and Sewall, Newhall linked up with an unfamiliar target, time and time again. Wide receiver Trevan Samp '10 had 15 catches for 206 yards and a touchdown. Saturday's performance vaulted Samp to the top of the Ivy League in receiving yards, with 293 on the season.
"They took (Sewall and Farnham) away a few times," Newhall said. "Trevan got open, so we took advantage."
But the Bears' offense was only half of an aerial show in which both quarterbacks passed for over 400 yards. Crusader Dominic Randolph was 38-of-53 passing with 411 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
All that slowed Randolph down were penalties and a couple of errant throws. Three of Holy Cross's drives ended after penalties, and another two ended with interceptions.
But nothing could stop the Holy Cross quarterback late in the game. On the Crusaders' last two possessions, Randolph passed on every play. Both drives ended with touchdowns.
With his Crusaders trailing 31-24 and just 3:14 left in the game, Randolph drove 64 yards in just five plays. He completed five passes on the drive, including a 30-yard strike to wide receiver Rob Koster in the end zone.
"Wow," Gilmore said of his quarterback's fourth-quarter performance. "If you don't think Dominic Randolph is the best quarterback in the country, just look at those last two drives … He is absolutely the best player I've seen at this level in a long, long time."
But the game didn't start off as a Newhall-Randolph duel. On its first two possessions, Brown rushed once in their first three plays. Both possessions were three-and-outs.
Holy Cross also tried to establish the run early in the game, with more success than Brown. In their first drive, the Crusaders ran on four of their 10 plays. The drive ended with a field goal. Holy Cross's first touchdown drive was half running, half passing.
But midway through the second quarter, with Holy Cross leading 17-7, Brown turned to its passing game. Holy Cross quickly followed suit.
"There was just that one point, we just said forget it," Estes said. "We tried to run the ball a little bit. Let's just go to what we know works."
For most of the second half, Newhall stayed in the shotgun, leading a no-huddle offense with five receivers spread out and no running back in the backfield. The Brown offensive line gave Newhall time to pick apart Holy Cross's zone defense.
By the end of the game, the Bears were running strictly out of the five-wide set. Brown running back Zachary Tronti '11 didn't have a single carry in the fourth quarter.
The evolution of this game into a pass-dominated shootout was expected. Since the Holy Cross-Brown series resumed in 2006, every game but one has featured two 400-yard passers. The only quarterback to throw for less than 400 yards was Randolph in 2006, when he passed for 329 yards.
"Too many people had been talking about what Dominic Randolph had done to us in the past — all of the yards, all of the completions," Estes said. "He's a terrific quarterback. But on this day — offense, defense, special teams — we needed to be better than Holy Cross, and not by much, but we were."