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‘A fifteen-round boxing match’: Brown football comes up clutch to beat Columbia 21-14 in overtime

Jake Willcox ’24 throws late touchdown pass to Graham Walker ’24 to seal victory

<p>The Bears will now hope to take Saturday’s momentum into the season finale at home against Dartmouth. A win over the Big Green would seal Brown Football’s first winning season since 2013. </p><p>Courtesy of Brown Athletics.</p>

The Bears will now hope to take Saturday’s momentum into the season finale at home against Dartmouth. A win over the Big Green would seal Brown Football’s first winning season since 2013.

Courtesy of Brown Athletics.

Coming off one of their worst losses of the season last week against Yale, the football team (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) responded with a hard-fought 21-14 victory over Columbia (2-7, 0-6 Ivy), courtesy of an overtime touchdown from quarterback Jake Willcox ’24 to wide receiver Graham Walker ’24. With the win, the football team has now posted their best campaign through nine weeks since 2013.

“That’s a very good (Columbia) team — we got their best effort for sure, and we just responded,” Head Coach James Perry ’00 said. Perry was “really proud of the guys, and we’ll just try and build on it.” 

“The win means a lot,” defensive lineman Terrance Lane II ’24 said. “The defense played well, we played our scheme, we played our game. It means a lot for the next game too, because it’s momentum going forward.”

Saturday’s game in New York City was a low-scoring affair where defenses dominated, with both teams putting up just a single touchdown each through the first three quarters. The Lions started the game with the ball and put up a touchdown after a 15-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard passing touchdown from Columbia quarterback Joe Green to receiver JJ Jenkins. 

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Brown later answered Columbia’s touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter when backup quarterback Nate Lussier ’24, on third-and-one from the Columbia three-yard line, faked the handoff and ran into the endzone, with the extra point tying the game 7-7. From there, the Brown defense dominated, not allowing another Lions score until the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Bears made the game 14-7 after running back Stockton Owen ’25 rushed the ball four yards to conclude a 14-play, 91-yard drive. But Columbia went on to score on the following drive after backup quarterback Caden Bell threw a 32-yard pass to Jenkins to tie the game at 14 and force overtime, where Willcox and Walker ultimately made their decisive connection. After the Bears found the endzone on their opening overtime possession, Bruno’s defense held firm, forcing a turnover on downs to secure the victory.

Wes Rockett ’23.5, who continued to stake his claim as one of the Ivy League’s best receivers this year, reeled in 11 receptions for 62 yards. Rockett also returned four punts for an additional 64 yards en route to winning Ivy League special teams player of the week honors. Rockett now leads the Ivy League in all-purpose yards with 123.9 per game, ranking 18th in the FCS.

Rockett “is just incredible,” Perry said. “His returns were huge for us today … He’s just a complete football player.”

“The coaches were putting us in positions to succeed all day. I think Jake played a hell of a game,” Rockett said. “Especially on punt, we (had) a ton of guys just blocking their tails off, trying to open creases for me, especially when (Columbia’s William Hughes) is gonna kick it that far.” 

Perry praised the wide receiver corps as a whole. “We’ve got a deep group there, and you saw it at the end,” he said. Walker “is also a very, very talented kid, and I’m really proud of him too.”

Willcox completed 31 of 48 passes  — a 64.6% completion percentage — for 265 yards and a touchdown, an improvement over his 51.3% completion rate last week against Yale.

“Everything about (Willcox) just oozes confidence, strength and leadership in general,” Rockett said. “I have the utmost confidence in him in any scenario, and you see it in the last play of overtime for us. Just making a play, finding Graham, and Graham does what he does best.”

In a game dominated by both team’s defensive efforts, Lane II led the Bears with a pair of sacks. After the game, Lane II discussed the importance of preparation, “being consistent with my technique and always being ready to play the pass, run or anything.”

“The (defensive) effort was incredible, the D-line’s effort especially,” Perry said. “It starts up front against the D-line and against the O-line … It was a fifteen-round boxing match that went to the end.”

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The Bears will now hope to carry their momentum into their season finale at home against Dartmouth (5-4, 4-2 Ivy) Saturday. A win over the Big Green would seal Brown football’s first winning season since 2013. 

As the team looks towards a difficult matchup, Perry made clear his expectations going forward. “I expect us to get better,” he said. “Today, (we) played some of our best football, so we’re just going to try and build off that.”

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