The football team ended its season on a disappointing note Saturday, falling on the road to previously winless Columbia 35-28 in double overtime. Despite the disheartening loss, Bruno (7-3, 4-3 Ivy) still finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Ivy League, thanks to Harvard's demolition of Yale 45-7 and Penn's upset loss to Cornell.
The loss to the Lions (1-9, 1-6) follows last week's upset home loss to Dartmouth on Senior Day.
"It's too bad that the last two games of the year, some people will look at as our defining moments," said Head Coach Phil Estes. "These two games leave a bad taste in your mouth that you have to sit with for a year before you get a chance to redeem yourself."
The game started off grim for the Bears, with quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero '11.5 throwing his first of three interceptions on the opening drive. But on the ensuing Lions' drive, cornerback Mel Farr '12 forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Matthew O'Donnell '12. O'Donnell then ran the ball back 17 yards down the sideline for the touchdown to give the Bears an early 7-0 lead.
On Brown's next possession, tight end Alex Harris '13 fumbled the ball, which Lions' defensive back Ross Morand scooped up and returned 26 yards, setting up a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line for Columbia. After a pass interference call against the Bears, Columbia quarterback Sean Brackett ran the ball across the goal line himself for the score. Brackett had a five-touchdown day — four on the ground and one through the air.
The Bears turned the ball over a total of six times, which, coupled with penalties, cost the Bears the game, Estes said.
"It wasn't anything that Columbia was doing — it was more what we were doing or not doing," he said. "We just shot ourselves in the foot too many times."
But things were looking good at the half. A pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Matthew Sudfeld '11.5 gave the Bears a 21-7 lead going into halftime. Sudfeld caught five passes for 60 yards on the day, while Newhall-Caballero threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Newhall-Caballero ends his Brown football career as one of the league's top all-time quarterbacks, ranking 12th in Ivy League history in touchdown passes with 39 and rounding out the top 10 in completions all-time with 517.
Defensively, the Bears held strong, posting 15 tackles-for-a-loss, five of which were sacks. Defensive end Clayton McGrath '11.5 — who led the Ivy League in tackles-for-a-loss last season — spearheaded the effort with three on the day. Outside linebacker Daniel Smithwick '12 and defensive lineman Kyle Rettig '12 were the top tacklers of the day with nine apiece.
The Bears maintained their two-touchdown lead going into the fourth quarter, but things started to fall apart from there. The Lions sacked Newhall-Caballero, who fumbled the ball at Brown's 46-yard line. Brackett and running back David Chao then made quick work of the short field, racking up yardage with a ground attack. Brackett crossed the goal line on a two-yard run to cap the drive, cutting the Bears' lead in half, 21-14.
Bruno started the next drive at its own 17-yard line but was pushed back all the way to its own five after surrendering another sack. After a punt, the Lions had only 40 yards between them and the end zone, and again they took advantage, tying the game at 21.
Kicker Alex Norocea's '14 43-yard field goal attempt with under two minutes remaining in regulation fell short. Columbia also attempted to kick a field goal in the final seconds, but cornerback A.J. Cruz '13 managed to block it and forced the game into overtime.
On the first play of extra time, Newhall-Caballero found wide receiver Jimmy Saros '12 in the end zone for a touchdown. The Bears' defense had Columbia at fourth and one but was unable to stop the Lions, who converted to pick up a new set of downs and eventually a touchdown of their own to tie the game at 28.
In the second overtime, Brackett did all the work, rushing for a nine-yard gain and then the remaining 16 yards for the score.
On their possession, the Bears managed to convert on fourth-and-four but were stopped on a later fourth down by a Lions goal-line stand, securing Columbia's 35-28 win.
"Columbia did a great job of hanging in there, and in the end, they won the football game," Estes said. "We had a chance in overtime, and then they were able to come back and score. We ended on the one-inch line. I think we got the ball over, but the referee didn't see it, and we ended up losing the game."
Estes said he was not satisfied with a second place finish in the league.
"The fact that we ended up in second place doesn't give me any pleasure at all," he said. "We were at least a 9-1 team, maybe even 7-0 (in Ivy play), but the record is what it is."
On the whole, Estes said he was proud of the team's accomplishments this year.
"I'm proud of this football team and the seniors and their leadership," he said. "I just wish we could have had a better finish than we did."