Senior quarterback Ricky Rahne took what could have been the last snap of the game on Saturday against Lehigh and ran to his right. Having no one open, he broke one tackle, sprinted forward seven yards and dove with his arm outstretched past the end zone pylon.
Senior Pete Iverson converted on the extra point and attempted and on-side kick. With only three seconds remained, however, his kick fell into Mountain Hawk John Snyder’s arms finalizing the Red’s 38-35 loss in its home opener at Schoellkopf Field.
Lehigh (4-0, 0-1 Patriot) scored 21 consecutive second half points and staved off a last minute surge to overcome Cornell (0-3, 0-1 Ivy).
The Mountain Hawks came to East Hill ranked eighth in Division I-AA. It had scored 133 points on the season (an average of 44.3 per game) while keeping its opponents to 34 points (11.3 per game), and had a 14-game winning streak over Ivy League opponents.
Lehigh gained possession first and adeptly moved the ball downfield as tailback Dave Wilson continued to attack the left side of Cornell’s defensive line. But senior Brian Sacco tackled Wilson for a loss on forth down and the Red recovered the ball at its own 13 yard line.
But the Mountain Hawks scored first with less than a minute left in the first quarter on a 31-yard field goal that capped a 14 play, 66 yard drive.
On Cornell’s ensuing possession, Rahne began to fall into a rhythm in moving down the field until Cornell was assessed a 15-yard penalty for a chop block. On the next play Lehigh’s Mike Gregorek intercepted a tipped pass. The turnover proved to be extremely costly as the Hawks recovered the football at Cornell’s 40 yard line.
Thirteen plays later, Wilson avoided the Cornell blitz on second and two and ran into the end zone en route to giving the Hawks a 10-0 lead.
Lehigh controlled the time of possession, the tempo and the score for the first-half. The Mountain Hawks had 232 yards on 49 snaps as opposed to the Red’s 94 on 24. They had 11 first downs while Cornell could only muster four, all of which came in the first quarter. Lehigh held the ball for 17:48, while Cornell had possession for 12:12.
The Red’s lone score from the first 30 minutes came from special teams.
As Jay Heibel punted from his own 38 yard line, sophomore wideout John Kellner batted the ball down behind the kicking team. As he had practiced, Kellner tracked the football down and ran for the touchdown. Cornell went into halftime behind Lehigh, 10-7.
“I think [special teams] were extremely big,” Pendergast said. “We really try to control the field position and give our offense one more possession and their offense one less. Those can be difference makers in a ball game.”
As Cornell entered the second half with a new vigor. Although the run game was lessened and Rahne had to throw in the windy Ithaca weather, the Red, was helped by a 33 yard reception from senior Tim Hermann which brought Cornell to the five yards line.
Keeping with the aerial attack, Rahne connected with sophomore Vic Yanz to put Cornell ahead of Lehigh 14-10.
The teams alternated touchdowns and leads until late in the third quarter until a Red defensive lapse and Lehigh offensive attack scored three straight touchdowns, predominantly using its running game as Brant Hall found it difficult to deliver passes in the wind. Of the 438 yards of total offense, 204 came on the ground.
Despite the statistics, Pendergast felt the defense and tackling had improved over the past week, citing that Lehigh is a much better team than Colgate.
“Our run defense improved — we were where we were supposed to be,” he said, but added, “unfortunately we missed some tackles. They had a little more speed than we had.”
With only 13 minutes left in the game, Cornell’s offense came together, as it had last week and many times in the years before. It had to make up a 38-21 deficit, which proved to be just enough for Lehigh to eek out a win.
Rahne, mostly throwing from the shotgun, used Kellner and Hermann to drive down the field. Senior Evan Simmons ran for his second touchdown of the year on a seven yard rush with 5:06 remaining.
The defense stepped up in the waning minutes, giving Lehigh a lone first down before senior Phil Rigueur broke through the trenches to sack Hall bringing up a fourth and twenty situation.
Sophomore Chad Nice returned the ball within Lehigh’s 40, igniting Cornell’s final scoring drive.
“We played better in spurts and in certain areas,” Pendergast noted, as he touched on positives he took away from the game. “We’re not at the point where we’re spurting together, [though].
“We need to find a way to allow the our offense to score in the first half and allow the defense to play better [in the second half].”
Special teams improved considerably over the course of the week manifested in Kellner’s blocked-punt/touchdown, and as junior Jarad Madea recovered a fumble on a Lehigh punt return.
Nevertheless, the Red must achieve more consistent play from the offense and defense as it resumes Ivy League play come next weekend when Harvard visits Schoellkopf.
Archived article by Amanda Angel