Squaring off against Navy, a perennial favorite to win the CSFL, Cornell lost, 40-7, at home in the season opener.

Cameron Pollack | Sun Photography Editor

Squaring off against Navy, a perennial favorite to win the CSFL, Cornell lost, 40-7, at home in the season opener.

September 18, 2016

Sprint Football Fails to Find Footing in Opening Game, Falls to Navy, 40-7

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Coming off of a 4-3 season, with several important players returning for the Red, Cornell was slated for a strong finish in the CSFL. However, in the squad’s first game of the 2016 campaign, the team was defeated by Navy, 40-7, at Schoellkopf Field Saturday.

The visitors began the game by scoring on their first drive, capped off by a 49-yard touchdown pass. After forcing the Red to punt, the Midshipmen quickly put up seven more points, on a 16-yard screen pass to running back Brendon Clements, who previously started 33 games on the Navy football team.

Cornell responded with a methodical scoring drive of its own, engineered by the read option running attack of senior quarterback Rob Pannullo. At the end of the quarter, the Red trailed 14-7.

The Midshipmen were able to score two more touchdowns before the half, one of which was on a 41-yard scamper by Deterding. In the second quarter, Cornell was only able to muster a combined negative eight yards on their four drives.

Despite having one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the CSFL, co-head coach Terry Cullen decided to replace Pannullo with Connor Ostrander for two series prior to the break. The substitution did not go as planned for Cullen, as Ostrander fumbled on the Navy 42-yard line, leading to a Midshipmen touchdown.

“We have known all preseason that Connor and I were going to split time at quarterback, and when I am not at quarterback, I will be at receiver,” Pannullo said. “It just brings a little bit of a new element to our offense.”

Coming out of the half down 28-7, the Red needed to put up points quickly to stay in the fight with the feisty Midshipmen. However, three of the four drives for Cornell in the third quarter resulted in punts, and the other was an interception in the red zone.

Navy capitalized on the Red’s inability to keep possession of the ball, scoring twice more in the third quarter, extending their lead to 40-7.

As the rain began to fall at Schoellkopf, so did any possibility of a comeback by Cornell. In the final period, both teams put in backups, hoping to avoid injuries to key starters, giving underclassmen and less experienced players opportunities to play.

“I have all the confidence in our team and our ability,” said senior running back Kevin Nathanson. “I think that we can do a lot of great things this season. We just have to execute.”

Navy quarterback Nick Deterding, who not only passed for 191 yards and four touchdowns, but also rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns, led Navy. Clements ended the first sprint football game of his career with 133 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

“Navy is a really exceptional team,” Cullen said. “Their quarterback made one mistake the entire game. Nearly every single pass he threw was right on the button. We had someone there all the time, we were just out executed.”

For Cornell, Nathanson finished the afternoon with a team-high 81 rushing yards, and scored the only touchdown of the day for the Red. Conrad McCarthy and Alfonso Nazzaro anchored the defense with seven tackles apiece.

“We only had 15 practices to prepare for our first game,” Cullen said. “Navy, on the other hand, had spring practice along with a scrimmage; so at this point, they were just way ahead of us in terms of preparation, and installation of offense and defense.”

Next week, Cornell will look to improve to 1-1, when the men travel to Mansfield for a showdown at Karl Van Norman Field next Saturday. The Mountaineers were defeated by Penn, 31-7 in both teams’ season openers.

“After today’s loss, all I am thinking about is moving on to the next game,” Nathanson said. “The only thing we can do at this point is focus on beating Mansfield.”

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