On a chilly Saturday afternoon, the Cornell sprint football team fell to its alumni 7–0.
In its first preseason game, the Big Red offense showed it could move the ball, but still had trouble getting into the end zone, a problem that plagued the team throughout all of last season.
The defense was particularly impressive, stifling any scoring opportunities for the alumni. Numerous individual performances on both sides of the ball give the team much hope entering the regular season next weekend.
“The defense was sound and hard-hitting,” defensive coach Paul Lang noted. “It was overall an exemplary performance.”
The coaches gave all three quarterbacks a chance to head the offense but junior Ryan Dwyer looked the most comfortable, going six-for-eight for 68 yards with one meaningless interception at the end of the game. Time and again, he was able to find receivers cutting across the middle.
“I felt healthy out there, and I’m glad to get back to it,” Dwyer affirmed. “But I’m not yet where I want to be. With each game, I’ll get more comfortable.”
Freshman Michael Antonecchia and sophomore Jeremy Nanus combined for 52 yards on four-for-11 passing, with one interception.
The offensive line had a particularly tough time guarding against the bigger and stronger alumni defense, giving up five sacks and often forcing the quarterbacks to throw early.
“The line did a good job,” Dwyer countered. “We’ve got three seniors who’ve really matured since last season.”
Junior Sunil Gupta proved to be the number one target for the offense, catching three balls for 50 yards. Midway through the first quarter, in a display of intense concentration, Gupta tipped a slightly overthrown ball to himself, around the cornerback, en route to a 25-yard gain. Freshman tight end Michael Ormsby also had a solid game, catching two balls for twenty yards, both in the second half.
Junior Brian Allen and freshman Dean Coccaro led the Big Red on the ground, combining to pick up 29 yards on nine carries. Allen put on an array of moves to turn losses into gains.
The defense handed out a number of big hits on the experienced alumni, forcing four fumbles, three sacks, and two interceptions.
“We try to create as many turnovers as possible,” Lang explained. “We try to give our offense the best chance they can to score. We know they’re not as experienced as we are, and so we’re going to have to play that role.”
On the second play of the game, all-league senior Bo Sangosanya cut off his receiver to intercept a 30-yard pass. Then early in the second quarter, with the alumni driving deep into Cornell territory, sophomore Derek Burrows picked off a pass in the endzone to stall the drive. The defense also prevented any big gains by executing perfect open-field tackles.
Senior tri-captain middle linebacker Jon Krautmann and junior lineman Scott McQuade each recorded two sacks.
The only score of the game came midway through the fourth quarter against many of the Big Red’s second-teamers. Tim Hedges ’97, a former all-leaguer, led a 12-play, 66-yard drive, capped by a four-yard touchdown pass. The speedy quarterback often took off on his own, picking up 37 yards on four carries in the drive.
Cornell’s best chance to score came late in the first quarter when a ten-play drive stalled at the eight-yard line. A field goal attempt was botched by a bad snap.
“We squandered a lot of opportunities inside the 50,” Dwyer concluded. “As an offense, we could do better. There are no deficiencies as far as ability. It’s just a matter of going out and doing the job. The defense deserves to see us put some points on the board.”
The Big Red gets its first chance to do so at Pennsylvania in its season opener Friday. The squad was downed 35–0 by the Quakers last year.
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin