For the second time this season, Cornell jumped to an early lead against a nationally-ranked opponent. But just like the matchup against No. 13 Harvard, the Red couldn’t hang on against No. 24 Dartmouth.
Coming in as a 35-point underdog, Cornell (0-8, 0-5 Ivy) held a 3-0 lead after the first quarter, but Dartmouth (7-1, 4-1) scored 21 unanswered points to send the Red to its eighth straight loss to start the season. Ivy League Player of the Year frontrunner, Dalyn Williams, completed 20 of 32 passes for 203 yards and touchdown.
Against the No. 1 defense in the country, Cornell’s offense began the game looking polished and efficient. Head coach David Archer ‘05 said he was proud of the physical play of the offense to start the game
“It’s all 11 doing their jobs,” Archer said about the success of the offensive. “It’s [sophomore quarterback] Robert Somborn making the right check at the line of scrimmage. It’s the offensive line giving a big push, getting great combination blocks. It’s [senior running back] Luke [Hagy] making people miss and being physical with his stiff arm. And it’s great downfield blocking by the receivers.”
On the Red’s first drive of the game, Hagy rushed for 34 yards, including an impressive 16-yard spinning run that brought the Red into Dartmouth territory. But, as has been a recurring theme for the Red, Cornell reached the red zone and lost all momentum. The Red turned the ball over on downs.
Later in the first quarter, after another strong drive that fizzled out deep in Dartmouth territory, Cornell was able to come away with points, when freshman Zach Mays made a 30-yard field goal.
Dartmouth’s offense started sluggish thanks to strong defensive pressure from senior linebacker J.J. Fives and the rest of the defense. Fives finished with two sacks, the defense as a whole knocked down Williams a number of times.
“What I saw from J.J. Fives was the way a captain is supposed to play,” Archer said. “I saw him set the tone verbally, I saw him set the tone physically, I saw him set the tone by making plays … There were times he looked downright dominant.”
“I was watching how their tackles would set,” Fives said. “They’d turn their shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage so I knew I was going to have to use a lot of power rushes. I worked and played around with that the first couple drives, and it started working. Fortunately Dalyn stepped up in the pocket a lot, so I just kept rushing and I was able to get a couple hits on him.”
The pressure paid off and after Mays kicked the field goal, Cornell had as many first downs as Dartmouth had total yards of offense.
But as the game progressed, the Big Green began to click and scored its first touchdown five minutes in the second period.
Later in the second, Somborn connected with sophomore receiver James Hubbard for a 41-yard pass to bring Cornell to the 1-yard line, but a chop block negated it and the Red took a 15-yard penalty instead. Later in the drive Somborn was picked off and Dartmouth took over. The Red was able to pressure Dalyn Williams a couple times, but again penalties hurt Cornell.
On third-and-10, Williams threw an incompletion but Cornell was flagged for a personal flag. Instead of punting, the Big Green’s drive was extended. Eventually, Williams completed a touchdown pass to give Dartmouth a 14-3 lead going into halftime. Archer pointed to those penalties as a huge reason why the momentum swung toward Dartmouth.
Penalties kept hurting Cornell in the second half and the Red punted on its first drive of the third quarter. Cornell was penalized 11 times for 106 yards.
Dartmouth added another score in the third quarter when Williams ran into the end zone from four yards out. As the second half progressed, Cornell’s offense began to sputter, failing to get into Dartmouth territory in the third quarter. Through the rest of the game, the Red couldn’t muster much more offense.
A big reason the offense couldn’t find success was because the Big Green began to shut down Hagy. Despite Hagy’s strong first half — 63 rushing yards — he had just five yards in the second half against the best rushing defense in the Ivy League, which averages 73 yards per game against. Hagy did have a team-high 34 yards receiving, which made him the first player in the Ivy League to ever have 2000 rushing yards and 1500 receiving yards.
The Big Green burned through time in the second half, using a variety of different rush plays. Fives said the Red wasn’t expecting such a rush-heavy offense from Dartmouth
“I think what we expected them to do was pass a lot,” Fives said. “They established a running game, just chipping away and getting four or five yards up the middle. That’s one thing we struggled with stopping. Our game plan was to stop Dalyn and I think our coverage did a great job.”
Using a balanced attack, Dartmouth had 211 yards rushing. Three separate Big Green players rushed for at least 50 yards.
With two games left, the team has continued to stress the importance of putting together a full 60-minute effort. With a matchup against Columbia fast approaching, Archer has stressed to his team the importance of having a winning mentality, despite the winless record.
“Each thing we do every day is going to help us win on Saturday, because winning is something you go and take.” Archer said. “Winning is something you do in that moment, and that’s a real lesson to learn. You can’t just show up and give your best, you have to make the plays to earn the win.”
Next Saturday marks the last home game for the senior class, and Fives said the team is intently focused on stringing together four quarters against Columbia.
“We need to focus on playing for each other, especially at this point, still looking for our first win,” Fives said. “I think the younger guys are getting behind that too, playing for the seniors and trying to send us off the right way.”