The Cornell sprint football was willing to go to great lengths to win its season opener against Penn this past Friday, but not even the team imagined it would take a nearly two-hour rain delay, six overtimes and five total hours to get the win. The Red (1-0) outlasted the Quakers (0-1), winning 42-34 on a one-yard touchdown run by junior captain and quarterback Brendan Miller – who finished with 241 passing yards and 60 rushing yards – in the sixth overtime. Although the team had nowhere near a flawless game, the captains were very proud of the heart and effort the team displayed.
“It really showed the character that we have,” Miller said about the game. “In the first game of the season, we’re going to have a bunch of mistakes and I think the fact that we were able to buckle down and overcome them really showed the type of character the team has.”
“I think just the fact that the game went to six overtimes and we came out on top shows how hard we were willing to work and shows the commitment we have to winning,” said senior captain and defensive lineman Will Edmonds. “There were a lot of things that we didn’t do right, but our heads and our hearts were in the game which is a really good sign.”
The game took both a physical and emotional toll on the players, as there was pressure on every single play in the six overtimes.
“There were a few times in the overtimes where neither team scored any points,” said senior captain and wide receiver Abe Mellinger. “That was probably the most stressful just because at that point, we knew we just needed a field goal to win and when we didn’t score any points, we knew they only needed a field goal.”
Another huge factor in the game was the weather; the rainy conditions made life more difficult on the offensive side of the ball for both team.
"The rain [made the game] very difficult, especially because we rely on passing the ball,” Mellinger said. “We were having trouble making connections; the ball was very, very slick and until the rain ebbed at the end, both teams had a lot of trouble getting stuff going, so it was a very defensive game for sure.”
“For the defense, [the rain] didn’t affect us as much, since we didn’t really have to carry the ball,” Edmonds said. “In a sense, it helped us; we forced two fumbles, we recovered one and we had three interceptions. The rain was an asset to us; we didn’t let it affect us [negatively] at all.”
Despite the rain making things difficult, the offense came up with some big plays, especially by Mellinger. He caught a 24-yard pass to set up the 1-yard touchdown run by Miller in the last overtime.
“I didn’t even know what happened; I thought it was intercepted at first. He actually ended up catching it one-handed,” Miller said of the catch. “He caught it, rolled to the ground, and the Penn defender … was holding on [to it as well], but we [still had control]. I threw the ball behind him a little and it wasn’t my best throw, but he has a knack for making big plays. Mellinger’s certainly a very valuable asset to have and makes me look a lot better.”
Although he finished with 8 catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns, Mellinger was not pleased with his performance before the overtimes started.
“I had a terrible game and was very frustrated for most of the game,” Mellinger explained. “I think before the last drive, I only had one or two catches and had quite a few drops. I was trying to get my head in the right place … so I took my gloves off, relaxed a little bit and things started happening ... We made quite a few connections [in overtime] and I knew Miller was working hard and he knew what we needed to do. He ran the ball a lot, and [overall] had a very, very good game and I was just finishing the job on my end.”
The offensive line and running backs also had great games, allowing the passing game to perform.
“The offensive line was tremendous,” Miller praised. “Towards the end of the game, when Penn started bringing eight guys – we usually only have six in protection – we were able to still get enough time despite the eight rushers. I was really impressed by the way the offensive line played and they’re a solid group of guys and very trustworthy.”
“I’m giving a lot of credit to the offensive line for lasting that long,” Mellinger praised.”We ran the ball a lot and the offensive line did phenomenal. [sophomore lineman] Bennett Winters did really well, played center most of the game, and [sophomore lineman] Nico Neugebauer also played well. As a core, all five of them really did well.
“[As for] the running backs, [junior running back] Nick Perez and [freshman running back] Ben Herrera ran the ball really well. [Sophomore running back] Jake Michaels did very well in blocking … he was picking up a lot of pressure off the outside and the middle, and gave Miller the extra time to get the ball out there.”
On the other side of the ball, the entire defense played well as a unit and was able to partially contain Penn star wide receiver Whit Shaw, who pulled in 6 catches for 115 yards.
“On the defensive side, it was an all-around effort, there was no one key player,” Edmonds said. “When the big plays happened, it was because everybody did their job and everybody did it to the best of their ability. Going through six overtimes is definitely a team effort.”
Although the Red was glad to win its season opener, it knows that there are many things to improve on.
“We really executed well, but we have so much to improve upon, especially with consistency; we need to stop dropping passes, messing up formations, and just run what we need to run,” Mellinger assessed.