If you listen closely, you can almost hear it.
A cleat colliding with a football, a thud of a running back diving into the end zone, a collective roar of celebration. It’s the sound of Brown football defeating Columbia 48-24, the sound of a senior class notching its first conference win since its rookie season and the sound of a 1,099-day Ivy League losing streak snapping.
Co-captain Nick Allsop ’20 went into the game fully aware that Columbia “thought they were just going to roll over us.” But with a scoop and score on the second play of the game, the Bears’ right guard felt the team “went out and just, from the jump, punched them in the face.”
Columbia never recovered from the initial blow, trailing Brown for all 60 minutes of play. Though the Lions nearly orchestrated a comeback in the second quarter with a 17-point surge, co-captain Michael Hoecht ’20 felt “there was something different about that game, where even as they started to score, you could still feel the energy on the sideline.”
The next time Brown scored it felt like a statement. With just under two minutes left in the half, running back Allen Smith ’22 rushed 70 yards, untouched, into the end zone. The success of the call on 4th and 1, the result of an emphasis in practice on the inside zone play that the offense struggled to execute against Yale the week prior, signaled that a Saturday afternoon finally belonged to the Bears.
When Columbia pulled off a double flea flicker to come within three at the start of the second half, the momentum appeared to swing in the Lions’ favor. But Allsop said the offense went out with a “we’re gonna go score anyway, so it doesn’t matter” mindset, and the Bears responded by posting 21 unanswered points.
On the last touchdown of the game, EJ Perry ’21 broke the program record for most yards of total offense in a single season, knocking his uncle Head Coach James Perry ’00 out of the top spot. Though neither was aware that the quarterback had surpassed the mark during the game, EJ joked “it’s obviously good to best your uncle” afterwards.
As the final seconds ticked away and the offense got into victory formation, Allsop remembers feeling a sense of relief. When veteran linebacker Brendan Pyne ’20 was shaking hands with Columbia players after the game, he almost didn’t want to because he was teary-eyed. “It was emotional because the Ivy League games are what’s important,” Allsop said. “It’s a different feeling when you beat an Ivy League team, and since we hadn’t done it in so long, it was surreal.”
The locker room after the victory was exactly what the team decided to embrace at the beginning of the season: absolute chaos. Players and coaches jumped like kids in a bouncy house and sang the University fight song at the top of their lungs. But for Coach Perry, there was more to celebrate than finally clinching that elusive Ivy W. The Bears who knocked off Columbia are “really light years from” the team he inherited last December, and he credits the seniors for “paving the way for something special.”
Hoecht, who will be among the 22 seniors playing their final game in a Brown uniform Saturday, also feels the team is on track to return to its former glory.
“I’m really proud of everything this team’s done and just the tremendous amount of steps forward that we’ve taken. Since Dartmouth last year to now is night and day,” he said. “Just where the program is culturewise, the development of kids. This program is definitely headed in the right direction, and there are going to be a lot of wins in the future.”
With only Dartmouth remaining on the schedule, Brown has a chance to end its season on a high note. If the Bears defeat their rivals, the Big Green cannot be outright Ivy League champions and will have to share the conference title.
Ask Allsop what it would mean to cap off the year with a win and the answer is simple: “It’s our Ivy League championship.”