No matter what happens in the last two games of the football team’s season, it will be able to look back and, at least in terms of wins and losses, consider its 2002 campaign an improvement upon last year’s.
The Red (3-5, 2-3 Ivy) managed to scrape out a 21-19 victory despite a late Dartmouth (3-5, 2-3) charge on Saturday at Schoellkopf Field.
“All I can tell you is that I’m unbelievably proud of this group of players,” praised head coach Tim Pendergast. “Every win is very, very precious.”
The game was marked by Cornell’s finest passing effort yet, as senior quarterback Mick Razzano took advantage of the Ivy League’s worst pass defense en route to a career-high 302 passing yards.
The bulk of that yardage went to classmate Keith Ferguson, who racked up 175 yards on 11 receptions. By doing so, the 5-9 receiver established a new school record for career receiving yards, surpassing Joe Splendorio ’01 on the list. Ferguson’s total currently stands at 2,503 yards, and he also owns the record for career receptions (194), which he broke two weeks ago against Brown.
Meanwhile, the Red defense, although it permitted 449 yards of total offense to the Green, showed a penchant for the big play, coming up with three fourth-down stops and two turnovers as well.
“Any time you stop a team and force them to turn it over, that’s a win for your defense,” said Pendergast. “It then gives you a shorter field, and I think we took some advantage of [the] short field.”
“As an offensive unit, when you see them go for it on fourth down, it’s kind of saying, ‘We don’t have respect for you,'” added Ferguson. “It makes us that much angrier, the audacity of them… It just gets us even more riled. We know we have to come back and do something.”
The first turnover came in the second quarter when Dartmouth quarterback Brian Mann attempted a flea-flicker to receiver Matt Davis. Sophomore linebacker Brad Kitlowski caused Mann to mishandle Davis’ toss back, and sophomore linebacker Paul Pardi recovered the loose ball.
Then, with just under a minute to go in the game, the Green attempted to piece together one last drive, but faced a fourth and 10 from its own 28. Mann’s pass was intercepted by senior Jordan Hase, who was in the game as an extra safety. Hase’s pick sealed the win for Cornell, as Razzano simply had to kneel twice to run the remaining time off the clock.
Dartmouth scored on the game’s first possession, as tight end Casey Cramer reached up to make a superb catch in the back of the end zone on a four-yard Mann pass. However, kicker Tyler Lavin’s extra point attempt went wide left, and the Green had to settle for six points.
The Red roared back on the subsequent drive, as Razzano completed five passes on the possession, all for over 10 yards. His 11-yard strike to Ferguson midway through the drive was the play that moved Ferguson into first on Cornell’s all-time receiving yardage list. Senior fullback Nate Archer capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run, and sophomore kicker Trevor MacMeekin continued his consistency, as he added the extra point.
Razzano again engineered a scoring drive on the Red’s next possession, completing four of five passes and scrambling 11 yards on a third and eight situation. Junior receiver John Kellner was on the end of a touchdown pass to complete the drive, giving Cornell a 14-6 lead.
The score remained that way until late in the third quarter, as Lavin shanked a 28-yard field goal left just before halftime.
Archer scored his seventh touchdown of the season late in the third quarter on a three-yard touchdown run, giving the Red a 15-point lead with one quarter left to play.
However, as Towson and Princeton had done earlier in the season against the Red, Dartmouth mounted a last-quarter comeback.
Mann hit fullback Scott Wedum in the flat, and Wedum took it the rest of the way for a 12-yard touchdown pass early in the quarter, bringing the Green within eight.
Cornell pinned Dartmouth deep in its own territory on the Green’s next drive, though, forcing the Green to punt from its own two. Punter Alex Ware got off a kick that rolled to midfield, where senior Jamie Moriarty attempted to pick up the rolling ball, which was surrounded by Dartmouth defenders. Instead, Moriarty booted the football, and lineman Derham Cato recovered the ball to give Dartmouth a second chance on the drive.
“The defense, we like to play with some pressure behind us, so I thought I’d give us some pressure so we could perform better,” joked Moriarty, who then explained the play. “In all honesty, I thought that one of the Dartmouth defenders had touched the ball, and I was trying to take advantage of what I thought was a free play.”
“That really gave us a life,” said Dartmouth head coach John Lyons. “I’ve seen it happen before, but usually when they do it, they pick it up and go.”
This time, the Green took advantage of its possession, marching the remaining 56 yards to the end zone. On the scoring play, a three-yard pass to Jay Barnard, sophomore Dan Collins was flagged for a late hit on Barnard. Lyons opted to take the penalty on the kickoff instead of moving the ball a yard and a half closer to the end zone on the two-point conversion attempt.
“Whether it was one-and-a-half or three really didn’t matter; we were going to throw the ball,” explained Lyons. “We wanted to get it on the kickoff.”
Needing two points to even the score, Mann completed a pass to Wedum, but the Red defense stopped him at the one-yard line.
“We had a couple of opportunities, missed a field goal, missed a PAT. You know, it turns out those are pretty big points in the end,” said Lyons.
The Green was unable to advance the ball into Cornell territory for the remainder of the game, as the Red held on for the win.
The Red will attempt to bring its conference record to .500 next week when it travels to New York to take on Columbia, a team Pendergast was very much looking forward to playing.
“We got one game. That’s it. It’s Columbia,” he said. “I don’t care about that other crap. I wanna beat Columbia.”
Archived article by Alex Fineman