A stellar performance by Alex Jette ’17 and a defensive stop in double overtime secured a hard-fought 28-21 win for the football team against Cornell Saturday at Brown Stadium. The win was the first for the Bears (2-4, 1-2 Ivy) in conference play this season and snapped the program’s first four-game losing streak since 2006.
The game went to overtime tied at 14 after both teams were hurt by miscues in regulation, some coming as a result of poor field conditions from a driving rainstorm in the first half. Cornell (3-3, 1-2) scored to open the first overtime period and held Brown’s offense out of the end zone for three plays from the two-yard line when it needed a touchdown to force double overtime.
On 4th-and-2 with the game on the line, Head Coach Phil Estes P’18 called for a throw to Jette, who was faced with single coverage. TJ Linta ’18 lofted a pass to his all-Ivy target in the corner of the end zone to guarantee a second overtime.
“I was telling coach that we needed to run that play all game,” said Jette, who led the Bears with nine catches for 111 yards, two touchdowns and a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
“That’s a goal-line play for us,” Estes said. “Certainly, we want to get it to our best guy.”
Johnny Pena ’17 was Brown’s workhorse on the ground, rushing for 96 yards on 23 carries and scoring one touchdown, a one-yard score in the second overtime to put Bruno up 28-21. Brown’s defense held on 4th-and-10 to secure the win, sending the Bears’ sideline into jubilation.
“It was kind of a make or break for us,” Jette said. “We were kind of in a downward spiral.”
Jette’s versatility was on display all game, starting with an electric 79-yard punt return for a touchdown at the end of the second quarter to break a 0-0 tie. The Bears squandered previous opportunities to put points on the board, failing to convert three first-half field goals on the tattered playing surface at Brown Stadium.
“I knew it was tough for the defense out there on that field,” Jette said. “I just put a few moves on those guys, and then it was off to the races.”
Despite coming up empty on four field goal attempts, including a potential game winner from 38 yards with six seconds left, special teams play likely made the difference in the game for Bruno. Along with Jette’s return, Terrell Smith ’18 had several long kick returns to give the offense good field position.
Perhaps even more crucial was a blocked field goal by Jordan Ferguson ’17 in the fourth quarter. Ferguson rushed around the edge and got a hand on the kick, which would have given Cornell a 17-14 lead.
Brown’s offense found some much-needed balance, totaling 200 yards on the ground and 154 through the air. Linta settled in at quarterback in his second start, making several key throws on the Bears’ final drive and finding Jette in the end zone twice with perfectly placed passes.
Linta “found a way to make the big plays,” Jette said. “He needed this confidence booster.”
Brown’s wildcat formation found success in the first half, with Livingstone Harriott ’20 taking direct snaps. Harriott ran 13 times for 77 yards, a season-high for the first-year.
Even without several key starters on defense due to injury, the Bears held the Big Red to 67 yards rushing and 268 overall in addition to forcing three turnovers.
“We were a hodgepodge outfit out there,” Estes said. “I’m just proud of the way they played despite that.”
Will Twyman ’16.5 turned in an impressive performance for the second straight week, making 17 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
With the win, Brown falls into a four-way tie for fourth place in the Ivy standings, with a chance to make up ground next week on the road against Penn, which sits in a tie for first place with Harvard.