Brown shines, knocking Harvard’s lights out
PROVIDENCE — The Bears may have basked in the spotlight of their first football game under the lights at Brown Stadium, but the visiting Harvard Crimson played as though they were blindfolded.
After scoring a season-opening victory last week over Holy Cross under the lights at Harvard Stadium, the Crimson were blindsided by last night’s 29-14 loss to Brown in the Ivy League opener for both teams before a crowd of 17,360.
“There’s no excuse for not being energized and there’s no excuse for not playing well,’’ said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “Even if we had played well, we definitely would have had a terrific and very challenging opponent on our hands, and it would’ve been a lot better football game.’’
The Crimson (1-1) were done in by a defense that limited Harvard to 112 total yards (minus-16 rushing) on 46 plays, two interceptions, one fumble, and 10 penalties for 74 yards.
And in what seemed a final kick in the pants, there were the five field goals by Brown freshman Alexander Norocea, who tied a school record with conversions of 20, 20, 35, 44, and 35 yards. He missed the outright record when he was wide left on a sixth attempt from 34 yards.
“He was automatic,’’ Murphy said. “He was like a fifth-year senior.’’
The only glimmer of hope for Harvard came when Marco Iannuzzi, a senior wideout and return specialist, scored both Crimson touchdowns in a 36-second span that bridged the halves.
After Brown (2-0) blitzed its visitors by rolling to a 23-0 lead with 31 seconds remaining in the first half, Harvard quarterback Andrew Hatch (11 of 23, 128 yards, 2 interceptions) found his rhythm and found Iannuzzi on a corner route for a 21-yard touchdown with seven seconds remaining before halftime. Then Iannuzzi energized his teammates when he returned the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, pulling Harvard within 23-14.
“The offensive line did a great job in giving Hatch some time, because it was a late-developing route, but Hatch threw a great ball,’’ said Iannuzzi, who wound up with 190 all-purpose yards, 169 on kickoff returns. “Coming out of halftime, the scheme was perfect. Anyone could have run that one right through the hole. I don’t think I even made a break. I just ran straight for the cone. Team effort on both those plays, unfortunately we couldn’t come together on any other plays.’’
Harvard had plenty of time, but failed to capitalize, going interception, punt, fumble, punt, punt, and turnover on downs on its last six possessions.
“We never consistently mounted anything on offense,’’ Murphy said, “and we never consistently kept them out of the red zone on defense, and then you throw in the two picks and it really put our defense in a bind, and it was ugly.’’
That much was evident from the outset when Brown scored 23 straight points. The Bears, who rotated senior starter Joe Springer and banged-up senior Kyle Newhall-Caballero at quarterback, were quick to light up the scoreboard, taking a 3-0 lead on Norocea’s 20-yard field goal, which capped a 16-play, 69-yard drive in which the Crimson were gashed on third down for gains of 17, 18, 3, and 5 yards.
“From the get-go, we just let them off the hook with a couple of big third-down conversions on the first drive, we never really gained any momentum,’’ Murphy lamented. “Other than the play at the end of the half by Marco and the kickoff, we were hardly in the game.’’
The Crimson got smacked in the mouth on their first play from scrimmage when Hatch was rocked after a 13-yard gain. It seemed to reflect the difficulty Harvard would encounter moving the ball for the remainder of the half.
It was evident to Brown coach Phil Estes that the night belonged to his team, getting a pair of 1-yard TD runs by Mark Kachmer during a 20-point second quarter and third-quarter field goals of 44 and 35 yards by Norocea to seal the verdict.
“It was a great atmosphere,’’ Estes said. “To have that kind of a crowd and to turn around and see that kind of crowd behind you, cheering, it really gets your adrenaline going, and I think the team really fed off that.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.