Records are meant to be broken. Some days more so than others.
In a game where seemingly every final offensive stat represented some kind of record for both teams, the only numbers that truly mattered were the 56 and the 40 on the scoreboard. The futility of the Cornell defense, coupled with the overwhelmingly successful play of the Brown offense, resulted in 690 yards of offense, a number which has never been seen in Cornell history.
Brown, looking to avenge its demoralizing 33-28 loss from a year ago at the hands of then-sophomore quarterback Ricky Rahne, scored at will Saturday, putting Cornell in a hole that no second-half miracle would overcome.
Problems for the Red began almost immediately, as the Brown defense forced the Cornell offense into a three-and-out in its first possession deep in its own territory. The ensuing 36-yard punt by freshman Joe Hull and eight-yard return by wide receiver Chas Gessner put the ball on the Cornell 36 and gave Brown one of its best field positions of the day. Three plays later Brown was on the board with a five-yard run by Mike Malan.
Malan ran over and around the Cornell defense on the day, destroying the Red for 243 yards on 43 carries. Both were just short of Brown records. Malan chewed up the clock and tired out the Cornell defense.
“[Brown] ran the football, they knew they could. They did it last year and they did it again this year,” head coach Pete Mangurian said.
Malan was anything but modest after the performance. “It was like high school. I don’t really remember scoring that many points in the first half, except for in high school.”
Cornell meanwhile was again having trouble running the football, especially without junior Evan Simmons. The team managed only four rushing yards on the day, including a net of minus-16 in the first half.
“Our execution in the running game is beyond description it’s so poor,” Mangurian said.
Another three plays for Cornell resulted in another punt. Brown looked to be headed to a similar fate on its next drive — facing a long third and five — but senior quarterback Eric Webber hit Billy Rackley on a screen pass to the right that Rackley ran for 63 yards and the Bears’ second score.
Missed tackles were once again a huge problem for the Red on the day, and that theme would recur throughout the first half.
Brown then proceeded to run and pass past the Cornell defense for the remainder of the half. In another theme that has become all too familiar, Cornell went three and out on five of its first six drives (the other being a Rahne fumble after a blindside sack), while Brown put the ball in the endzone on six of its first seven drives.
“Cornell just did not make plays in the first half,” said Brown coach Phil Estes. “[The plays] were there at times and they dropped a football.”
Brown scored as it pleased, running the powerful Malan around the ends and up the middle on the nation’s third-worst rushing defense, while Webber was sharp in all aspects, connecting on 20 of his 30 first half passes for 291 yards in the air. He finished with 422 yards on the day.
“We gave them opportunities, they took advantage of them and they did pretty much what they wanted to do,” Mangurian said.
After a one-yard run by Malan with 5:24 remaining in the second quarter that put Brown up 42-0, the game seemed already out of reach for a comatose Cornell team that had amassed a negative nine yards in its first six drives. Most strikingly, the Cornell defense could do nothing to stop Brown on critical third downs, as the Bears converted an unbelievable 13 of their first 14 third down attempts.
Yet the resilient Red refused to give up, despite being down by six touchdowns. The offense put together a beautiful six-play, 76-yard drive that took only 1:49 off the clock, punctuated by a 33-yard touchdown strike from Rahne to sophomore Keith Ferguson. Rahne went 4-6 on the drive and hit three different receivers, including two passes to senior Edgar Romney. The offense seemed to have finally arrived, just 42 points too late.
Rather than making the timely stops that were characteristic of the defense in the 28-point comeback against Harvard two weeks before, the group allowed Brown to march back down the field. Only an endzone interception with 39 seconds remaining by senior co-captain Dan Weyandt stopped the Brown tidal wave from making it 49-6 at the half.
The Red offense once again marched diligently down the field, running the two-minute offense to perfection, and almost scored again. A pass interference call seemed to give the Red the ball on the 8 yard line with 12 seconds remaining, but the flag was called off because the ball was ruled questionably uncatchable. Still, Rahne had one good shot at the endzone as time expired, but the oft-criticzed Brown defensive backs batted the ball away from Ferguson, leaving the Red down 42-6 at the half.
Still, the team seemed to have found an offensive rhythm in the passing game and despite the 36-point deficit not one person in the stadium thought this game was over.
Both teams started the half with a three-and-out as the Cornell defense finally made its first real stand of the day. Two plays after getting the ball back on its own 39, Rahne completed two passes to Ferguson, the second a 54-yard strike where the sophomore beat a Brown safety on a slant and out-ran everyone for the touchdown. Another missed extra-point left the Red still facing a 42-12 deficit.
Not long after, junior Justin Dunleavy finished an 8-play, 33-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run that put the Red down 42-19, and it seemed that perhaps 42 points were not even enough to keep Cornell from coming back.
The defense, however, was once again unable to make the stop when it had to. Unlike in the Harvard game, when the Red defense prevented its opposition from scoring in the deciding half of the game, Brown would not be denied. Webber led the Bears on a 7-play, 81-yard drive that reignited Brown and put the Red back down by 30 points.
Cornell struck again on an 8-play, 65-yard drive that was once again capped off by a Dunleavy two-yard TD run, but Brown answered once again with a six-play, 85-yard drive that put the Red out of the game for good.
Cornell would score twice more in the fourth quarter, but the Red would finally succumb to two goalline stands by Brown, including a touchdown pass to junior Tim Hermann called off by a holding penalty. The clock had finally caught up with the Cardiac Kids.
As for all those broken records? They are almost too numerous to list. One of the few positive numbers for Cornell on the day was Rahne’s 446 yards through the air, which broke the school record he set a year ago against this same Brown team. His three touchdowns moved him into sole possession of the all-time passing touchdowns record, giving him 37 for his career.
The stats don’t matter to Mangurian though.
“We lost. There’s nothing positive about losing,” the coach commented. “It’s stat-happy and everybody likes that stuff, but this game is about winning and losing.”
The rest of the records are not so good. Cornell hadn’t given up 56 points to an Ivy opponent since the 1925 season, when Dartmouth won 62-13. Cornell has never scored 40 points in a game and lost. No Ivy team has ever given up 690 yards of total offense. Malan’s 43 rushing attempts was a record against Cornell.
Webber’s 422-yard passing day was the most ever given up by a Cornell defense through the air. The four touchdowns he threw also signified a modern record against the Red.
Brown wide receiver Stephen Campbell’s 12 catches moved him into the first spot all-time in Ivy League history in terms of total catches. He stands only 48 catches short of Jerry Rice’s all-time college receptions record of 301.
The Red must l
ook to regroup next week at home against a surprising Princeton team that is currently tied for the Ivy League lead.
Hopefully for the Red, the worst defensive letdown in Cornell history will remain just that … history.
Archived article by Charles Persons