Playing at night for only the second time ever at Brown Stadium and with the Governor's Cup on the line, the Bears trounced in-state rival URI, 35-21, in front of 8,534 Saturday night.
It was a four-touchdown day for co-captain quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero '11.5, who suffered a season-ending wrist injury in last season's Governor's Cup game. The fifth-year senior led the offense and threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a pair of scores on the ground.
"Somebody asked me how my wrist feels today, and I told them, ‘It's a little sore, but it's not broken' — that's a little bit better than last year," said Newhall-Caballero after the game. "Just to win this year feels great." Last year, after Newhall-Caballero broke his wrist on the final play of regulation, the Bears lost the game in overtime, 27-24.
Though Bruno (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) ultimately triumphed this year, URI (1-3) scored first after a gutsy fourth-down conversion. Facing fourth and one on their own 19-yard line, the Rams decided to go for it. URI back Robbie Delgado found a hole in Brown's defense, gaining five yards and earning a new set of downs.
After another five-yard rush, Rams quarterback Steve Probst fooled Bruno's defense with a keeper on a quarterback option play. By the time the Bears realized who actually had the ball, it was too late for anyone to catch Probst, who ran 71 yards for the touchdown, putting the Rams up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
But Bruno also had a few tricks up its sleeve. Unable to convert on third and six at its own 24 yard line, Brown lined up in a punt formation. But instead of kicking the ball downfield into the waiting arms of the Rams' returner, the Bears snapped it to upback Stephen Zambetti '13, who took it 48 yards — good for the first down and more.
"We decided that … they were going to take the bait, and we went for it," said Head Coach Phil Estes. The fake punt "got us the momentum back."
After marching down the field, a pair of penalties seemed to put the Bears farther and farther out of scoring range. But on second and 22, Newhall-Caballero tossed the ball to running back Mark Kachmer '13, who ran up the right sideline and made an athletic catch in the end zone on a 27-yard touchdown. Kachmer was Newhall-Caballero's top target, with 62 yards receiving and one touchdown. The running back also added 37 yards rushing.
Brown shot itself in the foot multiple times with costly penalties. The Rams booted the ball from their own 15 back to the Bears, who started the drive at their own 41. Bruno drove down the field to URI's 34, and was prepared to attempt a fourth down conversion, but a false start penalty against the Bears forced them to punt. On the night, Bruno had 12 penalties for a total of 125 yards, compared to URI's nine penalties for 79 yards.
The Rams were not undone by penalties, but by turnovers. On their next possession, they steadily drove down the field until running back Travis Hurd fumbled the ball and linebacker Matt O'Donnell '12 recovered it. On the ensuing drive, Newhall-Caballero found wide receiver Jonah Fay '12 and wide receiver Alex Tounkara-Kone '11.5 for big gains. The drive culminated when Tounkara-Kone pulled in a 17-yard touchdown reception — his third in as many games — to put the Bears up 14-7 early in the second quarter. As soon as the Rams got the ball, they gave it right back to the Bears. URI's drive lasted nine seconds when Probst tried to throw a deep pass that was intercepted by cornerback A.J. Cruz '13.
Though the Bears dug themselves into a fourth-and-36 hole and were forced to punt, the Rams then coughed up the ball for the third time that night. With a short field, a 16-yard pass to Tounkara-Kone and two small rushing gains by Newhall-Caballero were all it took to put the Bears up 21-7.
The Rams had five turnovers on the night. Brown had none.
"The bottom line is we turned the ball over too much, and we underachieved," Probst said. "They out-executed us."
Before the end of the half, the kicker Alex Norocea '14 attempted a 36-yard field goal that missed wide left. Going into halftime, the score remained 21-7 Brown.
On their first possession of the second half, Probst again caught the Bears unawares with a quarterback sneak, rushing for 61 yards and the quick touchdown, cutting the deficit to seven.
Probst rushed for a career-high 180 yards and threw for another 179 yards and a touchdown. But he said his achievements on the night were rendered moot by his poor decision-making.
Before the end of the third quarter, the Bears scored again, thanks to wide receiver Matthew Sudfeld '12 and running back John Spooney '14, who both gained significant rushing yardage on the drive. Going into the fourth quarter, Brown led 28-14.
With just under 10 minutes left in the game, Brown scored its fifth and final touchdown, putting the game out of reach. Spooney started the drive with a 54-yard scamper down the left sideline, putting Brown at URI's 26-yard line. After another few short yardage gains by Newhall-Caballero, Kachmer ran into the end zone, stretching Brown's lead, 35-14.
But the stadium went quiet when tight end Nicholas Faber '12 was injured two plays before Kachmer's score. Faber was upturned in the end zone and landed awkwardly on his head. He was carried off on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.
The Rams scored with just over two minutes remaining, but it was too little, too late. In the end, the Bears won 35-21 and took the Governor's Cup.
"Offensively, we were much more in-sync" than last week, Estes said. "There were definitely miscues on our part, but I thought we overcame them in a big way."
Next week, the Bears host the College of the Holy Cross (2-2) in their final non-conference game of the season. Kickoff is set for 12:30 ="20">p.m. at Brown Stadium.