For three quarters Brown’s football team copied the Red as if it was a little brother trying to emulate everything its big brother did – the Red scored a first-quarter touchdown, and then the Bears scored a first-quarter touchdown. Cornell kicked a second-quarter field goal, and then Brown kicked a second-quarter field goal. The Red scored a touchdown in the third quarter, and so did the Bears.
The game within the game seemed to continue in the fourth quarter, as Brown wideout Jarret Schreck tied the game at 24 on an 85-yard strike from quarterback Joe DiGiacomo just 25 seconds after the Red scored on a 3-yard run by sophomore Luke Siwula.
But unfortunately for the Red, the Bears rose up like a younger brother that just finished puberty and was ready to pounce on his older sibling in the fourth quarter, as they scored a pair of unanswered touchdowns after a muffed punt by senior Brian Romney and a fumble by senior Ryan Kuhn, respectively, to defeat Cornell, 38-24, at Schoellkopf Field.
Head coach Jim Knowles ’87 noted that the fumble by Romney on the return was the one play he would point to as the turning point in the game.
“Yeah, definitely [it was the turning point], because I still thought we were in the game,” he said. “We were still involved, and we were still in the game, and we were fighting in a close back-and-forth battle. We stopped them on defense and we have a chance to get the ball back in good field position. The fumble cost us, and they go in [and score a touchdown], and that’s when they put it out of reach.”
Both of Brown’s (5-1, 2-2 Ivy) unanswered touchdowns were scored by running back Nick Hartigan, on 5- and 10-yard scampers, after the Red (3-3, 1-2) held the All-American out of the end zone for the first three quarters of the game, despite the fact that he rushed for 87 yards on 18 carries during that same stretch. In the fourth quarter, however, Hartigan found paydirt twice on his 11 carries, netting 32 yards.
Yet, before Hartigan began his assault, it was the Red’s running attack which grabbed everyone’s attention. After junior Anthony Jackson returned the opening kickoff to Cornell’s 29-yard line, the Red wasted little time moving down the field, as Knowles called six straight running plays, including one to Kuhn that went for 57 yards, on its way to a 7-0 lead. The scoring play of the drive was a 4-yard run by Kuhn – his seventh rushing touchdown of the season.
Later in the first quarter, Brown began its copycat routine in part because of its own failure. After the Bears failed to convert on a fourth-and-goal from the Red’s 1-yard line, Cornell gained possession of the ball pinned up against its own end zone. After three running plays went just two yards, the Red punted from its own 3-yard line. Brown punt returner Brandon Markey took the punt 12 yards before being stopped on the Red’s 29. Three plays later, DiGiacomo found Schreck in the front corner of the end zone, which went for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
On the ensuing possession, Cornell again jumped on the backs of Kuhn and Siwula, as they notched runs of 13 and 19 yards, respectively. However, this drive would not conclude in the end zone, but rather with a 37-yard field goal off the foot of senior A.J. Weitsman to put the Red ahead 10-7.
But again, Brown answered back, as Steve Morgan hit a 25-yard field goal to tie the game at 10. The score was setup by an 18-yard DiGiacomo pass to wide receiver Lonnie Hill with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty tacked on to the end of the play, and a crafty 47-yard return to start the drive.
The return was the second during a stretch of three straight kick returns in which the Bears ran reverses, where Markey would hand the ball off to Nkosi Still, who was streaking the opposite way. According to Brown head coach Phil Estes, the three returns contributed to his team’s solid field position throughout the game.
“[The reverses have] always been kind of our bread and butter and we had gotten away from them. We put them back in for this week just because of what they do and the way [Cornell] keeps [their return team] huddled in the middle,” he said.
Yet, it was the return that Brown did not fake which hurt the Red the most, as the fourth Cornell kickoff was returned 92 yards by Markey for a touchdown. This third-quarter answer by the Bears, according to Estes, was their most emphatic response of the game.
“They got that momentum, and then we came back and tied it back up, I think that was huge,” he said in reference to Markey’s return. “Today was all about our special teams. … I tell you what, Brandon really took off.”
The return was even more crucial because it came right after the Red methodically drove 97 yards on 15 plays, including a 1-yard plunge by Kuhn, to go up by a touchdown. The drive consisted of a steady dose of Siwula, who rushed for 53 yards on nine carries on the drive, as well as a pair of catches by Jackson for 14 yards. According to Siwula, Cornell’s one-two punch of himself and Kuhn are often difficult for opposing defenses to stop.
“With our offense, it’s either stopping me or Ryan … and no one’s been able to do that so far,” he said. “He’s either having a good game or I’m having a good game, or both of us, like what happened today.”
Yet, the combination of the Brown special teams unit, which racked up a school-record 222 kick return yards on the day and the Red’s mistakes, gave the Bears the momentum they needed late in the game.
The final Cornell touchdown came just under two minutes into the fourth quarter, as the Red fed the ball to Siwula on three straight plays after senior defensive back Jason Cloyd stripped Hill, who had just received a DiGiacomo pass, and then recovered the ball on Brown’s 18-yard line.
But, right on cue, the Bears responded in a breathtaking way. On their first play of the next drive, DiGiacomo found Schreck on a short pass over the middle, but the Red missed a pair of tackles that enabled the receiver to run free down the sideline for an 85-yard touchdown. Schreck noted that he was lucky to score because he had slipped earlier in the play.
“I ran a comeback and slipped. I gained my balance and Joe threw it to give me enough time,” he said. “And then I caught it and I saw some daylight, hit the seam, and I was gone.”
For the game, DiGiacomo threw for 224 yards on 9-of-16 passing with two touchdowns and one interception, with Schreck hauling in 136 of those yards on three catches plus both two scores. DiGiacomo’s Cornell counterpart, Kuhn, threw for 147 yards on 15-of-26 passing. Kuhn also tallied 143 yards on the ground, including two touchdowns, while Siwula led the way for the Red in rushing with 162 yards and a touchdown.
Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Sports Editor