November 20, 2000

Face-Off: Luck Has Nothing to Do With It

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As Penn’s captains stood on a platform in the northwest corner of Schoellkopf Field, accepting their two newest pieces of hardware, the men in red hung their heads and slowly walked off the turf, fully grasping in that moment the magnitude of their loss.

The manifestation of their 45-15 drubbing by the Quakers, in the form of the Trustees’ Cup and the Ivy League Trophy, was too much for most players to even look at. It simply wasn’t Cornell’s year.

“The credit goes to them for doing the things you need to do to win a championship,” Cornell’s head coach Pete Mangurian said. “We are not there yet, it’s gonna take something special to get over that hump [and win an outright Ivy title]. It’s a hard hill to get over.”

The coach didn’t leave it at that though. “We’re going to get over [that hill].” Mangurian added. “But it wasn’t going to happen today, not the way we played.”

How they played was… well, not so good.

Penn flew around the field, making the plays it had to when it had to. Critical third downs? Penn seemed to convert every one, while Cornell seemed to get none. Just the opposite of last year’s battle in Philadelphia.

Yet with the drubbing, came a lot of questions. How could this happen? Who was to blame?

A choked up Rahne tried to place all the blame for the game squarely upon his own shoulders.

“I cost 60 guys I love a chance…,” he mumbled, unable to fight back tears and finish his sentence.

No Ricky, you didn’t.

Granted, Rahne was certainly not at his best. The junior missed a number of passes, but credit should be given to an unexpectedly tight Penn secondary. The Quaker defensive backs swarmed around the field, knocking down anything that they could get their hands on.

Of the three interceptions Rahne threw, not one didn’t involve some kind of batted ball. Those are not the interceptions that you create, they are the interceptions that happen to you.

Mangurian says that’s just about making plays, that the game is just that simple. Perhaps so, but that oblong pigskin sure takes some strange bounces sometimes. Some days those bounces go your way, some days they don’t. That’s not luck, that’s the nature of the game.

One group that didn’t make the plays was the defense. It allowed over 600 yards to a team for the second time this season. And while it should rightly deserve credit for its three forced turnovers, (and they were forced, not gifts) its inability to stop Penn in any way, shape or form for four of the Quakers’ first five drives burdened Cornell with an early deficit and put enormous pressure on the offense to play catch-up.

It’s not that any one area of the defense seemed to fail early on yesterday; it seemed as though every aspect seemed to fail. The run defense couldn’t stop Kris Ryan. No one was sure if he would be 100%, but he certainly proved he was that and more yesterday. Ryan broke more tackles than perhaps anyone had all season against this team. The defense allowing two touchdown runs of over 35 yards isn’t too impressive a stat either.

The defense shouldn’t take all the blame either though. It held the Quakers in the third quarter and gave the Red a chance to get back in it. That’s when the offense didn’t respond. It had its chances, but Penn stepped up, especially on the fourth and .0001 stop of Rahne on the goalline that kept Cornell down 28-7.

So who is to blame for the debacle? The offense? The defense? The coaches? Heck, we missed a field goal too, so maybe it’s the special teams’ fault.

Nope. It’s no one’s fault. Penn was just the better team on the day. There can be no mistake about that. Forget luck, Penn was just plain better.

Take heart Red fans. Like Mangurian says, we will be back. That you can count on. For now though, understand that we weren’t ready to win.

Soon enough though, we will be. And when that time comes, be ready to show up in throngs once again and cheer on the Red.

By then, no luck will be necessary.

Archived article by Charles Persons