The football team (2-3, 0-2 Ivy League) fell to Princeton (5-0, 2-0) 35-19 Friday night at Powers Field in New Jersey. The matchup, which was broadcast nationally on ESPNU, marked the Bears’ second loss in two games of Ivy play and their first conference game since a Sept. 24 loss to Harvard.
“They’re a really good team and they played well tonight,” said Head Coach James Perry ’00 in a statement provided by Brown Athletics. “It’s not like we didn’t get their top team. We got their best effort tonight and they didn’t turn the ball over a single time.”
Despite the loss, Bruno put together a strong effort against Princeton’s consistent defense, which had not allowed a point in their previous two games before playing the Bears. Brown outran Princeton in total yards 391-368 and possessed the ball for over 10 minutes more than the Tigers.
Brown also played aggressively throughout the night, attempting seven fourth down conversions, four of which were successful. This included a fourth-and-9 completion at Princeton’s 21-yard line from quarterback Jake Willcox ’24 to wide receiver Wes Rockett ’23 — a duo which connected again for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.
Rockett leapt in the air, snagged the pass from Willcox and dragged his toe just inside the sideline to stay inbounds for the touchdown. The impressive catch earned him the number two spot on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays Saturday morning.
“We knew it was going to be hard to move the ball and (we knew) we were going to have to score some points,” Perry said. “We were going to need to … convert some fourth downs and things like that.”
“Going into Friday’s game, we’d watched plenty of film that backed up what the statistics on Princeton were showing,” WR Hayes Sutton ‘23, who had a career-high 11 receptions, wrote in a message to The Herald. "They’re a very disciplined group that doesn’t give up many big plays and flies around to the football. Knowing this, we just took what their defense was giving us, which allowed us to move the ball efficiently at times.”
While the Bears were down just 14-10 at the half, Princeton had a strong third quarter in which Tiger quarterback Blake Stenstrom and WR Dylan Classi connected for a pair of touchdowns while the Tigers’ defense held Brown scoreless.
Bruno sought yet another dramatic comeback late in the game — something of a trend for the team, which has outscored opponents 52-14 in the fourth quarter this season.
“While we obviously aim to be more consistent and efficient throughout all four quarters, I think this game proved that we have the ability to move the ball against anyone,” Sutton wrote.
After a successful field goal attempt and a subsequent touchdown pass from Willcox to running back Allen Smith ’22.5 brought the score to 28-19, the Bears attempted a two-point conversion. The initial conversion appeared to be successful, but was called back due to a holding penalty on offensive lineman Donovan Allen ’23. Brown opted not to go for two again and a botched extra point attempt left the Bears with a two-possession deficit.
Princeton then scored a touchdown on their first play after recovering Brown’s onside kick attempt, putting the game out of reach.
"I think it was a really hard-fought game,” Perry told Brown Athletics. “Princeton is an excellent team, we're getting better and I think the key for us will be taking these next eight days … to get ready for Cornell. I'm confident the kids will learn from today and get better."
“We can take some positives away in the fact that we were able to move the ball and put yardage up,” Smith wrote in a message to The Herald. “We can always look to improve where we fell short to be able to put ourselves in the best position to win the rest of our games.”
The Bears will look to add a win in conference play on Saturday afternoon, when they face Cornell at home. The game will be available to stream on ESPN+.