After the football team stumbled out of the gates in the opening quarter Saturday, quarterback Kyle Moreno ’17 rallied the Bears (1-0) to a 35-27 win over Bryant. Never looking rattled after early miscues that left the Bears in a 21-point hole, Moreno made it clear why his teammates voted him team captain, as he led a methodical comeback through the air and on the ground.
It took a near-perfect three quarters of football to overcome a rough start for Bruno. The teams traded punts to start the game, and Brown had a promising second drive cut short by a fumble. After stuffing Bryant (1-2) on a fake punt in their own end, Jacob Wilner ’18 had his 40-yard field goal attempt blocked and returned 60 yards for a touchdown. The kicking game was a struggle for the Bears, as Wilner had another attempt blocked later in the game and missed another short kick.
Brown then fumbled on the first play of its next drive, and the Bulldogs cashed in with a touchdown pass. The offense keyed in on taking care of the ball after leading the nation in turnovers last season, making the early fumbles all the more concerning for Brown.
Bryant had good field position before the end of the quarter and took advantage with a 33-yard touchdown strike to punctuate its first-quarter statement.
But there was a lot of football to be played, and the team focused on sticking to the game plan, Moreno said. “We couldn’t get it all back in one play,” he said. “Everyone was thinking ‘one play at a time, one drive at a time.’”
Moreno and running back Jalen Broome ’18 led Brown on a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive, finished off with a sideline catch in the corner of the end zone by Alex Jette ’17. As quickly as Bryant had grabbed the momentum, the tides turned back in Brown’s favor. Sebastian Dovi ’19 jumped in front of a pass from Bryant’s Dalton Easton for his first collegiate interception to give Bruno the ball in Bulldog territory. After hitting Jette on fourth down to salvage the ensuing drive, Moreno scampered 10 yards untouched and found the end zone to pull the Bears within one touchdown when the half ended.
Brown continued to find its groove on both sides of the ball in the third quarter. After another failed Bryant fake punt in its own end, Moreno tossed a pair of 11-yard touchdowns to Anton Casey ’19 and Garrett Swanky ’17 on subsequent drives to put Brown up 28-21.
From the start of the second quarter into the third, Bruno’s offense put up four unanswered touchdowns largely due to Moreno’s ability to spread the ball around and find open receivers. His three touchdown passes all went to different receivers, and four Brown players had multiple receptions on the day. Swanky led with five catches, but Jette established himself as a big-play threat, leading the team with 74 receiving yards on four catches.
“It makes my job a lot easier,” Moreno said of his arsenal of receivers. “I just have to get the ball to the playmakers and execute the play.”
Moreno wasn’t short on praise for the offensive line either, which gave him ample time to throw all game. Bryant managed just one sack, and though Bruno rushed 47 times at 2.8 yards per carry, Moreno, Broome and Johnny Pena ’17 broke off nice runs through holes opened up by the offensive line.
“I can’t say enough about those guys,” he said. “It really makes the offense go. They don’t get enough credit at all.”
Both teams scored before the end of the third quarter, Brown on a two-yard touchdown run by Moreno. Bryant missed the extra point, giving Brown a 35-27 lead going into the fourth quarter.
No longer forced back on the field by turnovers, Brown’s defense shined with a one-score lead and the game on the line. Bryant drove the ball into the red zone in its final two drives as the clock ticked down. With 4:25 remaining, Connor Coughlin ’18 wrestled the ball away from a Bryant receiver for an interception at the one-yard line.
A stiff wind killed a Brown punt in the air, giving Bryant one more chance at the Bears’ 39. A targeting penalty kept Bryant moving into the red zone, but Dovi secured the win, defending an end zone fade on fourth down with 1:46 remaining.
Matching Brown’s offense, the defense looked stout after the first quarter. Almost all of Bryant’s 286 yards came through the air, as the Bulldogs managed just 11 yards rushing on 20 attempts. Easton was sacked twice but was hurried several more times and forced into throwing three interceptions.
Though the comeback marks the teams’ first season-opening win since 2013, the Bears don’t have long to dwell on the victory as they square off against defending Ivy co-champion and rival Harvard at Brown Stadium Saturday. The Crimson cruised over Rhode Island with a 51-21 win Friday night and wore out the Bears 53-27 last season.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re just excited to get home and play in front of our home crowd,” Moreno said. “We’re going to dial up a game plan this week and get back to square one.”