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Football team tops Cornell in first conference win

The squad recovered from an early fumble and scored in every quarter

The Bears exploded offensively and held off a fourth-quarter Cornell rally to capture their first conference win of the season with a 42-35 triumph in Ithaca, N.Y.

The victory is welcome after Bruno (4-2, 1-2 Ivy) coughed up early leads against Harvard (5-1, 2-1) and Princeton (5-1, 3-0) in its first two Ivy contests. The team seemed to be headed toward a similar fate late in the Cornell game, but some big plays in the final quarter secured the win.

The win “wasn’t the way we drew it up,” said Head Coach Phil Estes, but he added that beating Cornell on the road is important.

Bruno scored in every quarter, grabbing first-half momentum with 14 unanswered points in the second quarter and building a 35-14 lead after three quarters. But Cornell’s Jeff Mathews demonstrated the skills that previously earned him the title of Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and made him the league’s all-time leader in passing yards. Mathews led the Big Red (1-5, 0-3) on three fourth-quarter scoring drives to crawl back into the game.

“We were doing well in the first two quarters,” said defensive end and co-captain Michael Yules ’14 of the defense against Mathews. “When they were down by so much and started to chuck it up, the kid has an arm and made some plays.”

“When you play against a guy as seasoned as Mathews, you know a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter isn’t safe,” said Jordan Reisner ’14. “You can never have too many insurance points.”

Mathews’ heroics gave the home team a chance with the football as it trailed by seven with just over two minutes to play. But on the first snap of the drive, defensive end John Bumpus ’14 made his biggest contribution of the season so far. After playing the first 58 minutes without a tackle, Bumpus sacked Mathews and jarred the ball loose for linebacker Dan Giovacchini ’15 to recover.

“Bumpus made a great play,” said Yules, who was rushing Mathews from the other side on the integral play. There were no schemes in place, Yules said. “He just got over the top and stripped him, and that’s the turning point in the game.”

Amid the flurry of Cornell scores in the fourth, the Bears notched a touchdown of their own, which proved to make the difference. The drive almost stalled with Bruno facing a third and seven at their own 28 yard-line. But quarterback and co-captain Patrick Donnelly ’13.5 found Jordan Evans ’14 for a crucial 44-yard catch-and-run that set up Andrew Coke ’16 for the decisive score four plays later.

A balanced attack contributed to a successful day for the offense, which amassed 488 total yards and five touchdowns.

Donnelly tossed for 295 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with a season-high seven receivers, including three different touchdown combinations.

Evans led all receivers with 104 yards and a score, passing the century mark for the second time this season. On the ground, Reisner and Coke provided an effective two-pronged attack, running for 110 and 71 yards, respectively, and scoring a touchdown each.

Reisner’s 110-yard effort was huge lift to the Bears, who were missing their leading rusher John Spooney ’14 due to concussion-like symptoms. After a 193-yard performance against the Big Red last year, Reisner has a knack for coming up big against the Ivy League foe. A staggering 63.9 percent of the running back’s career yards have come against Cornell.

“I think the Cornell aspect is really just a coincidence,” Reisner said with a laugh after the game, adding that his inflated statistics are “a product of the being really prepared and the coaches trusting him with carries.”

Reisner also pointed to offensive balance and Donnelly’s 295 passing yards as factors helping the ground attack.

“It’s simple math,” he said. “When the defense respects Donnelly, they are forced to have more secondary coverage and that takes defenders out of the mix up front.”

The game began ominously for the Bears with a fumble deep in Cornell territory on the first drive of the game. Such turnovers were costly in their first two conference losses.

But Brown bounced back on its next drive, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a one-yard smash by Reisner. Cornell answered, but the Bears were able to pull away in the second quarter with an aerial attack. Donnelly racked up 98 passing yards in the period and found Andrew Marks ’14 and Tellef Lundevall ’13.5 for touchdowns.

“Donnelly was unbelievable today and was able to hit a couple of big plays,” Estes said.

For the second week in a row, the Bears’ special teams contributed a touchdown. On the opening kickoff of the second half, a lick by Will Quigley ’16 on Big Red kick returner Ben Rogers jarred the ball loose. William Twyman ’16 scooped up the pigskin and made the most of his first career fumble recover, carrying the ball 23 yards into the end zone.

Evans showcased his ability to run after the catch in the third when he broke tackles on his way to a 43-yard score.

A monster day from Mathews — 419 passing yards and four touchdowns — came up short for the Big Red as the offense was bottled up most of the game by the Bruno defense. Outside linebacker Ade Oyalowo ’14 led the way with nine tackles, while Jacob Supron ’15 and Giovacchini each contributed eight.

The Bears will be tested at Brown Stadium next week against defending Ivy League champion Penn (4-2, 3-0). Leaving Ithaca with a victory is a major boost for next week, Yules said.

“We needed that — first Ivy win going into Penn,” he said. “It was absolutely humongous that we won that game, and the locker room was definitely showing it.”


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