Though the Red held a 10-point lead with a minute left to go in the first half on Saturday, a last-minute drive for a field goal by the Columbia Lions (3-6. 2-4 Ivy League) changed the momentum as both teams headed to the locker room. Second half turnovers plagued Cornell (4-5, 2-4), and the Red was unable to score again, falling 34-17 in the Empire State Bowl.
“The last-minute drive definitely changed the momentum, but I don’t think we lost it completely,” said freshman running back Luke Hagy. “The first couple plays of the second half we moved the ball well, and we still felt like we had some momentum.”
After a 27-yard kickoff return at the start of the second half by junior wide receiver Grant Gellatly — moving the ball to Cornell’s 31 — junior quarterback Jeff Mathews connected with senior wide receiver Luke Tasker for another 15 yards. Two straight rushes by Hagy and freshman running back Silas Nacita gave the Red a first down and put the offense in good field position at the 43-yard line. However, Nacita fumbled on the next set and the Lions regained the ball, snatching away any momentum the Red had left.
In Cornell’s next two offensive drives, Mathews was sacked twice and the Lions were eventually able to cash in on their relentless defense — which recorded six sacks and three interceptions on the day — scoring two straight touchdowns to put them up 24-17.
The third quarter ended at that score, and the Red went into the final period behind by only one touchdown. However the Lions connected on a field goal in their first drive of the quarter to put them up by 10. Senior quarterback Chris Amrhein then entered the game for Cornell. In his first offensive set, the Red was forced to punt and the Lions were able to convert for another touchdown, putting them ahead 34-17.
Though the lead was not insurmountable, the Red was unable to keep the ball in its hands due to some unlucky plays.
“Two interceptions were deflections off our receivers and the other was lying on a receiver’s back and [the Lions] picked it up,” Hagy said. “We always talk about protecting the ball, and whoever makes the most plays and protects the ball best is going to win. But they just played harder than us in the second half.”
Hagy was one of the bright spots for Cornell on the day, scoring one of the team’s two touchdowns on a five-yard rush after freshman defensive back Jarrod Watson-Lewis caught an interception and returned it to Cornell’s six-yard line. On the day, Hagy set career highs in rushing with 124 yards and in all-purpose yards with 186. He also became the Red’s first 100-yard rusher since Ryan Houska ’12 ran for 108 yards against Princeton last year. Hagy was also just two yards away from setting the school’s freshman single-game record in rushing.
“It was an awesome feeling. I’m really starting to feel comfortable in our offense, I’m learning the linemen’s tendencies and am getting used to the cuts I have to make. Our offensive line did a great job yesterday, it made it so much easier for me to run the ball when they’re making holes,” Hagy said of his performance. “But in the end we didn’t get the win which is always the most important thing.”
With just one game left in the season against Ivy League leading Penn (5-4, 5-1), the Red has its work cut out for it at Schoellkopf Field next weekend in order to finish the season at .500 overall.
According to Hagy, the squad has already watched the film of Saturday’s game against Columbia and is working to fix the mistakes it made.
“Penn is coming in as the first place team and we want to send the seniors out on the right note,” he said. “They’ve put in thousands of hours over the past four years, they deserve to go out on top with a win over the first place team in the league.”
Original Author: Scott Chiusano