HANOVER, N.H. — Following the Cornell-Dartmouth football game on Saturday, a head coach sat sullenly at the press conference — a scowl glued on his face — lamenting about missed opportunities, poor tackling and turnover woes.
But this time, it wasn’t Cornell head Tim Pendergast.
That’s because the Red (2-5, 2-3 Ivy), a week after claiming its first victory of the season at Princeton, nailed down another one, a 28-24 win over the Big Green. While not perfect, Cornell for the majority of the contest, played mistake-free football, particularly in the second half when it held Dartmouth to just 138 yards of total offense and overcame a 10-point deficit.
“We’re still not there all the way,” Pendergast said, “but we’re understanding better what needs to be done on all three sides of the ball.”
Whereas Cornell had routinely wilted in the second half, on Saturday both offense and defense showed their mettle and killer instinct after Dartmouth had jumped to a 24-14 lead soon after halftime.
The Red’s comeback began with 36 seconds left in the third quarter, when senior tailback Evan Simmons capped a seven play, 48-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to edge Cornell within a field goal. The scoring series was set up by a Jamie Moriarty interception, his second of the game.
Cornell moved into the lead courtesy of another turnover forced by its defense. Freshman cornerback Deron Smith, who was staring because his position had been decimated by injuries, picked off a pass from Dartmouth’s Joe Kinder a little more than a minute into the final quarter. That gave Simmons another opportunity to punch in a score, this time an 11-yard run at 9:46 of the fourth.
“We just wanted to go out there and give the defense some help,” senior quarterback Rick Rahne said of the offense’s performance in the second half. “We never really felt like we were out of it.”
The offense was again buoyed by a ground attack spearheaded by Simmons’s 84 yards and three TDs. The running game accumulated 163 total yards.
“We’ve been able to run the ball a little better these last two weekends,” Pendergast said. “When you can run the ball effectively, [the quarterback] has a much better chance of completing throws. It takes pressure off.”
Not only did Rahne pass for 212 yards on 23-of-36, but more surprisingly he ran for another 59 yards —