The Red won just one game last year, narrowly earning a victory over Columbia

Jason Ben Nathan | Sun Senior Photographer

The Red won just one game last year, narrowly earning a victory over Columbia

August 25, 2016

The Anatomy of a 1-9 Season: Looking Back at Cornell Football in 2015

Print More

Last year, the Cornell football team stumbled to a 1-9 record, and, in a fashion similar to the 2014 season, the team picked up its lone victory against Columbia in the second to last week of the season.

With the announcement of the team’s four captains and the 2016 campaign is fast approaching, it is a good time to look back on last year’s one-win season.

19-14 Loss to Bucknell

The Red opened the 2015 season with a clash against Bucknell on homecoming. Cornell sputtered out of the gate, making mental mistakes on both sides of the ball. In what would become a yearlong trend, the team missed field goals and failed to capitalize on opportunities. Yet despite the blunders, the team played well enough to open up a 14-10 lead with less than two minutes to go. But a “miraculous” throw from Bucknell quarterback R.J. Nitti on a fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line sent Cornell into the locker room with a stinging loss to start the season.

33-26 Loss to Yale

In the second game of the season — an away match against Yale — the men found their footing early, taking a 26-7 lead with a few minutes to go in the first half. Then it all began to unravel. A long kickoff return toward the end of the half allowed the Bulldogs to score and begin to close the gap. After halftime, Yale clamped down on the Red, shutting out a Cornell offense that had been so potent just minutes before. The Bulldogs scored 20 points in the second half, dropping the Red to 0-2.

28-21 Loss to Colgate

Following the defeat at Yale, Cornell welcomed Colgate to Ithaca for the first Friday night game in program history. The Red came out of the gate stagnant, letting the Raiders’ dynamic playmaking quarterback Jake Melville have a field day. Melville ended the contest with 257 yards through the air to go with his 97 rushing yards. Colgate took a 28-7 lead into the fourth quarter. The Red attempted a massive comeback, scoring twice to put the team down by a touchdown with just over four minutes to play, but four incomplete passes from senior quarterback Robert Somborn from 10 yards away from the goal line ended the Red’s hope to knock off Colgate.

40-3 Loss to Harvard

Up next for the Red came defending champion and nationally ranked Harvard. The Crimson took a 17-3 lead into the half, but this time there was no late rally from the Red. Harvard’s dominant offense tacked on 23 more points in the second half, holding Cornell scoreless. The loss was the Red’s 10th straight deficit against the Crimson.

31-6 Loss to Sacred Heart

Next Cornell traveled to Sacred Heart to take on the Pioneers. An early injury to star running back Luke Hagy ’16 was a blow that the Red couldn’t recover from as Sacred Heart’s defense stymied Cornell. The Red showed some life in the second quarter and, for a brief moment, seemed poised to take the lead, but a fumble from junior running back Josh Sweet at the goal line caused a huge momentum shift and Sacred Heart took a 17-6 lead. The Pioneers would never look back.

44-24 Loss to Brown

Against Brown, the Red once again fell in a deep hole, trailing 21-3 by the end of the first quarter. Cornell began to fight back with a field goal and a touchdown in the second quarter, but the Bears answered each score with a strike of their own and held a commanding 34-10 lead at the half.

47-21 Loss to Princeton

With Hagy back in the starting lineup, Cornell took on Princeton, still hungry for its first win. The Red held the Tigers scoreless in the first quarter, but then the levee broke and Princeton scored two touchdowns in each of the next three quarters. The Red ended with 444 yards of offense, but struggled to make plays when it mattered most. A Princeton 100-yard kickoff return early in the fourth quarter effectively put the game away.

21-3 Loss to Dartmouth

Like the Harvard game, Cornell jumped on nationally-ranked Dartmouth early, scoring the first points of the game, a field goal with 1:50 left in the first quarter. But from there on out it was all Dartmouth. The Ivy champion Green scored twice in the second quarter and once more in the third quarter, all the while playing controlled, dominant defense on the Red’s struggling offense. Dartmouth’s vaunted defense ended up limiting Cornell to just 13 first downs and 194 yards of total offense.

3-0 Win Over Columbia

In a defensive duel with fellow Ivy cellar dweller, Cornell came out victorious over Columbia at home. A field goal in the first quarter would prove to be all the Red would need to pick up its first win of the season. After the early score, the two teams sparred defensively, never allowing the opponent to threaten to score. Towards the end of the game, the Lions appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown, but a holding call negated it. The ensuing field goal went wide right and Cornell hung on for the victory. The win marked the first shutout for the Red since 1993.

34-21 Loss to Penn

Hoping to ride the momentum from the Columbia, Cornell traveled to Penn to play the Quakers. With a share of the Ivy League title on the line, Penn came out playing polished football as soon as the game kicked off. The Quakers scored on their first four drives of the day, building a 27-7 lead at the half. Strong defense and a pair of late scores from the Red were not enough to mount a comeback and Penn ended the Red’s season with Cornell’s ninth loss.

5 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a 1-9 Season: Looking Back at Cornell Football in 2015

  1. Forget about 2015 as it’s time to look ahead to 2016. Let’s get behind this team and look forward to seeing everyone at a game this fall. Go Big Red!

  2. Mark , I found the article you wrote for the Daily Sun. We need to fix football, not accept losing or abandon the program. Many of us care about having a competitive team. I hope the administration and Board of Trustees care as well.

  3. Why hasn’t Cornell football won more games in recent history? That’s a good question and my article back in February was to bring some attention to the football program. I believe the success of the football team starts at the top of our administration along with the support of our students and alumni. It’s interesting in that Cornell wants to increase giving and raise our endowment, which helps needed areas like financial aide and research. We know the more frequently alumni come back to campus, the more likely they are to make a financial gift to the university.

    Unlike most of the other Ivies, the vast majority of our alumni have to either drive or fly at least four to six hours back to our rural Ithaca campus. Most alumni come back to Cornell for four major events, Homecoming, Trustee-Council Weekend, Graduation, and Reunion. Schoellkopf Stadium is used for three out of four of those events and home football games are included in two of those weekends. Therefore, one must ask why don’t we try to improve both the football team and the facility (Schoellkopf Stadium) for those student/alumni gatherings? Do you think the recent successes of the Stanford and Harvard football teams have helped or hurt their endowments?

    Going back to my article, I am sure there are plenty of academics at Cornell who wish we didn’t even have an athletics program and the Alumni Fields were filled up with new science and technology buildings. However, then we would just become another MIT and many alumni would probably not even bother coming back to the East Hill, let alone make a financial gift to our wonderful university. While Cornell football will probably never become an Alabama or Notre Dame, the program has historically added a lot of value to our campus and brings our students/alumni together on a beautiful autumn Saturday afternoon. Go Big Red!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *