PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Fifty years ago, the last time the football team lost six fumbles in a game, the Red lost to Navy, 31-7. This time around, though, Cornell (2-4, 1-2 Ivy) only lost the ball — not the game — as it held on despite eight turnovers to slip past Brown (0-6, 0-3), 10-7 in double overtime.
It was the second time this season the Red has played a double-overtime contest. Three weeks ago, Cornell picked up its only other win of the season against Towson in double overtime after the Tigers scored 24 unanswered points to tie the game.
On Saturday it was the Red that battled back, however. The Bears struck on their first drive of the game. That 7-0 lead held up throughout most of the game, until Cornell evened the score on its last drive of regulation.
“I’ve never seen a team hand us the game so many times, and we turned around and handed it right back to them,” said frustrated Brown head coach Phil Estes.
After neither team was able to put points on the board in the first overtime, sophomore kicker Trevor MacMeekin nailed a 42-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to give the Red the lead. Senior linebacker Nate Spitler then sealed the win with an interception of Brown quarterback Kyle Slager.
A steady rain throughout the game gave both teams problems with hanging on to the football, as Bears flanker Brandon Buchanan fumbled once and Slager also fumbled and threw two interceptions.
One player who did shine brightly on an otherwise dismal day was senior receiver Keith Ferguson. Ferguson finished his climb to the top of Cornell’s all-time receptions leaderboard, as his 14 catches on the day gave him 178 career receptions and helped him surpass Eric Krawczyk ’98. Ferguson is now just 68 yards shy of the career receiving yardage record, held by Joe Splendorio ’01. He also racked up 177 receiving yards, a career-best and also the second-best day ever for a Red receiver.
Brown was able to gain the early lead on its first drive of the game, when Slager was able to find star receiver Chas Gessner three times on three third down situations on the drive. The first of those receptions came on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Gessner managed to pull the ball down and then take it for a 39-yard gain. Slager capped off the drive himself with a five-yard run around the left end.
“Their big play on that drive was tipped at the line of scrimmage. It’s unlucky,” said Spitler. “But we knew we were sticking them other than that play, and it’s just a matter of time before we get back out there and continue to show off.”
Spitler, who had an interception on the game’s final play, also had an interception in the first quarter, when he snagged a tipped ball intended for Gessner.
“I kind of have a reputation for having bad hands, but I don’t believe it. It’s just a streak of bad luck there for four or eight years,” Spitler joked. “It just tipped right to me, it was just a matter of holding on to it.”
Only two of the Red’s fumbles came in the first half, although both of those occurred deep in Bears’ territory. Senior quarterback Mick Razzano, who had trouble with the snap for most of the game, fumbled a snap that Brown recovered at the 10. Then, with less than a minute to go in the half, the ball squirted out of Ferguson’s hands at the 22 after a nice catch and run.
In the third quarter, Cornell fumbled two more times. Senior Vince Bates misplayed a punt that the Bears recovered, and sophomore running back Marcus Blanks also coughed up the ball. Blanks’ fumble set off a Brown drive that ended in a missed 31-yard field goal attempt, the closest the Bears came to extending their lead to two scores.
The miscues continued for the Red in the fourth quarter with another two fumbles. On the first drive of the quarter, Razzano again lost a snap, and later in the frame, Bates lost the ball once more on a punt return, this time at Cornell’s 14-yard line.
The Red averted a Brown score, though, as sophomore linebacker Joel Sussman forced and recovered a fumble on the next play.
“There were opportunities all over the place to win this football game and we just handed it right back every single time,” said Estes.
Razzano and Blanks then finally put together a scoring drive, as Blanks carried seven times for 33 yards and Razzano connected with Ferguson twice and senior fullback Nate Archer once en route to the tying touchdown. The scoring play was a 15-yard run by Blanks.
The win knocks the Bears back to 0-6, their worst start since 1992. Meanwhile, the Red has already equaled its win total from last season, and it has four games left on the schedule. The next contest for Cornell will be this Saturday, when it hosts Princeton at 1 p.m.
Archived article by Alex Fineman