In an intense Saturday matchup against Cornell, the football team was just one first down away from snapping its Ivy losing streak, which began in 2016. Facing fourth and six deep in Big Red territory with less than a minute remaining and a one-point lead, Bruno had the opportunity to run out the clock. But instead, quarterback EJ Perry ’21 was sacked for a 16-yard loss, and Cornell drove down the field to set up a game-winning field goal.
Nickolas Null’s 41-yard attempt clanked off the goalpost, but still found its way through to hand the Bears a 37-35 defeat.
“Really happy with the kids’ effort, the execution keeps getting better each week,” said Head Coach James Perry ’00. “Obviously, super frustrating to lose a close game, but we’ll look forward to (our next opponent).”
Brown (1-5, 0-3 Ivy) and Cornell (2-4, 1-2) both came into Saturday’s matchup searching for their first conference victory of the season, and the high-stakes contest came down to the wire. Cornell’s standout placekicker Null got the Big Red on the scoreboard first with a 38-yard field goal on his team’s first drive. On Brown’s first possession, EJ Perry got off to a rough start, throwing a pick to Cornell’s Jelani Taylor. But Perry settled in, and calmly led the Bears on a 70-yard touchdown drive just minutes later, capped by a 29-yard scoring toss to receiver Scott Boylan ’21 that gave Bruno a 6-3 lead.
“Everyone’s getting acclimated to the offense,” EJ Perry said. “We’re starting to be able to play fast within it, and be able to get a lot of plays and a lot of points.”
The Big Red responded in force, scoring 17 straight points to take a commanding two-possession lead. First, Null notched another field goal, this time from 29 yards out. Then, Cornell quarterback Richie Kenney and his receiver John Fitzgerald connected three times in one drive and finished the job with a 12-yard scoring connection. Finally, an attempted pooch punt by EJ Perry was blocked by the Big Red, and returned 46 yards for a touchdown. The Bears found themselves in a familiar situation — losing to their Ivy League foe.
Brown was able to cut Cornell’s lead to eight before halftime, as EJ Perry found Jakob Prall ’20 in the end zone with just four seconds left in the second quarter. Coming out of the locker room, Bruno drove down the field again and scored with the first career rushing touchdown by Omari Garry ’23. But for the third consecutive time, Brown failed on their two-point conversion attempt and remained behind 20-18.
Brown and Cornell then traded rushing touchdowns, with Allen Smith ’22 finding the end zone for the Bears. Cornell running back SK Howard then scored his second touchdown of the afternoon for the Big Red, rumbling 40 yards to give Cornell a 34-25 edge as the third quarter drew to a close.
The Bears then set out on what appeared to be an improbable comeback. With seven minutes left, EJ Perry found Demitri Jackson ’20 for a nine-yard touchdown to cut Bruno’s deficit to just two. A drive later, Cornell’s David Jones muffed Brown’s punt, and the Bears recovered. Brown capitalized on the short field position with a go-ahead 35-yard field goal by Dawson Goepferich ’20 with four minutes left. Bruno stopped Cornell on fourth down on the following possession, and just needed to run out the clock to win their first conference matchup of the year.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they were unable to put the finishing touches on the victory, as EJ Perry was sacked on the fourth down play with 42 seconds left.
“The idea is, on one hand you get a chance to get the first down, the other hand, at a very low risk, you get to pin them deep in their own territory,” said James Perry about the decision to go for it on fourth down rather than attempting a field goal to extend the lead. “That is not what happened, we went backwards.”
Kenney led a dramatic last-minute drive down the field to set up Null’s game-winner. Just one play from their first Ivy League win in 18 tries, the Bears once again left empty-handed.
Kenney “made some really good throws. We had a lot of one-on-one matchups that didn’t quite go our way,” said defensive lineman Michael Hoecht ’20. “It always seems like it comes down to the very last play, but … that game was actually won or lost more in the first half than it was in the second half.”
Bruno will get another shot at an elusive Ivy League victory next week on the road against Penn. The Bears and the Quakers are the only two remaining Ivy League teams with winless conference records.