The Cornell football team started the season with high expectations heading into the first contest of the year at Bucknell on Saturday.
On Saturday evening the squad had suffered a brutal 38-15 defeat and the questions of how to regroup before this weekend’s Ivy opener against Yale.
The contest started well for the Red, as it forced Bucknell to punt on its first posession. Cornell’s vaunted offense then took the field at its own 22-yard line and proceeded to pick up a first down. However, this quickly stalled out as the Red got into a third-and-long situation with the next set of downs. After junior quarterback Ricky Rahne was flushed out of the pocket and tackled well short of the first down marker, the Red was forced to punt.
Freshman Joe Hull booted the kick 34 yards, where Bucknell’s Kevin Eiben was unable to handle the kick and fumbled. Sophomore Keith Ferguson recovered, and the Red was in business at the Bison’s 27-yard line.
After a completion to senior Edgar Romney for 12 yards, Rahne found Ferguson wide open in the endzone to put the Red up 6-0. After sophomore Peter Iverson’s kick, Cornell led 7-0.
“Special teams-wise we started out well. We did some things early on and I thought ‘Okay, we got this thing going,'” head coach Pete Mangurian said.
Unfortunately for the Red, things quickly started slipping away.
On the ensuing Bucknell possession, the Bison went 61 yards on eight plays, seven of which were runs, and marched into the Cornell endzone on a five-yard Jason Marrow run. However, the speedy Jabu Powell was the key to the drive, as he went 32 yards on five rushes. Chris Lundberg was unable to make the extra point, leaving the Red in the lead, 7-6.
The teams exchanged punts for the rest of the first quarter, before the Bison took the lead on their first possession of the second period. Powell was responsible for the drive as he went three yard on th first play, and 79-yards for the touchdown. On the scoring play, Powell started inside and then cut back to the outside and beat everyone up the sideline.
“We thought we could run the football on them,” Bucknell’s head coach Tom Gadd said.
Bucknell was unable to convert on the two-point attempt, keeping the Red down five points. But the damage was done on the overall scheme of the game, as the Bison realized that they could exploit the ground game.
Bucknell added a field goal before the half, making the score 15-7 heading into the intermission.
However, one problem for the Red was its inability to run the ball, a focus during the preseason.
“We had every intention of running the ball early in the game, and I think we tried to run the ball early in the game, but we were not executing,” Mangurian said.
This was borne out by the 29 net yards rushing in the first half, on 14 attempts.
Cornell started with the ball in the second half, but Rahne was picked off by Nate Musselman on a deep ball.
After this Powell took over the game, starting by leading Bucknell down the field for another field goal.
After two Red three-and-outs, the Bison had the ball at the Cornell 36-yard line. Three straight rushes by Powell put Bucknell back in the endzone, giving the Bison a 25-7 lead.
“We got pressured, we got pushed around,” Mangurian said of the dominance of Bucknell on the line of scrimmage.
For it’s part, the Cornell offense was sputtering. The running game was still not working, and Rahne was unble to hit receivers, especially in the flats. However, due to the score, Rahne was forced to put the ball up a school-record 64 times. He completed 28 of those throws for 314 yards with two touchdowns. Rahne was also picked off twice.
“He’s a pretty good quarterback and has some pretty good receivers, and we did a good job containing them,” Gadd said.
The Red did show a glimmer of hope towards the end of the third quarter, as it was able to connect on some passes over the middle. However, after junior Tim Hermann was knocked cold by Eiben after a gain of 18, that momentum seemed to slip away. Three plays after Hermann was taken off the field in an ambulance, Rahne was sacked by Joe Massey and fumbled. The Bison’s Anddy Carmona recovered, giving Bucknell the ball back.
Hermann went to the hospital with what seemed to be concussion, but was awake and talking as he left the field.
After the Rahne fumble, Bucknell marched down the field, and on the first play of the final frame Powell went 19-yards for the score, making the contest 31-7.
Both teams added scores late, making the final score 38-15.
On the day, Powell had 282 yards on 30 rushes and three touchdowns. As a team the Bison racked up 396 yards on the ground. His 79-yard scamper was the longest allowed by the Red since Bucknell’s Rich Lemon went 83 yards in 1994. The 282 yards allowed by one back is also a new mark in the Cornell record book.
“That’s as bad a defeat as I think I have ever been involved in since I’ve been in coaching, and I got beat 55-10 in a Super Bowl,” Mangurian said. “We didn’t play well in any phase, and they did exactly what they wanted to do.”
The coach was also concerned about those areas which the Red was trying to improve upon from last year.
“The discouraging thing is we set goals to get better in the exact same things we did not do well today,” he said.
However, the Manguriand did express hope for the future.
“I think we have a talented football team, but we sure didn’t show any of it today,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how we respond. my experiene in these sorts of situations is that you go back to work, that’s all you can do.”
Archived article by J.V. Anderton