Big passing plays at critical junctures of the match allowed the Brown Bears to run away from the Lions in Columbia’s final Ivy contest of the season.
Throughout the 2012 football campaign, Columbia’s defense was led by its front seven. The consistent pass rush provided by the defensive line and linebackers allowed the Lions to force offenses off the field, create turnovers, and help mask the relative inexperience of its secondary.
Unfortunately for Light Blue fans, the Lions’ pass rush was unable to register a single sack on Saturday. While quarterback Patrick Donnelly came under pressure throughout the afternoon, Brown’s offensive line gave him just enough time to find open wide receivers behind the Lions’ defensive backs.
Down 6-0 early in the second quarter, Brown took a risk by going for it on fourth and 2 in Lions territory. On the play, Donnelly found wide receiver Jonah Fay over the top in the end zone for the 29-yard touchdown that put the Bears up 7-6.
Later in the second quarter, the Lions forced the Bears into a fourth and 8. Once again, Brown head coach Phil Estes rolled the dice and left his offense on the field. The choice paid off. As he was being hit, Donnelly threw the ball to a wide-open Jordan Evans, who beat freshman cornerback Travis Reim down the right sideline for another 29-yard touchdown.
The score put Brown up 14-6 with 3:32 remaining in the first half.
“They made big plays in the first half—fourth down, both of those were big plays,” head coach Pete Mangurian said. “And you just can’t win giving up 14 points on fourth down. There’s just no way to win like that.”
A more effective pass rush on those two fourth-down plays might have prevented the Bears from seizing the momentum of the game heading into halftime.
“They made plays when it counted—on fourth down,” senior linebacker Ryan Murphy said. “The receivers got open and their quarterback put it on the money. We could’ve used some more pressure on the quarterback.”
On the opening drive of the second half, the Bears went back to what worked so well in the first half—a deep passing touchdown over the top of the Lions’ secondary. The 22-yard connection from Donnelly to tight end Andrew Marks gave Brown a commanding 22-6 lead.
“I think Patrick just read coverages really, really well,” Estes said. “He stayed in the pocket and his eyes were downfield. They were giving us a lot of man coverage, and once they did that, we knew we had some guys who we could match up with them.”
Donnelly finished the game with a completion rate of 70 percent, 225 yards passing, and three touchdowns. His favorite target of the afternoon, Fay, finished his Brown career on a high note with six catches, 101 yards receiving, and a touchdown.
Saturday’s contest exposed two problems the Lions will be facing heading into next season—finding a way to improve the consistency of its secondary, and maintaining a pass rush from a front seven that will be losing six starters to graduation.