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Football team defeats Crusaders with field goal

Head coach places confidence in Senne ’16 despite inconsistent performance this year

To a Holy Cross football player, Grant Senne ’16 is the boogeyman. The senior kicker booted a game-winning 35-yard field goal Saturday, propelling the football team to a 25-24 victory over the Crusaders and replicating his 23-yard game-winner over Holy Cross last season.

“It was a bit of deja vu,” said quarterback and co-captain Marcus Fuller ’15.5. “He’s made a lot of enemies in the city of Worcester.”

Senne’s conclusive kick capped a 63-yard go-ahead drive authored by Fuller. In the midst of his third 400-plus yard passing game of the season, the senior signal-caller went five-of-six for 54 yards on the critical drive. Four of the five completions on the run went to Fuller’s favorite target on the day, Alex Jette ’17.

While Bruno’s late field goal was the last score in the game, the final five minutes were not without drama. The Crusaders pushed into Bruno territory in their attempt to answer, but Robert Hughes ’17 halted the drive. The big defensive end flashed his reflexes by intercepting a tipped pass.

After Bruno’s attempt to run out the clock stalled, Holy Cross had one last gasp. The Crusaders received the ball with 32 seconds to go and used two Bruno penalties and a long completion to get into field goal range. But Holy Cross’ Connor Fitzgerald could not duplicate Senne’s kick, and his 35-yarder sailed wide left as time expired.

Senne’s heroics were all the more improbable after some uncharacteristic inconsistencies early in the year. Senne has already missed as many field goals and one more extra point than he did all of last season. But with the game on the line, Head Coach Phil Estes P’18 put his trust in Senne’s leg.

Senne “loves pressure,” Estes said. “He stepped up to make the biggest play of the game.”

The game followed a trajectory almost identical to that of Bruno’s win last weekend over Rhode Island: The Bears dominated the first quarter but had only a slim lead to show for it. Holy Cross grabbed the lead by controlling much of the middle of the game and rattling off a 21-7 run in a five-possession stretch that spanned the end of the second and beginning of the third quarter. But for the second game in as many weeks, a Bruno score with five minutes to play was the difference-maker.

“We are always looking for an opportunity to make plays at the end,” Fuller said. “That’s back-to-back weeks that we’ve gotten it and converted.”

When the whistle blew at the end of the first quarter, the game did not seem destined for its thrilling finish. Bruno dominated the early 15 minutes, outgaining Holy Cross 207-7 in total yards. But the Bears’ season-long struggle in the red zone persisted throughout their fourth game, so they could not build a big lead. Three long drives yielded two made field goals and one missed.

“It falls on our shoulders to not put our kicker on the field as much,” Fuller said, reiterating the offense’s success moving the ball but failure finding pay dirt.

Between the two first-quarter field goals, the Bruno defense chipped in some scoring as well. Defensive end Richard Jarvis ’17 burst into the backfield and wrestled down Crusaders quarterback Peter Pujals in the end zone for a safety.

After a Holy Cross field goal put the home team on the board, Bruno running back Andrew Coke ’16 finally broke the goal line on a four-yard touchdown run to extend the Bears’ lead to 15-3. The run punctuated a drive that included two 30-yard completions to Troy Doles ’16 and Brian Strachan ’15.5.

Bruno scored its last touchdown of the game late in the second quarter. This time, Fuller showed off his legs to advance the Bruno lead. After muffing the snap, Fuller recovered to dash six yards for a touchdown. Bruno took a 22-10 lead with 1:48 left in the first half.

The Bears have taken their offense to the air this season, and Saturday was no different. Fuller attempted over 50 passes for the third time in four games, and 80 percent of the squad’s yardage came through the air. The receiving corps is proving to be all it was cracked up to be, and Jette did the heavy lifting for the unit Saturday.

The junior’s performance was historic. After catching the winning touchdown last week, Jette tore up the Crusader to the tune of 16 grabs and 216 yards. Both totals rank in the top 10 in program history.

“He came up with some really tough catches in traffic,” Fuller said. “Any time you see one of our receivers have success, it can really be attributed to the success of the other guys. Other teams can’t just key in on one guy.”

Holy Cross rebounded from its early deficit with a quick touchdown just before the midpoint and took its first lead with a score on its first possession of the third quarter.

After a miserable first quarter, Pujals started to move the Holy Cross offense through the air. Pujols threw for 306 yards in the game’s final three quarters, heavily targeting wideout Brendan Flaherty. Pujals and Flaherty connected for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Zach Gillen ’16 came up from safety to lead the team in tackles with 10. The defense, still missing captain Zach Sparber ’15.5, repeated its tendency to bend without breaking. Following the first possession of the second half, Holy Cross did not score for the rest of the game.

After taking a thorough beating from Harvard and falling to 0-2 two weeks ago, Estes said the team’s next two nonconference games were critical to getting back on track.

“It’s exactly what we were looking for — to go 2-0 in our new season,” Fuller said. “We didn’t play our best game, but we did enough to win.”

The rejuvenated Bears will return to conference slate Saturday with a battle against Princeton at Brown Stadium. The game will kick off a six-week gauntlet through the Ivy League.


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