The Bears had 56 seconds to cover 76 yards. By the time the clock ran out at Beirne Stadium Saturday night, the football team (1-0) had earned a hard-fought season-opening victory over the Bryant Bulldogs (1-2) by a final score of 29-25 thanks to a thrilling final drive.
“When you get that win, it’s incredible,” said Head Coach James Perry ’00 following the game. “For us to have it on the first game of the season, (there is) a lot to improve upon … but I’m really proud of how the kids played.”
“We work really hard all winter, all spring, all summer — we do it for this right here,” said quarterback Jake Willcox ’24. “Getting the W is what we want.”
After a penalty and three completed passes — including a 30-yard reception by Graham Walker ’24 — the Bears found themselves at Bryant’s four-yard line. The drive was capped by Willcox firing a pass to his leaping tight end Dillon Golden ’26 in the back of the end zone.
“We knew we could come back,” Golden said. “We’ve been working our two-minute drill all week.”
The moment marked Golden’s first career touchdown. He had already made a big play in the game by recovering a fumble in the second quarter.
“When I saw that play call, I was like, ‘I might get the ball. It all worked out,’” Golden said, crediting Willcox for a “great throw.”
“Dillon is a great example of someone who just does his job. … He’s just a kid who never stops,” Perry said. “For him to find that ball when we needed it was just a terrific thing.”
Before the Bears and Bulldogs engaged in a wild back-and-forth battle in the second half, it was Bruno who commanded the early part of the game. Brown opened the scoring with a touchdown run from Stockton Owen ’25 off of a direct snap just before the end of the first quarter. After Bryant fumbled the return kickoff, the Bears quickly scored again on a pass from Willcox to Wes Rockett ’24.
Both teams hit field goals to make the score 16-3 in Brown’s favor. But with 0:08 left on the clock before halftime, Bryant recorded their first touchdown. In the third quarter, Bryant surged ahead after a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zevi Eckhaus and successful extra point.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Bears recaptured the lead 22-17 on another connection between Willcox and Rockett. With under two minutes left and Bryant driving, it appeared the Bears recovered a fumble behind the line of scrimmage. But the call was overturned to an incomplete pass after review, keeping the ball in Bryant’s possession.
Perry spoke to the team’s resilience while awaiting the ultimate call. “Before I even said it, the guys said ‘defense up,’” Perry said. “That call might get reversed, it might not get reversed, but regardless the defense had to be up and ready … so that was a good moment.”
With just over a minute on the clock, Bryant scored a touchdown and successfully converted a two-point attempt, going ahead 25-22 to set up Brown’s epic final possession.
“We like to make things interesting, but that’s just the way we play,” Rockett said. “We embrace chaos, we’ve been saying it since day one, so (when) we get in those situations, we just thrive. We always say there’s no such thing as clutch, you’re just yourself in the biggest moments.”
Rockett led the Bears with eight catches for 121 yards and a pair of scores, as well as 94 kickoff return yards. Willcox, meanwhile, went 36-for-49 while totaling 355 passing yards and a trio of touchdown passes, falling just one yard short of matching a career-high set against Bryant on Sept. 17 the year prior.
“I’ve got the utmost confidence in the guys around me, and I really didn’t have to do much,” Willcox said. “I was just giving them opportunities to make plays and they did.”
Willcox and Wes Rockett are two of the Bears’ four captains this season along with linebacker Ethan Royer ’24 and defensive back Isaiah Reed ’25.
“I leaned on the senior group,” Perry said of the team’s offensive efficiency. “We have a very good group of kids (who have) stuck together for four years … for us to stick together means playing in really tough games and responding at the end, so I was happy to see that.”
Willcox, who ranked second in the Ivy League last season with 255.1 passing yards per game, had his stellar season cut short last fall by injury when he was removed from an Oct. 29 game against Penn.
“It means everything to me,” Willcox said of his return to the field. “There’s nothing I enjoy more than playing football, so I’m happy to be back.”
“Jake is our captain and we needed him to play like one in a critical time,” Perry wrote in a message to The Herald via Brown Athletics. “I am proud of his leadership.”
Owen led the team on the ground with a career-high 54 yards and one touchdown, while Ian Franzoni ’24 racked up 31 yards on the ground and 62 yards through the air.
Brown’s defense also held their own against Bryant, forcing two interceptions and two fumbles. Last season, the Bears’ defense allowed 432 yards per game, by far the worst mark in the Ivy League.
The Bears will open Ivy play in Cambridge against Harvard Friday evening before what is expected to be a packed house.
“There’s a lot we can improve,” Willcox said. “You’ll see it next week and the week after that and the week after that.”
The win was “definitely a good way to start the season, but we’ve got Harvard Friday, so we (have) a quick turnaround,” Golden said. “We’re gonna be ready.”
Linus is a sports editor from New York City. He is a junior concentrating in English, and when he's out of The Herald office you can find him rooting for the Mets, watching Star Wars or listening to The Beach Boys.