In their last career games at Schoellkopf Field, the football team’s seniors certainly saved their best performance for last. In a game that was over by the end of the first quarter, the Red pounded Columbia, 45-7, giving the team its largest margin of victory over an Ivy squad since 1990 – the last time Cornell won a league championship.
“This was about us controlling the energy,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “We had all of our seniors and they had their parents at the pre-game meal, and they were in the march with them, and they walked them out on the field. It was a pretty emotional day. We just wanted to play full throttle from the start and we did that, and I think that had a huge effect on the rest of the game.”
As has been the norm this season, sophomore tailback Luke Siwula and senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn stole the show – this time with a pair of milestone performances. With his 117-yard afternoon on the ground, Siwula surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season, becoming only the sixth player in Cornell history to do so – Ed Marinaro ’72 and Chad Levitt ’97 each accomplished the feat three times in their respective careers.
Kuhn tallied 175 rushing yards for the Red (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) against the Lions (2-7, 0-6), including a 46-yard scamper down the middle of the field in the first quarter. He now has 903 yards for the season, passing Gary Wood ’64 for the most rushing yards gained by a quarterback in a single year. Wood had an astounding 2,156 career rushing yards, which is good enough for fifth on Cornell’s all-time list.
“I didn’t even know I was close to it this game – I just found out recently,” Kuhn said. “I don’t know him, I never saw him play, but from what I read, he was a great player. He played in the pros. I’ll never catch his career record – I think I need like 2,000 yards next game. – It’s a good feeling to get that record.”
For the fourth time this season, both Siwula and Kuhn ran for over 100 yards in the same game, as the tandem has compiled a combined 1,905 rushing yards for the year. With another 100-yard game next week against Penn, Kuhn will join his tailback and reach the 1,000-yard plateau – which would be only the second time in Ivy League history that a pair of teammates both accomplished the feat in the same year. The last time it happened was in 1991, when running back Chris Kouri and quarterback Nick Crawford pulled it off for Yale.
Cornell started its ambush on the opening possession of the game, moving the ball 82 yards, culminating with a 4-yard touchdown run by Siwula. The drive spanned 13 plays, three of which were crucial third-down conversions. For the afternoon, the Red was successful on 17-of-25 third-down plays, including its first eight of game.
“If we’re winning the third downs, we’re going to have a great chance to win the game because the way our offense controls the ball. And if our defense is getting them off the field, the time of possession and everything is going to go our way,” Knowles said.
The Lions began their first drive at their own 14-yard line, and on their second play from scrimmage, tailback James Cobb fumbled, giving the ball back to Cornell after a recovery by senior defensive lineman Matt Pollock. The Red wasted no time capitalizing on the mistake, converting on yet another third down, as Kuhn threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to outstretched senior wideout Brian Romney in the left corner of the end zone.
That was all the scoring Cornell needed, as the defense allowed only seven points all afternoon, spearheaded by the its dominance at the line of scrimmage. The Red held Columbia to only one yard rushing, which resulted in total control of the time of possession – the Lions ran only 34 plays and had the ball for 15:53 to Cornell’s 44:07.
Columbia was only able to muster 155 yards of total offense, as the quarterback duo of sophomore Craig Hormann and senior Joe Winters could not consistently move the ball through the air. In fact, other than a 56-yard pass to Brandon Bowser at the end of the half, the tandem only completed six passes for 98 yards.
“Our defense is pretty solid from the [defensive] line all the way back to the [defensive backs]. I think we’ve demonstrated it in every game we’ve played this year,” said senior safety Kevin Rex. “Our one fault is we can’t find a way to not give up that big play. – I think the next step for the defense and this program is really just playing four quarters and getting that shutout.”
Cornell went on to add two more first half touchdowns, upping its advantage to 28-0 just five seconds into the second quarter. The first score came on a 19-yard run by freshman Shane Kilcoyne, followed by an 11-yard pass from Kuhn to Siwula. In addition to his strong running, Kuhn had one of his better games throwing the football, going 11-of-17 for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The performance was only the second time in Kuhn’s career that he has posted a multi-touchdown game through the air, with the first coming last year against Princeton.
“We wanted to work Columbia down the middle more. You saw some throws to the tight end and some throws to the back slipping down the middle because of the way they play their coverage,” Knowles said. “We keep moving it forward – a couple more passes every week. Maybe we’ll get crazy next week and have 20 passes in a game.”
The Red extended its lead on a field goal by senior A.J. Weitsman with 37 seconds left in the first half. However, the Lions quickly answered to get on the scoreboard with the long pass to Bowser, cutting Cornell’s lead to 31-7.
The Red continued its dominance in the second half, shutting Columbia out and controlling the ball for almost 24 minutes. The offense added a pair of touchdowns – a 3-yard run by junior Anthony Macaluso and a 4-yard scamper by Kuhn.
After the game, the seniors were carried off the field by their teammates, having won their last game at Schoellkopf Field.
“It’s going to be tough [to never play at Schoellkopf again],” Rex said. [The senior class has] been through a lot together. We lived together. We’ve been through those tough seasons together, and to know that next semester we’re going to wake up and not be coming together for football is going to be really hard. – To not have football to be that thing that brings us all together, the one thing that we are all working for, that common goal – it’s going to be hard. Being an emotional person, it’s going to take a while to get over it – if I ever will. But, once you play football, you are going to have football in your heart because of the game and the way it brings you together with your best friends.”
Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor