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Football team falls short in season opener

Despite yardage success, Bruno fails to capitalize on offensive opportunities in loss to Bryant

Five turnovers — including four in the red zone — doomed the football team in a 20-16 season-opening loss to Bryant Saturday at Brown Stadium.

On paper, the Bears (0-1) dominated the game. Bruno racked up 128 more total yards and eight more first downs than the Bulldogs (2-0), held Bryant to just 12 yards rushing and committed half as many penalties. But one poorly timed turnover after another stifled Bruno’s drives and momentum.

The Bears advanced the ball within Bryant’s 10-yard line five times, but those drives yielded a combined total of six points — two field goals and three turnovers.

It is “easy” to see why Brown lost, said Head Coach Phil Estes P’18. “You can’t turn the ball over like that and expect to win games.”

In an appropriate ending to Bruno’s sour opener, quarterback Marcus Fuller ’15.5 marched the Bears to the Bryant 9-yard line with less than two minutes left in a 20-16 game. But when Fuller tried for a go-ahead touchdown pass on fourth down, it landed in the hands of Bryant’s Brandon Dagnesses to seal the loss.

Two interceptions spoiled what would have been a tremendous passing game for Brown’s senior quarterback. Fuller led the pass-happy offense to 403 yards through the air on 32 of 52 attempts. The veteran targeted seven different receivers, with four of them amassing over 50 yards.

Estes said in retrospect he could have run the ball more often. But he noted that five fumbles — three of them lost — made it hard to trust his ball-carriers. The power running combo of Andrew Coke ’16 and Seth Rosenbauer ’16 combined for 73 yards on 23 attempts and two lost fumbles.

The Bruno faithful received some quick fireworks from their Bears, who jumped to a 10-0 first quarter lead. Bruno’s no-huddle offense seemed to fluster Bryant early in the game. Taking advantage of the Bulldogs’ confused attempt to substitute players against the hurry-up, receiver Troy Doles ’16 slipped behind the safety and Fuller found him for an 83-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.

For the rest of the game, Bruno consistently marched up and down the field but did not see its efforts reflected on the scoreboard. When they didn’t turn it over, the Bears had to settle for field goals from within the 6-yard line twice. Kicker Grant Senne ’16 converted both chip shots and added a 45-yarder to show why he will be a valuable scorer for the Bears this season.

Even Bryant Head Coach Marty Fine said the Bears “handled us” with the exception of the turnovers. But he credited his team with capitalizing on the opportunities and coming a long way since it lost 41-14 to the Bears two years ago.

The Bryant offense could not get much going early in the game and floundered on the ground. But the Bulldogs had a real weapon in receiver Chad Ward. Whenever there was a play to be made for Bryant, Ward was there. From the second quarter on, Ward and the Bryant aerial attack exposed the inexperience of the Brown secondary. Ward grabbed a 24-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 10-7 in the second quarter and then snared a 37-yard score to give the Bulldogs their first lead, 17-13, late in the third quarter.

Frequently, the Bulldogs simply threw the ball up to Ward in coverage, and the talented wideout leaped and wrestled it away from defenders.

“He is a great player. We throw the ball up, and he catches it and makes it look like I know what I’m doing,” Fine said.

Estes said many of the miscues can be attributed to the fact that it was the team’s first game. But he added that the team will need to turn it around in a hurry with Harvard lurking on the horizon.


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