The football team took on in-state rival University of Rhode Island in its home opener Saturday, hoping to add on to its 73-28-2 record in the historic Governor’s Cup.
But despite over 500 total yards from quarterback EJ Perry ’21, the Bears fell to the Rams in a 31-28 nailbiter. Bruno had an opportunity to drive down the field and take the lead with six minutes to play, but its offense, which was so effective throughout the game, came up short during the final moments.
“We keep making good strides and getting better each week,” said Head Coach James Perry ’00.
Brown (1-2, 0-1 Ivy) started off strong, forcing a quick three and out, then marching down the field on an eight-play, 61-yard scoring drive. To cap the series, EJ Perry flipped the ball to running back Allen Smith ’22, who strolled into the end zone to give the Bears a touchdown lead. But the Rams (1-4, 0-3 CAA) responded with a methodical drive of their own, going 78 yards in 13 plays to tie up the game on an athletic toe-tap touchdown grab by wideout Isaiah Coulter.
The Bears’ offense continued to move the chains on the next drive, working its way deep into Rams territory. However, Dawson Goepferich ’20 missed a 39-yard field goal and the score remained even. URI took advantage as Rams quarterback Vito Priore tossed another touchdown on the following drive, this time to a wide-open Aaron Parker.
Brown matched URI punch-for punch in the first half as quarterbacks EJ Perry and Priore fought an aerial duel. The pair would finish the game with an impressive 809 combined passing yards.
Late in the second quarter, EJ Perry found wide receiver Spencer Hemmingway ’20 for a 25-yard touchdown to tie the game again. On the next drive, Rhode Island connected on a 34-yard field goal to take a slim 17-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Bruno received the kickoff to begin the second half and drove down the field with the help of a heads-up play by receiver Dan Gemmell ’21. Under pressure, EJ Perry threw an inaccurate pass that was intercepted by the Rams’ Branyan Javier-Castillo. As the linebacker attempted to return the pick, Gemmell did not give up on the play and stripped the football from Javier-Castillo. Lineman Phil Lynch ’20 recovered the fumble and Brown retained possession. But, another missed field goal by the Bears kept them behind by three.
It soon appeared that URI would run away with the contest. Following the missed field goal, Priore completed two 30-plus yard passes to Parker and Coulter, and running back Zoe Bryant Jr. punched in a seven-yard touchdown run to give the Rams a 24-14 lead. On the following Bruno possession, EJ Perry drove Brown into the URI red zone but threw a pick on second and goal to seemingly put the game out of reach.
But Bruno’s defense clamped down to force a URI punt, and a long pass from EJ Perry to Hayes Sutton ’23 set the Bears up at the Rams’ three, where Smith would run it in for his second touchdown of the game. Brown then forced another punt, leading to another scoring connection between EJ Perry and Smith. Suddenly, the lightning-quick comeback had the Bears leading the Governor’s Cup midway through the fourth quarter. “We’ve got some athletic people on offense. … We were just moving the ball really well,” Smith said.
However, Brown’s comeback fell short as URI finally broke through and connected on a second receiving touchdown to Parker to retake the lead. While the offenses starred all game, it was the Rhode Island defense that shut down the Bears to ice the Rams’ victory. On the Bears’ final offensive drive, they were forced to punt for the first time all game. Brown fell 31-28, dropping both their home opener and the Governor’s Cup for the second straight year.
“Major, major credit to (James Perry) and the Brown Bears, they played a tremendous game,” said Rams Head Coach Jim Fleming. “He’s got a lot of guts in the way he coaches the game.”
Bruno struggled all game long to cover the Rams’ top two pass-catchers, Coulter and Parker. The pair combined for 258 receiving yards and three touchdowns. “I said before the game I thought (Parker) was the best receiver in the country,” said James Perry. Parker’s talent forced Brown to leave Coulter in single coverage, where he torched the Bears for 12 receptions and 171 yards.
Brown wraps up its non-conference schedule Saturday at home against the College of the Holy Cross of the Patriot League. Then, the Bears will finish off their three-game homestand the following week against Princeton as they look for their first Ivy League win.