In a tale of two halves, Lehigh had the better half.
The result was the Cornell football team (1-2, 1-0 Ivy) dropping a 35-16 game to the 20th-ranked team in Division I-AA.
The Red could not have started the game any better, as it took the opening kick, and marched 73-yards on 12 plays for a touchdown.
On the drive, sophomore quarterback Ricky Rahne was six-for-seven for 68 yards, hitting five different receivers in the process. Junior running back Evan Simmons capped off the drive with a one-yard dive to put the Red up by six. Sophomore Peter Iverson made the point-after to put the Red up 7-0.
Lehigh took the ball next, and after driving to the Cornell 30 yard-line, had its drive stall out by not being able to convert a fourth-and-two. The Mountain Hawks’ Phil Pleasant carried the ball, but was stopped short of the marker by junior Bran Sacco and senior co-captain Dan Weyandt.
The rest of the first quarter saw Lehigh force two Cornell three-and-outs, while the Mountain Hawks again turned the ball over on downs in Cornell territory.
The last play of the quarter showed the speed Lehigh had at its disposal. The Red’s freshman punter Joe Hull booted a kick to the opponents 35 yard-line, but Jermaine Pugh fielded the ball in traffic and returned it 31-yards to the Cornell 34 yard-line.
On the first play of the second quarter, Lehigh quarterback, Brant Hall found an open Brin Endler on a deep-in route for the score. The Brian Kelley kick tied the game at 7-7.
Cornell was able to maintain control of the game, keeping it a low scoring affair.
The Red earned the only other points of the half, when Iverson made a 35-yard field goal. The kick capped off a eight play, 58 yard drive, including a 35 pass from Rahne to senior co-captain Joe Splendorio.
The Mountain Hawks were able to run up 225 yards in the half, but had nothing to show for it besides two missed field goals and the lone touchdown.
The Red took the 10-7 lead into the half.
“I was happy with the way we playing in the first half,” head coach Pete Mangurian said of his squad’s performance. “I thought the tempo of the game was in our favor.”
But on the opening play of the second half it was clear that the tempo was about to change. Lehigh’s Abdul Byron returned Hull’s kickoff 55 yards to the Cornell 38 yard-line. Senior Jimmy Vattes made a touchdown saving tackle.
Lehigh was once again unable to capitalize on this field position, as Kelley missed a 23-yard field goal attempt.
Cornell was able to win the field position battle on the next position, as Hull punted the ball, and sophomore Keith Ferguson downed it at the Mountain Hawks’ one yard-line.
However, after three runs by Pleasant, Lehigh gave the ball to Jamaal Burcher. The Red stopped the play at the point of attack, but Burcher cut back and found the left side of the field wide-open. The he turned on the jets, and raced 82 yards up the sideline to the Cornell endzone. Sophomore Vincent Bates had a shot at Burcher at the Cornell 30, but a quick move left Bates unable to make the play.
On the ensuing Cornell possession, Cornell was faced with a third-and eight from its own 19 yard-line. Rahne hit Ferguson in the hands for the first down, but the sophomore was unable to handle the pass and tipped it into the air. Byron hauled in the ball for the Mountain Hawks. Four plays later Phil Pleasant crossed the goalline on two-yard run, putting the Red down 21-10.
“We have to make a big play on third down and we don’t. Not only don’t we catch the football when we should, it turns into an interception and they score,” Mangurian said. “Now [we are] down two scores. We have to answer.”
And answer Cornell did, as Rahne led the team straight down the field. The quarterback hit Splendorio in the endzone, who used his height and jumping ability to bring in the ball between two Lehigh defenders. The two point conversion failed.
But the damage was done, and the Mountain Hawks defense would not allow the Red to threaten again.
Lehigh responded to the Cornell touchdown with one of its own on a 11 yard Burcher run, making the score 28-16. Pleasant scored the final touchdown of the day, giving the game its final margin of 35-16.
As the Red was forced to pass due to the score, the Mountain Hawks were able to cover receivers and rush Rahne without worrying about the run.
“The game gets out of hand after a while,” Mangurian said.
The Red did give up 340 yards on the ground on 55 carries, but did limit the Mountain Hawks to 163 yards through the air.
Mangurian did emphasize the difference between this game and the loss to Bucknell two weeks ago.
“I think there is probably more frustration and more disappointment because at some point we felt that we were going to win the game,” he said.
Mangurian was also pleased with the performance of sophomore fullback Nate Archer as well as Rahne. Rahne was 20-for-34 on the day for 234 yards, and, with the exception of the interception that hit Ferguson in the hands, took care of the ball. Archer blocked for Simmons in the first half, and caught a ball displaying a new facet of his game.
Simmons left the game with a thigh bruise at the start of the second half after running for 43 yards.
The Red will play at Harvard this Saturday.
Archived article by J.V. Anderton