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Football loses in overtime to Columbia on Senior Day

Bears overcome 21-point deficit before failing to score in extra period

<p>Running back and co-captain Allen Smith ’22.5 scored back-to-back touchdowns in the second and third quarter, totaling 100 rushing yards.</p><p>Courtesy of David Silverman Photography via Brown Athletics</p>

Running back and co-captain Allen Smith ’22.5 scored back-to-back touchdowns in the second and third quarter, totaling 100 rushing yards.

Courtesy of David Silverman Photography via Brown Athletics

The football team (3-6, 1-5 Ivy League) lost to Columbia (5-4, 2-4) 31-24 in its final home game of the season Saturday afternoon at Brown Stadium after fighting back from a 21-point deficit to send the game to overtime.

“Any time you go to overtime, one of the two teams is going to be tremendously disappointed. Unfortunately, it was us today,” Head Coach James Perry ’00 said. “But it certainly is not (because of) a lack of effort or a lack of preparation. (The players) prepare well, they practice hard.”

After a scoreless first quarter in the Bears’ Senior Day matchup, the Lions’ offense struck with a 30-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter. In the next six minutes, Columbia got two more long touchdowns on a 60-yard rush and an 80-yard pass to jump out to a 21-0 lead.

Bruno responded with two touchdowns of their own — one at the end of the half and another at the start of the third quarter — making it a one-possession game. Both touchdowns were scored by running back and co-captain Allen Smith ’22.5. Smith totaled 100 rushing yards against a Columbia rushing defense, which is ranked third in the Football Championship Subdivision in yards allowed per game. Smith set a personal season-high for the second straight game.

“Allen’s a captain in every sense of the word,” Perry said. “He is a complete back. He’s been a complete back all year.”

Despite Columbia scoring a 41-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, bringing the score to 24-14, the Bears still managed to pull off an exciting comeback with a touchdown reception by Jordan DeLucia ’25 and a field goal scored with four seconds left in regulation.

With first-string quarterback Jake Willcox ’24 still sidelined after an injury two weeks ago during a game against Penn, Aidan Gilman ’23 — who was named Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for his performance that same game — once again started for Bruno. Will Jarvis ’25 also saw playing time for the second straight week.

“They’ve done a great job,” Smith said. “It’s really (a) next man up mentality that they’ve had. They’ve been pushing each other and have been stepping up great.”

The Bears struggled keeping the ball early on, recording five turnovers on four interceptions and a fumble by the end of the game. “I’ll look very hard at things that we can do to take care of the ball better,” Perry said. “That’s a point of emphasis for us … and we didn’t do it.”

But in the fourth quarter, the offense locked in on back-to-back scoring drives with Gilman going 12-for-14. The Bears defense also had a strong second half, allowing just two first downs in the third quarter and four in the fourth quarter. The lockdown defense follows a lackluster performance against Yale last weekend, in which the Bears defense allowed the most points in program history.

“I think they were hungry to play well,” Perry said. “They especially came out of that locker room (in the second half) and just were not yielding. … They were hitting and running straight to the end.”

The game reflected recurring patterns for the Bears this season, who have been outscored by opponents 125-55 in the second quarter and have outscored opponents 95-41 in the fourth quarter. This trend began with the team’s dramatic double-overtime comeback victory against Bryant University on opening day, when the team scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.

“We got grit, man,” Smith said. “We worked so hard during the week. … When we’re tired, we just keep going, and I think that really expresses itself out on the field.”

In overtime, Columbia recorded a four-yard touchdown pass on their first drive starting on the Brown 25-yard line. This time, the Bears were unable to respond, and a fourth down incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Wes Rockett ’23 sealed the Lions’ victory.

Despite the loss, the game featured memorable performances from several seniors in addition to Smith and Gilman. Players in their final season on the team were celebrated with special introductions in their last home appearance. 

Defensive back Cooper DeVeau ’23 broke up three passes, ascending atop the Ivy League leaderboard for the number of passes defended each game this season and moving into the top 10 in the FCS. Rockett led the team with seven catches for 71 yards, co-captain Junior Gafa ’23 set a career-high with nine tackles and Harrison Ochs ’23 recorded an exciting interception, leaping to catch a falling deflected pass.

There were “a lot of highs” today, Gafa said. It was “a tough one pulling out, but we got to keep our heads up.”

“I’m definitely thanking God for this day,” said Smith. For the “opportunity to go to Brown, play football here,” and have “family and friends out here” on Senior Day, he said. “It’s a blessing.”

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“Everything that is a Brown football player is what this senior class is all about,” Perry said. “We are much better because of it and they want like heck to win these games.”

The Bears will finish their season Saturday on the road against Dartmouth. The game will be broadcast at 1:30 p.m. on NESN and available to stream on ESPN+.



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