The Cornell men’s sprint football team let up 26 points in the first half of last Friday’s game against the University of Pennsylvania, the most it has let up in the first half of a game all season. The Red (2-2-0) outscored the Quakers (3-1-0) in the second half, but it was not enough to overcome Penn’s powerful start.
The Quakers got on the board early, blocking a punt from junior defensive back Ryan Jackson on the Red’s first possession of the game. This left the Quakers on the Cornell 15 and then converting from there.
“The biggest thing in the first half was our mistakes allowing Penn to get real good field position and score,” said head coach Bart Guccia. “Penn made some real good plays in the first half that they didn’t make in the second half.”
The Red did not play poorly statistically and actually out-rushed the Quakers by 15 yards.
“It really wasn’t a matter of what [Penn] did,” Guccia said. “We were able to move the ball [and] have some success on offense. We just weren’t able to score touchdowns when we did get opportunities to and that was basically the difference in the game.”
The Red was not able to convert a number of strong drives into touchdowns. The Quakers forced the Red to take field goals from the Penn 7 and Penn 17.
“Our line played very well [and] our defense … in the second half played great,” said junior running back Kevin Nathanson. “One thing we could improve upon is finishing our drives.”
Nathanson rushed for 82 yards, helping to fuel the strong offensive effort from the Red. The Red lost the game in the mistakes it made in the first half, but played well otherwise.
“We fumbled a few times and gave them possession and real good field position and they were able to score, where on our side of the ball, we drove down the side at least twice and settled for field goals [and also] dropped maybe 12 in the end zone that may have been touchdowns,” Guccia said. “We really gave them the opportunities to score and put up … points in the first half.”
The Red viewed the second half of the game as a second opportunity to win a game it expected to win from the beginning.
“Penn was one of the games we really thought we could win so [at halftime], we were ready to go back out and try and take the lead again,” Nathanson said.
The Red “won” the second half, outscoring the Quakers, 6-3.
Coach Guccia emphasized the importance of finishing all season, and a lack of finishing chances in this game is what made the difference in the end.
The Red turns its attention to Princeton this weekend, who the Red defeated, 55-0, last year.
The Red will take this week to fix the mistakes made in the Penn game and focus on the Tigers.
“We just want to improve on the mistakes that we made against Penn and hopefully get things all shored up and get ready to play Princeton,” Guccia said.
It is essential the Red treat this game like any other despite the team’s past success against the Tigers.
“In past years … we have won, [but] it doesn’t really change the way that we prepare for any team,” Nathanson said. “We just have a hard week of practice and we go in [looking] to win.”