Seven weeks after recording what would be its last win, the football team closed out its 2017 season with a 24-6 loss to Columbia on the road Saturday. The Bears’ (2-8, 0-7 Ivy) defense put up a strong performance to keep Columbia within striking distance for three quarters, but the Lions’ (8-2, 5-2) special teams pounced on Bruno’s kicking game to seal victory and a second-place finish in the Ivy League.
Michael Hoecht ’20, Grant Varner ’19 and co-captain Richard “Dewey” Jarvis ’17.5 all found their way past Columbia’s offensive front into the backfield for a combined six sacks. Bruno racked up ten tackles for loss and forced a fumble, holding Columbia to only 275 yards of total offense.
“The defense played amazing,” Jarvis said. “They did a great job …There was a lot of emotion because it was the last game for a lot of people. We’ve been installing new packages and new plays all week, so we were able to show up and run some of those new packages. Mainly, it was a lot of emotion coming from the older guys who wanted to fight for their final game.”
Jarvis closed out his career with 16.5 sacks, finishing second all-time at the University.
Despite outgaining the Lions in total yards and dominating on the defensive side of the ball, the Bears were unable to find a spark on offense, notching only five trips inside Columbia territory and two red zone appearances.
After failing to complete a single pass in the first quarter, Thomas “TJ” Linta ’18 connected on 30 of 60 attempts for a season-high 263 passing yards. The veteran quarterback also led the team on the ground with 26 rushing yards as the Columbia defense bottled up the Bears.
By the time Linta completed a three-yard shovel pass to Livingstone “LJ” Harriott ’20 late in the third quarter for Bruno’s sole touchdown, the Lions had already deflected a 47-yard field goal attempt and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. But Columbia’s special teams weren’t finished, as they broke up the Bears’ point after kick to hold them to six. The Lions rode that momentum into the end zone on their opening drive of the fourth quarter.
With four minutes left on the game clock, Brown pieced together an 86-yard drive that stalled at the Columbia six and fizzled out after the Bears failed to convert on fourth and one, bringing the final score to 24-6 after the Lions took a knee to bleed the clock.
Prior to the season-ending loss, the football team had not finished with a 2-8 record since 2002. The Bears notched at least one conference win in all of Head Coach Phil Estes’ P ’19 previous 19 seasons and never finished lower than sixth in league standings. But this year, Bruno failed to defeat any Ivy League opponents and couldn’t claw its way back from the bottom of the standings after settling there early on.
Among other statistics, the Bears also finished dead last in the Ivy League in total offense, total defense, scoring offense, scoring defense and third down conversion percentage.
“We just didn’t make plays as a team when we needed to,” Harriott said. “We let a lot of opportunities go, and we just weren’t all going 11 for 11 and firing on all cylinders when we needed to. We had a lot of opportunities to take advantage of, and we didn’t. That’s why our season ended the way it did.”
The Bears will have a chance to start fresh in their season opener against California Polytechnic State University next September with a new class of seniors to lead the team forward.
“It was amazing,” Jarvis said. “You sacrifice every single day just to wear that Brown jersey and that last time putting it on meant a lot to people. I know a lot of guys were giving each other hugs at the end of the game. There were tears because we know that that’s the end of our football careers, and now we have to make our lives about something else. Most of the seniors believe it’s been an amazing ride and we would definitely go back and do it all again.”