Over a century of classic college football has been played in the historic Yale Bowl, but amid swirling wind gusts Saturday, the Bears looked listless in a loss to the Bulldogs. While the weather was certainly a factor in the contest, it seemed to always push Yale forward and hold Bruno back. The Elis jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, dominating in a blowout victory that saw the Brown offense record negative 27 yards rushing.
On Brown’s first offensive possession, plays seemed to be clicking between quarterback Michael McGovern ’21 and his receivers. The sophomore signal-caller found LJ Harriott ’20 on two drag routes to bring the Bears (1-7, 0-5 Ivy) to midfield. But just as Bruno got into rhythm, the wind carried McGovern’s pass over Harriott’s head into the diving arms of Yale defensive back Rodney Thomas for an interception.
“We try not to worry about anything that we can’t control, and the weather — or in today’s case the wind — is one of those things,” McGovern wrote in a statement to The Herald. “No matter what the conditions are, we just need to go out and execute our jobs.”
At first glance, this game should have been a tough one for Yale (5-3, 3-2), as the team gave its freshman quarterback Griffin O’Connor the first start of his college career. But O’Connor went on to pass for 436 yards and four touchdowns, and led the Bulldogs down the field for a touchdown on his first drive.
On Bruno’s next possession, McGovern was able to march his team into Yale territory, but sacks and penalties gave Brown a 4th and 19 on the Yale 33-yard line. With the wind, the Bears elected not to attempt a 50-yard field goal, but came five yards short of the first down on a pass to Jakob Prall ’20 for a turnover on downs.
A “common theme on our team right now is finish — finishing plays, finishing drives (and) finishing tackles,” wrote defensive captain Michael Hoecht ’20 in a statement to The Herald. “We need to focus on putting ourselves in great situations and getting ourselves off the field on third down.”
Yale was again able to capitalize on Brown’s offensive errors. Moments later, O’Connor found wide receiver JP Shohfi in the endzone, who did his best Odell Beckham Jr. impression when he made an athletic one-handed catch while falling on his back. With the touchdown, the Bears found themselves in a 14-point hole by the end of the first quarter.
In the second, Yale scored another passing touchdown to Shohfi, while the Bears had drive after drive stalled due to untimely sacks. With seven minutes left in the half, McGovern found receiver Erik Kromer ’20 for an 18-yard gain, and Brown finally finished a drive with points when Dylan Brady ’22 knocked in a 32-yard field goal.
At halftime, Yale led Brown 20-3 and had outgained Bruno by 143 yards.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, as Yale continued to find the endzone while the Bears struggled to sustain a drive.
The only reprieve for the Bears came when McGovern found Scott Boylan ’21 for a 53-yard touchdown strike to bring Bruno within 18 points of the Elis.
The Bulldogs managed to score in several different ways. O’Connor found Reed Klubnik for a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter on a one-play drive, and led Yale down the field for a long, ten-play series for a touchdown in the fourth.
Long after the game had descended into a rout, the Bears were able to piece together a successful drive late in the fourth quarter. The series was finished off by a two-yard touchdown run from Boylan, which brought the score to 46-16.
“Going forward, we have to remain healthy and play with heart,” Hoecht wrote. “It’s our seniors’ last time wearing their home jerseys (next week) and … we will be playing for them.”
When the final whistle sounded, the Bears had suffered their fourth game of season of giving up more than 40 points, and their seventh game of being unable to score 20. Brown averaged negative 1.6 yards per rushing attempt and gained a total of 331 yards, while the Bulldogs exploded for nearly 600 yards of offense. McGovern finished the game 25-47 with 358 yards, one touchdown and a pick.
“We just need to focus on ourselves, get better everyday and fight till the end in every practice, play and game,” McGovern wrote. “We’re (going to) come out next week and give everything we have looking for the win against Columbia. As long as we do our jobs, I have full faith in our team and our coaches.”
This loss marks Bruno’s 13th straight defeat in the Ivy League, leaving Brown and its fans praying that 13 is the Bears’ lucky number and that the losing streak can come to an end next week. The team will return to Brown Stadium Saturday for its final home game of the season against Columbia at noon.