The Red (1-0) could not have asked for a better start to the 2005 football season. And while senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn sat in a post-game press-conference, high-fiving and grinning after rushing for a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-7 victory over Bucknell (0-3), he and head coach Jim Knowles ’87 promised more to come.
“It was what we needed. We came out strong in the first half and we wanted to make a statement today,” Kuhn said.
“Our last game was a loss last year, but we were playing at such a high pitch at that time and we almost won that game,” Knowles said. “But just to get on the winning roll right away, to give these seniors a lot of confidence, and head into league play and a very important game at Yale having executed our systems under the ball – and everybody saying, wow, our offense works, our defense works … just across the board, it was a dominant win for us.”
Cornell played by this mission statement right from the start, driving the ball 80 yards on its first possession, capped by a 16-yard run by Kuhn for the touchdown. Senior kicker A.J. Weistman added the extra point to put the Red up 7-0 at 11:34 of the first quarter.
“We’ve been talking about it all week, getting out and setting the tempo early,” said sophomore tailback Luke Siwula. “[Bucknell is] 0-2 so we knew if we got on top of them they’d have a tough day and we did just that. This whole offseason we talked about setting the tempo early and today we came out and did that and we didn’t let up and everybody did a real nice job, both offense and defense keeping it on.”
There was no let up from the special teams either, as freshman Jamie Germani knocked the ball loose from Bucknell returner Dante Ross on the Red’s kickoff after taking a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, the Bison finished their last possession from the first period with a 19-play, 69-yard drive. However, Bucknell found itself in the midst of a painful moment of dejà vu, as kicker Ryan Korn hit the uprights on a 47-yard field goal attempt. The same mistake cost the Bison a victory against Cornell in the Red’s 2003 home opener.
The Red didn’t allow bad luck to switch teams, as it pushed its lead to 10-0 off a 45-yard field goal from Weitsman. Cornell barely gave Bucknell a chance to think about attacking, as sophomore Doug Lempa intercepted a Ross pass, giving Cornell possession on the 8-yard line. Kuhn added his final touchdown of the game on the first play of the ensuing drive and Weitsman again converted the extra point to put the Red ahead, 17-0.
The defense kept the pressure on, forcing the Bison to another three-and-out, which set up another scoring opportunity for the offense.
This time, Kuhn led the Red on a 70-yard march over nine plays, then fed Siwula the ball for a six-yard run into the end zone with 2:25 left in the first half, making the score 24-0. Siwula finished the game with a career-high 102 yards. Kuhn and Siwula are the first pair of Red players to break the 100-yard mark in the same game since 1995.
“You go 24-0 in the first half and you know, our guys were sky-high,” Knowles said. “I thought our defense was hitting people and our offense was just physically dominating and moving the ball at will. That’s what we want.”
Bucknell narrowly escaped the first half without falling behind further, as Lempa blocked a punt on the next possession. However, the clock ran out before the Red could piece together another scoring drive.
“I was impressed. The thing that really impressed me was that they took care of the ball, especially in the first three quarters,” said Bucknell head coach Tim Landis. “That was the key to the game, they just didn’t make any mistakes. We knew for us to have a chance to win the game, we’d have to create some turnovers on the defensive side of the ball and drive the short field, given our circumstances at quarterback and running back as well.”
The discipline of the Red offense suffered somewhat in the second half, as Kuhn and Siwula each had a fumble. The two teams battled through a scoreless third quarter, highlighted by senior cornerback Jason Cloyd’s block of Bucknell’s 37-yard field goal attempt.
“The special teams looked great,” Knowles said. “We had guys running down on kickoffs, just making excellent plays and blocking kicks. I thought we played with a lot of enthusiasm and we also executed our systems very well for our first game. … All the areas where we struggled last year, I think you can look and see improvement right now. With our kicking, with our offense and the way they moved the football, with our defense – we gave up the one big play, which was really a busted coverage.”
Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, Bucknell converted one of the few long passes of the running-dominated game into points, as quarterback Ryan Ahern found wide receiver Richard Simpson for a 28-yard touchdown pass. The Bison made the extra point to make the score 24-7.
The Red came close to a fourth-quarter score, but Siwula fumble on the two-yard line. The offense finished with 293 yards on 53 carries, including 222 yards in the first half.
The defense stifled the Bucknell option attack, making nine tackles for a total loss of 31 yards. Special teams also performed well, as sophomore punter Michael Bolling dropped two of his four punts inside Bucknell’s 20-yard line to go with the two blocked kicks for the defense.
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor