In a span of just over a week, the football team suffered three heartbreaking losses — dropping two games and losing its First Team All-Ivy quarterback for the season.
The Bears (2-2, 1-0 Ivy League) fell for the second consecutive week as they lost to Holy Cross Saturday afternoon, 17-13. After several shootouts in their matchups in the past few seasons, Saturday's game saw the Crusaders (3-3) come out on top in a defensive battle.
In the week leading up to the game, Bruno was dealt a major blow when the team learned that tri-captain QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero '11 would miss the remainder of the season after suffering a broken wrist in the overtime loss to University of Rhode Island a week ago. On the last play of regulation in that game, Newhall-Caballero was hit as he was throwing and fell awkwardly on his wrist, breaking it.
Head Coach Phil Estes cited the role of "many injuries" in the team's disappointing play, but said that the main reason for this weekend's loss was that the Bears were "playing flat."
"We need to play a little more inspired," Estes said. "No excuses."
The players also recognized the need to overcome the spell of injuries going forward.
"Injuries are a part of the game," said QB Patrick Donnelly '13, who was under center for most of the game in Newhall-Caballero's absence. "Everybody's ready for when their name's called."
Joe Springer '11 started the Saturday game at quarterback but gave way to Donnelly after an ineffective first quarter, in which all three drives ended without a first down gained.
Donnelly demonstrated mobility and quickness in his first extended period of playing time at the varsity collegiate level. He finished with 217 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception, in addition to 43 yards on the ground. Wide receiver Alex Tounkara '11 had another noteworthy performance with his third 100-yard game of the year, pulling in eight catches for 104 yards.
Holy Cross struck first with a field goal in the first quarter before extending its lead to 10-0 on a touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Taggart to receiver Bill Edger.
The Bears responded, as Donnelly led the offense on an impressive nine-play, 76-yard drive. Running back Mark Kachmer '13 punched it in from five yards out for his third rushing touchdown of the year. The extra point attempt was blocked, and Holy Cross led 10-6 with 11:14 remaining in the half.
As the half was closing, Donnelly put the Bears on top, 13-10, after orchestrating another long drive, this one spanning 75 yards. The score came on a seven-yard, sophomore-to-sophomore connection to WR Tellef Lundevall '13. Lundevall caught the ball around the five-yard line before muscling his way into the end zone to give Bruno the halftime lead.
But this would be the last Bear score of the day. Holy Cross reclaimed the lead in the third quarter when Taggart again connected with Edger on a 12-yard scoring play. Edger beat the one-on-one coverage on a slant route over the middle and was wide open for what proved to be the winning touchdown, as the Crusaders pulled ahead 17-13 with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bears had several opportunities to reclaim the lead late in the game, but could not put the ball in the end zone. The offense failed to capitalize on a first-and-goal opportunity from the Holy Cross eight-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Bruno turned the ball over on downs after a Donnelly rush was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the four-yard line, in what was the team's best scoring chance of the second half.
"We need to keep a high level of energy and a sense of urgency on every snap," Donnelly said of the offense's goals for greater consistency. "Every single person has to win every single play. That's when you start to sustain drives and put points on the board."
Despite suffering two tough losses in a row, the Bears remain 1-0 in conference play, with that win coming over Harvard, the media's preseason favorites to win the Ivy League.
Next week, Bruno will travel to Princeton (1-3, 0-1) for its second conference matchup of the year, a game that Estes feels may define the team's season.
"I hope they get excited," Estes said. "We need to get going (and) we need to decide what kind of team we need to be."
The new quarterback also stressed the importance of the team's rebound in the wake of Newhall-Caballero's injury.
"We've faced some adversity," Donnelly said. "But a sign of a great team is when you can get past this adversity and win games."
The Bears know they must do just that in their remaining six games if they are to reach their goal of an Ivy League championship.