On the rain-soaked and wind-whipped field at Brown Stadium, the football team found itself stuck in the mud in a loss to Penn Saturday. With the loss, the Bears remain the conference’s basement-dwellers and are at risk of completing their second winless Ivy League season in a row. Both squads’ passing attacks were useless in the face of heavy weather conditions, so the high-flying offense that college football showcases today was replaced by a ground attack more reminiscent of the Bears’ and Quakers’ first matchup in 1895.
“We fought all the way for 60 minutes,” said Head Coach Phil Estes. “We got a lot of young guys playing that are learning as they play. There were some mistakes made that we have to correct, and it’s just a matter of going out there and taking advantage of some of the opportunities that we get.”
The tone of this contest became evident in the first few drives of the first quarter, as Bruno and the Quakers traded short runs, punts and fumbles for most of the opening minutes. The only reprieve from the sloppy play came when Penn running back Karekin Brooks broke loose for a 63-yard run that put Penn in position to kick a 20-yard field goal and take a 3-0 lead. At the end of the first quarter, the Bears had negative one passing yards compared to just 13 from the Quakers.
“The conditions definitely weren’t ideal,” said quarterback Michael McGovern ’21. “But we always got to go out there and make plays. Today we came up short, but we’re on to the next one.”
In the second quarter, Penn’s offense began to get into a rhythm. Brooks eluded the defense for another big run — this time 46 yards — to push the Quakers down to the three-yard line. But the Brown defense stepped up and ripped the ball from running back Abe Willow’s grasp. Michael Hoecht ’20 jumped on the fumble and saved Bruno from falling into a deeper hole.
But Brown could not hold off the Quakers forever. With less than three minutes left in the half, Penn quarterback Nick Robinson led his offense into the red zone and found Steve Farrell in the back right corner of the end zone on 3rd and 11. With the touchdown, the Bears found themselves facing a 10-point deficit.
Bruno’s prospects for victory deteriorated again before halftime, as Penn regained possession with a bit more than two minutes to play. The Bears earned a stop at midfield, but a penalty for roughing the kicker on the ensuing punt gave the Quakers 15 yards and a first down. Penn capitalized on Bruno’s special teams error, and knocked in a field goal before the half to take a 13-0 lead.
Brown’s offense left much to be desired in the first half — the team had no passing yards, only one first down and 49 rushing yards. Meanwhile, the Quakers ran wild in the mud, and rushed for 211 yards in just 30 minutes of play.
In the final two quarters, the Bears’ defense absolutely shut down the Quakers offensive attack. In the first drive after halftime, Bruno forced a turnover on downs, and after McGovern threw an interception deep in Bears’ territory, Brown blocked a field goal. But besides one punt after another, the rest of the quarter and the start of the fourth were devoid of highlights.
“We all flew to the ball and we all played our assignments pretty well,” said linebacker Brendan Pyne ’20. “The coaches put us in good position for this game, and we just gave it our all.”
As the clock ticked towards zero, the Bears’ offense finally came to life. Wide receiver Scott Boylan ’21 escaped for a 28-yard run to put Brown in scoring position. But on the next play, McGovern was engulfed by the Quakers’ defensive line and fumbled the ball to end Bruno’s drive without critical points.
On the Bears’ last chance of the game to prevent another shutout, McGovern led his team down the field for a touchdown. A 27-yard pass to Graeme Davis ’21 put the Bears deep in Quaker territory, and Jakob Prall ’20 capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown reception with only 27 seconds to go.
“We scored,” Estes said. “We got to do that more often.”
The score cut the Quaker lead to six, but the touchdown ultimately was too little, too late. Brown attempted an onside kick, but Penn recovered, and ended any chance of a comeback by the Bears.
“You’re always trying to score,” McGovern said. “It’s definitely nice getting the zero off the board. We’re just going to go into the next game the same as every other game — trying to get a win, stay confident, stay up (and) keep our heads high.”
When the final whistle sounded, the Quakers had outgained the Bears 370-195 in total yards, and 18-11 in first downs. McGovern was 9-19 with 93 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the loss. Boylan led Bruno on the ground with 44 yards rushing.
The Bears have three more chances this season to earn a win in the Ivy League and climb out of the conference basement. Brown will travel to New Haven Saturday to take on Yale at 1 p.m.