Once Cornell was rolling, the Red was not to be stopped. With a 21-point second quarter, the Red defeated the Mansfield Mountaineers, 30-12, to claim its first victory of the 2016 season.
After a scoreless 20 minutes, Cornell found its groove. In less than 10 minutes, the Red scored three touchdowns — two runs and a 47-yard pass. After getting out to such a lead, Cornell would not look back.
“I think we were just better prepared overall this time around,” said junior running back Evan Ball. “Last week [against Navy], we were shaking off some rust as a team and really just didn’t come out with the intensity we needed to win like we did this week. We had great intensity all week in practice and that displayed itself in the game.”
Ball was the first one to score, as he pounded the football in from the three-yard line for the touchdown.
The junior saw success up and down the field Saturday with six rushes of 10 or more yards, finishing with 134 yards for the day.
“I have to give credit to the offensive line,” Ball said. “They did a fantastic job creating holes for me to run through and sustaining their blocks. Overall, personally, it was a great feeling being more involved this week and having more of an impact on the end result of the game.”
After rushing the ball four times against Navy, Ball saw a more significant workload with 24 carries.
“Given the game plan we prepared for this week, I knew I would be receiving a heavy load of carries,” Ball said. “I prepared myself mentally and physically for the game and trusted in this preparation to perform well. I knew I would be called on, and I just gave my best effort to help the team get the win.”
On the subsequent drive, senior quarterback Rob Pannullo and the Red were positioned on the 47-yard line with five minutes to go. Pannullo was able to connect with his classmate, tight end Rob Hendricks for six points and with plenty of time to spare.
Special teams forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Cornell would be right back on offense following Hendricks’ touchdown. The offense received the ball on the Mountaineers’ 10-yard line.
Pannullo would call his own number and take the pigskin himself this time around. After the four-yard rushing touchdown from the quarterback, Cornell led Mansfield, 21-0, with halftime approaching and the game in control.
However, the Mountaineers did not want to go into halftime with a sizable deficit. On the final drive of the first half, Mansfield powered down the field to the Cornell 10-yard. But senior defensive back Rene Diaz locked it down and intercepted Mansfield’s Adam Hutchinson to close out the half, and keep the Mountaineers scoreless.
While Mansfield racked up 347 yards of total offense — four more than Cornell — against the defense, the Red pulled off the victory thanks the squad’s ability to capitalize on turnovers and other mistakes by the Mountaineers.
“We definitely cleaned up our play on both sides of the ball this week as we really focused a lot in practice this week on sharpening our play,” Ball said. “We didn’t play a perfect game, and there is always room for improvement, but we executed our assignments much more effectively this week, and it showed in our play.”
After halftime, the Red chewed up some clock and snagged three points off a 35-yard field goal from freshman Ben Finkelstein on the first drive out of the break.
Mansfield responded on Cornell’s next drive, punching in a touchdown off a Red fumble. With 3:46 remaining in the quarter, the Mountaineers were on the board but still trailed, 24-6.
But the offense would answer right back with a 52-yard drive resulting in a four-yard touchdown from Pannullo to junior wide receiver Ryman Seeley to raise the Red’s point total to 30 on the day.
Pannullo showed off his status as a dual threat quarterback, finding success on the ground and through the air against Mansfield. The quarterback threw for 124 yards with pair of touchdowns, and rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Mansfield would score once more with a 48-yard touchdown to make the score 30-12, but Cornell would not concede any more points for the remainder of the contest.
“We achieved consistency,” said senior defensive back Ryan Jackson. “Offensively we were able to sustain drives that resulted in scores. Defensively we didn’t allow any big plays while also forcing a few turnovers.”
After a blocked field goal against Navy last weekend, special teams made some noise once again. Early in the game, with score locked at 0, senior Daniel Ferguson blocked a punt that set up Cornell’s first touchdown and got the team rolling. Ferguson’s play proved to be a key play in the game.
“We forced several turnovers,” Jackson said. “Any time you do that, you are putting yourself in a good position to win.”
“Everyone on the offense, defense and special teams contributed their part, allowing for a total team effort in the win,” Ball added. “We said after last week, we did not want to have that feeling again, and this is a positive step in that direction. We’re looking to keep the winning streak going and build off this positive feeling.”
The Red faces Chestnut Hill next weekend back on the road.