With all the ups and downs over the course of a 60-minute football game, contests are rarely decided in a single quarter. But after a tight first half and a scoreless fourth quarter of the game Saturday at Yale, it was clear that a 24-0 third-quarter collapse spelled doom for the Bears (4-4, 2-3 Ivy).
With 10 seconds left in the second quarter, the game was tied at 14-14. When the third quarter ended, fans headed to the exits. The Bulldogs (5-3, 2-3) used a methodical offense and consecutive takeaways to turn their narrow halftime lead into a blowout 41-14 win.
Field goals to end the first half and begin the second got the ball rolling for the Elis. Then came three touchdowns in five minutes. Yale marched 52 yards on 11 plays to push the lead to 27-14.
After the Bears’ next drive stalled, their punt attempt went awry when punter Grant Senne ’16 fumbled the snap and had to fall on it deep in Bruno territory. Yale running back Dale Harris darted three yards to push the lead to 20.
Any hopes the Bears had of a comeback were thoroughly dashed on the first play of their next possession. Quarterback Marcus Fuller ’15.5 tried a pass to the flat, but it was intercepted by Spencer Rymiszewski, who scampered 24 yards for a back-breaking pick-six that brought the score to the final 41-14.
It was the same old story for the Bears and Head Coach Phil Estes P’18, who has cited the turnover ratio as a difference-maker in each of Bruno’s four losses. Including turnover on downs, the Bears have given the ball away 24 times in their four losses. Opponents have scored a combined 77 points off those takeaways.
Those turnovers have often fueled runs from the opposing team, and Saturday marked the third time in five conference games that Bruno has surrendered a run of 27-0 or worse.
The Bruno defense continued to struggle with depth issues, as three impact defensive linemen missed the game with injuries. While the Bears held the Elis in check in the first half, they received a lot of help from Yale penalties. Nine second-quarter penalties on the Bulldogs negated big plays and cut promising drives short. Yale eliminated its infractions in the second half, and the Bruno defense had a harder time slowing the home squad.
It was a death by a million cuts for the Bears’ defense, and two Bulldogs inflicted most of the wounds. Wide receiver Christopher Williams-Lopez owned the middle of the field, catching one short pass after another on his way to 154 receiving yards. The tailback Harris ate up 5.9 yards per carry.
Signs that the day might be Yale’s were present in the first half, but Bruno hung around. Yale struck first, capitalizing on the first of four Bruno turnovers. Electrifying All-Ivy kick returner Alex Jette ’17 coughed up the opening kickoff, and the home team had a short field to take an early 7-0 lead.
But Bruno had an answer: A great start to the day by Fuller allowed the Bears to march down the field. The senior quarterback completed passes to his three favorite targets — Jette, Troy Doles ’16 and Brian Strachan ’15.5 — to march the field before going back to Doles for a 22-yard touchdown strike.
Yale grabbed the lead back with a touchdown on its next drive, but the Bears would not go away. Early in the second quarter, Fuller floated a ball over the defense to Doles. The receiver made the great grab despite a defender’s hand on his facemask.
The 40-yard completion plus the 15-yard penalty set up a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Doles picked up his second touchdown on a rare rushing attempt, taking the jet sweep and burrowing in for six.
Amidst the tumultuous Brown season, Doles has remained a consistent force. His 102 yards Saturday accounted for a big chunk of the output from a streaky Bruno offense. At 108.4 receiving yards per game, Doles is second only to Jette in the Ivy League rankings, and the senior is tied for the top spot with six touchdowns.
“It goes back to how I prepared this season,” Doles said of his consistent production. “I came in with the mentality that every game I would help the team.”
Doles and the offense marched inside the Yale red zone a third time in the first half, with their eyes on a 21-14 lead. But Estes gambled on a fourth-and-one from the 3-yard line, running Seth Rosenbauer ’16 up the middle and coming up just short. The missed opportunity seemed to take the wind out the offense’s sails, as the unit combined for negative 31 yards over its next four drives.
Doles blamed the team’s third-quarter skid on the lack of offense.
“We hung our defense out to dry,” he said. “We had too many three-and-outs and left the defense on the field too much.”
After Yale opened its 41-14 lead, Estes turned to his second-string quarterback Kyle Moreno ’17 for the fourth quarter. Not one of his seven pass attempts fell incomplete, but unfortunately for the backup, Yale defenders caught two of them. The fourth-quarter turnovers ensured there would be no late-game drama.
The road gets only bumpier for Bruno, which will welcome second-place Dartmouth Saturday.