Struggling to find an offensive rhythm, Brown (1-1, 0-1 Ivy) fell behind in the first half Saturday at Brown Stadium and could not claw its way back, falling against defending Ivy co-champion No. 19 Harvard 32-22.
“We’re not looking for any pats on the back because it was closer this year,” said Head Coach Phil Estes P’18. The Bears lost 53-27 at Harvard last season and trailed 37-0 at halftime. “We played better, but we can be better. There’s just things that we have to fix.”
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively, with the only first quarter score coming on a 27-yard field goal by Jacob Wilner ’18. After punting on its first drive, Harvard (2-0, 1-0) saw a promising drive cut short by a fumble. Daryle Banfield ’19 brought down Noah Reimers from behind, knocking the ball to the ground where Josh Greene ’19 pounced on it.
The Crimson made its statement in the second quarter and took advantage of Brown’s sluggish offense. Harvard went up 7-3 after a short touchdown run by Semar Smith at the start of the quarter and marched down the field on the following drive after a Brown punt. Joe Viviano scored on a quarterback keeper, followed by a successful fake extra point for a two-point conversion.
Kyle Moreno ’17 had his pass intercepted and returned to Brown’s 20-yard line on the first play of the next drive, sending the Bears’ defense right back on the field. Brown kept Viviano out of the end zone, forcing a field goal that gave the Crimson an 18-3 lead.
Just as Bryant managed to do against Bruno last weekend, Harvard kept Brown’s defense on the field with a considerable advantage in time of possession early in the game.
“Despite what the offense does, it’s still our job to keep them out of the end zone,” said linebacker Will Twyman ’17.
Moreno and the offense garnered some success on the following drive after Estes opted for a fake punt on Brown’s own 19-yard line. Twyman took a direct snap on the fake and found space to run along the left side for a first down. Brown finished off the 11-play drive with a 20-yard strike from Moreno to Troy Doles ’16.5 to bring the score to 18-10.
With 3:27 remaining in the half, Viviano orchestrated a quick drive that included three third-down conversions and a sprawling catch at the two-yard line by Justice Shelton-Mosley. One play later, Viviano kept it himself and again found the end zone untouched, giving Harvard a 25-10 lead and momentum going into the half.
After the teams traded punts on each of their first two drives of the half, Brown started its third drive in Harvard territory following a 16-yard punt return by Jakob Prall ’20. Five plays later, Moreno hit Doles again for his second touchdown of the afternoon, but a missed extra point left Brown trailing by two scores.
Building on his all-Ivy season in 2015, Doles had his second big game of the year, with seven catches for 99 yards.
The Bears attempted a surprise onside kick after the score and appeared to recover, but the officials ruled that the ball was touched early, giving the ball to Harvard near midfield.
“The ball went nine and a half yards instead of 10,” Estes said.
Just as it had done in the first half, Harvard responded before the quarter ended to take a comfortable 32-16 lead, this time courtesy of Smith from nine yards out. The Crimson found success running the ball with Smith and Viviano, whom Brown pressured but could not seem to wrap up. Viviano kept drives moving with his feet in the second half and finished with 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
“His ability to run when the pocket collapsed certainly hurt us,” Estes said.
Looking to bring Bruno back, Moreno was intercepted twice more in the fourth quarter.
“I tried to force a couple balls, which I’d love to have back,” he said.
Moreno did connect with Garrett Swanky ’17 in the end zone with 3:54 remaining, but the two-point conversion was unsuccessful, as was the onside kick. Swanky led the team with eight receptions on the day. Moreno had an up-and-down day with three touchdowns, three interceptions and 316 yards on 32 completions. He was forced to drop back 50 times on the day due to a mostly dormant running game that managed only 74 yards on 29 attempts. The pass-heavy offense was not a part of the game plan going in, Estes said.
“To be honest, we wanted to run the ball better,” he said. “We just didn’t quite get it done up front.”
Brown will travel to face rival Rhode Island College (0-4) in the 101st Governor’s Cup game in Kingston Saturday. The Bears maintain bragging rights after a 41-31 win at home last season and will look to get back on track against the Rams.