Two touchdown passes from Joe Springer '11 to Alex Tounkara '11 propelled the football team (4-2, 3-0 Ivy League) to a 27-14 conference victory over Cornell (1-5, 0-3) on Saturday. The win ties Bruno for first place atop the Ivy standings with No. 20 Penn, whom Brown will battle next week in Philadelphia for the conference's outright lead.
"I thought that offensively, we played a lot better," said Head Coach Phil Estes. "We ran the ball fairly successfully when we had to, and Joe, I thought, was spectacular, just directing the offense, and he threw the ball extremely well."
Springer, who threw for 287 yards, spread the ball around to seven different receivers and found success in a short and efficient passing game — running back Zach Tronti '11 had six receptions for 71 yards — to deal with the strong winds on a crisp October afternoon.
"Whenever you play with the wind, you have to make sure you throw the ball with a tight spiral," Springer said. "I kind of got in a rhythm and figured out what the wind was doing and was able to throw some balls that didn't hang up too much."
While Springer led a balanced Brown attack — running an equal number of rushing and passing plays — the defense stepped up as well, sacking Cornell freshman quarterback Jeff Mathews five times and holding the Cornell rushing attack to only 61 yards.
"We play physical," said defensive end Jeremy Raducha '11 when asked about Brown's defense this season. "We're not the biggest guys out there, but we're athletic enough to rock and roll a little bit… and get to the (quarterback)."
The Bears struck first, as Alex Norocea '14 connected on a 45-yard field goal. On the ensuing drive, Cornell responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive capped by a tough catch in the end zone by Ryan Houska with a Brown defender on his back. This was the only lead the Big Red saw all game.
Brown reclaimed the lead four minutes later in an unorthodox fashion. After efficiently moving the ball to the Cornell four-yard line, a muffed exchange on a handoff between Springer and Mark Kachmer '13 put the ball on the turf. The fumbled ball squirted into the end zone, where in the confusion, it was fallen on by Kachmer for the score, putting Brown on top 10-7.
"It went down on the ground, and everybody's eyes were up," Estes said. "It went between the legs of the Cornell players, and (Kachmer) was able to find it."
The second quarter proved to be a huge momentum swing in the Bears' favor. The Brown defense held Cornell to only nine yards in the quarter, and the offense added 10 more points to extend the lead to 20-7 at halftime. Brown had the ball at its own 43-yard line with only 55 seconds left in the half. A 27-yard reception on the sideline by receiver Jimmy Saros '12 set up a 20-yard touchdown from Springer to Tounkara to extend the Bears' lead going into halftime.
Springer and Tounkara linked up again in the fourth quarter, this time on a 15-yard strike. Tounkara caught the ball over the middle at the five-yard line and muscled his way into the end zone to put the Bears up 27-7 with only 13:12 remaining in the game.
Cornell made a bit of noise at the end of the game, scoring on a quick 66-yard drive. After a Brown three-and-out, the Big Red looked poised to make the game interesting again, but the Bears' defense held strong. After Cornell converted on a fourth-and-short in Brown territory, linebacker Chimso Okoji '11 dished out a punishing hit over the middle to force an incompletion on the ensuing play, breathing life back into Bruno. Defensive end Patxi Colbern '13 sacked Mathews for a loss of 11 on the next play, and Cornell ended up turning the ball over on downs.
"We played a really physical football team today in Brown, a well-coached football team," said Cornell Head Coach Kent Austin.
The Bears' "D" put pressure on the Cornell quarterback all game. Linebacker and tri-captain Andrew Serrano '11 turned in another strong performance, logging eight tackles and a sack. The entire Brown front seven seemed to be in the Big Red backfield on every play, preventing Mathews from establishing any sort of comfort zone or rhythm.
In addition to Springer's strong play on the offensive side of the ball, the Bears' two-headed running attack of Tronti and Kachmer produced their best combined effort of the year. Kachmer led the way with a game-high 81 yards on the ground, while Tronti amassed 128 total yards of offense and was an integral part of the passing game. Estes commented on how the two were running hard "downhill," and the success on the ground took some pressure off the passing attack.
The win improves Brown's conference record to 3-0 and places them tied atop the table with Penn, who dispatched Yale on Saturday. The two sides will face off at Franklin Field in Philadelphia next week in a 1:30 p.m. matchup of the Ivy League's unbeatens.