Running back Zack Tronti '11 bounced outside and scampered into the end zone from a yard out to give the football team a season-opening 33-30 win in double overtime over Stony Brook Saturday at Brown Stadium.
The Bears came away with the victory without first team All-Ivy quarterback and tri-captain Kyle Newhall-Caballero '11, who missed the game with a hand injury.
Stepping in for Newhall-Caballero was Joe Springer '11. In the first start of the senior's collegiate career, Springer finished with 250 yards and a touchdown. He threw three interceptions, but made big throws in key situations and demonstrated his mobility with several nifty scrambles outside of the pocket.
The Seawolves almost won the game in regulation, but kicker Wesley Skiffington, who had missed an extra point earlier, pulled a 49-yard field goal attempt wide left with 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, keeping the game deadlocked at 20.
In the first overtime, Brown put pressure on the Seawolves with a Tronti touchdown run from inside the five-yard line. Stony Brook responded with a clutch fourth-down play, as running back Brock Jackolski took a direct snap up the middle and into the end zone. In double overtime, Stony Brook's offense faltered, and the team was forced to settle for a field goal, leaving the door open for Brown to capitalize.
After two crucial defensive penalties by Stony Brook — a roughing-the-passer violation and a pass interference — Tronti took the ball in on 2nd and goal from the one-yard line, prompting the Bears' sideline to erupt and storm the field in celebration.
The Bears might not have had a chance without an electrifying kick-return touchdown by Mark Kachmer '13 with 6:03 remaining in the third quarter. Stony Brook had just capitalized with a touchdown off a Brown turnover to pull ahead 20-10, but the return pulled Bruno back into the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Kachmer took the ball along the left hash mark, broke free from a tackle at his own 30-yard line and sprinted 91 yards for a touchdown, shifting the momentum back to the Bears at an important juncture early in the second half.
Less than three minutes into the game, Stony Brook struck first on a 67-yard pass on its first offensive play. But the Bears clawed back.
After a 30-yard field goal by Alex Norocea '14 put the Bears on the board, Brown scored its first touchdown of the season. On third and goal from the 16, Springer connected with receiver Jimmy Saros '12 in the back corner of the end zone to take a 10-7 lead with 11:53 remaining in the half. Springer put the ball where only his man could pull it in, and Saros obliged with an athletic leaping catch for the score with a defender on his back.
The Seawolves answered right back with another long scoring play as Jackolski took the ball 47 yards up the middle to take back the lead, 14-10, going into halftime.
With 5:33 remaining in the 20-20 ballgame, the Seawolves looked poised to seize the victory, as they efficiently moved the ball to the Brown 11-yard line. But inside linebacker and tri-captain Andrew Serrano '11 jumped a route and picked off a Coulter pass near the goal line. Serrano was the defensive star of the game, finishing with 12 tackles and a sack in addition to the interception.
One of the biggest questions entering the season was answered on the first play from scrimmage, when Springer hit Alex Tounkara '11 for a 35-yard gain on a crisp fly pattern down the sideline. Much has been made of the loss of All-Ivy receivers Buddy Farnham '10 and Bobby Sewall '10, but the void was filled by an outstanding effort from Tounkara in his first collegiate start. Springer looked for Tounkara all game, citing his terrific "combination of size and speed," and the 6-foot-4-inch receiver was a constant threat as he pulled in a staggering 12 catches for 160 yards.
"Our offense puts receivers in the greatest position," Tounkara said. "Any one of us could have had a great game today. … I was just lucky it was me."
After the game, Head Coach Phil Estes was quick to commend Springer for his strong effort at quarterback. "I thought he was as poised as could be and made plays for us when he had to."
With a win under their belts, the 1-0 Bears now look ahead to the much-anticipated game under the lights this Saturday against Harvard. Newhall-Caballero is expected back healthy for the Ivy League opener.
"We feel good, but we've got a lot of work ahead of us," Estes said. "Harvard's always a tough, physical football game."