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High-octane Elis overwhelm football

Yale eliminates Bruno from Ivy championship race after Bears blow 13-point lead in home loss

Despite grabbing an early lead and later mounting a spirited comeback, the football team could not bottle up Yale’s explosive offense and fell below .500 in its third Ivy game versus the Elis, 45-42.

A pair of early Yale (7-1, 4-1 Ivy) turnovers stalled its top-ranked offense, and the Bears capitalized to take a 20-7 lead in the second quarter. But the Elis stormed back, scoring the game’s next 24 points, and while the Bears were able to continue scoring, they could not stop the Yale offense and stud running back Tyler Varga.

“We played hard. It just came down to Varga,” said Head Coach Phil Estes P’18.

The defeat mathematically eliminates Bruno (4-4, 2-3) from Ivy title contention, as it cannot end up with a better record than first-place Harvard (8-0, 5-0). The Bears now sit in fifth place, ahead of Penn, Cornell and Columbia, who are a combined 1-14 in conference and 1-23 overall.

Varga, who has over 500 more rushing yards than anyone else in the conference, was simply unstoppable. He ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries, seemingly pushing the pile and guaranteeing himself a gain on every rush.

Perhaps Varga’s most significant contribution was his work on third downs. Yale handed him the ball on seven third downs, and he converted them all, as well as one fourth down.

“When you get in third down and it’s third-and-short and he gets the ball, he’s going to get that first down,” Estes said.

Yale’s success on third down was an integral part of its victory, as the team went 10-for-13 and made it difficult for the Brown defense to get off the field. Despite ranking second in the conference in total defense, the Bears could only force one Yale punt.

The Bears also had some difficulty slowing Yale’s air attack, a task made more challenging by an early injury to star cornerback Jacob Supron ’15. Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts threw for 248 yards on 20-for-26 passing and was similarly deadly on third downs. On Yale’s final touchdown drive, nursing a 38-35 lead, he converted a third-and-eight and a third-and-nine to keep moving down the field. The Bears had multiple opportunities to force a punt and give their offense the ball back with a chance to take the lead but could not do so.

Explaining the team’s struggles on third down, Estes said the Bears’ inability to pressure the quarterback with a simple four-man rush, which forced them to send blitzes to get to Roberts, was a significant factor.

“When you do that, there’s always that chance to convert,” he said.

While the Bruno defense could not contain the Elis’ explosive offense, Brown’s offense picked up the slack. It outgained Yale 526-520, but early red zone troubles ended up hurting Bruno as the game wound down.

The Bears got deep into Yale territory on their first two drives but were forced to kick field goals from the Yale 16 and 21, respectively. Bruno built its big lead without red zone scores when Andrew Coke ’16 ripped off a 77-yard touchdown run, and Ryan MacDonald ’16 took a fumble to the house on Yale’s next possession.

Bruno found itself in the red zone once more on its next drive, but Marcus Fuller ’15 was picked off on the goal line. With 1:32 left in the half, Yale drove the length of the field and hit a field goal to cut the Bruno lead to 20-17.

“That hurt a little bit,” Estes said. “It’s those little things that we’ve got to clean up.”

But even as the Bears struggled beyond the Yale 20, scoring just one touchdown in three trips on a one-yard run from Seth Rosenbauer ’16, the offense was still prolific, scoring on two long passes in the fourth quarter.

Fuller had another excellent game, completing 27 of his 36 passes for 393 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was nearly unstoppable in the fourth quarter, going 12-for-13 for 143 yards and completing two brilliant touchdown throws to Alex Jette ’17.

Rosenbauer was less dangerous in the running game, gaining only 45 yards on 15 tries, but he showed off his versatility by splitting out wide and catching a key 53-yard pass on third down.

Yale Head Coach Tony Reno complimented the quarterbacks, calling both “great.” He also praised Rosenbauer’s running style, comparing him to an all-time great Bear.

“It’s like Nick Hartigan (’06) was born again,” he said.

Hartigan is Brown’s all-time leading rusher and was unanimously named the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2005.

Despite the deflating loss, the Bears saw an overall improvement in their performance.

“We’re starting to come into our own offensively,” Fuller said.

Estes had high praise for Fuller and linebacker Xavier Russo ’15.

“There’s something about this team that I like,” Estes said, noting the experience the team’s upperclassmen bring. “They’ve been great leaders for the young guys and a great example for them as well.”

But “this is a tough one,” he added, referring to the loss.

While the Bears can no longer win the conference, they can still best their conference record from last season if they win their final two games. That quest continues next Saturday at Dartmouth (6-2, 4-1).


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