Paced by a 287-yard running game, the Navy sprint football team (3–1, 1–0 CSFL) trampled the Red, 42–10 yesterday in Newark. N.J. The game was played in front of thousands of underprivileged children, marking the 23rd version of the Pride Bowl.
“Being in the Pride Bowl added a greater significance to the game,” quarterback Sunil Gupta said. “And it held a greater disappointment when we lost. The kids were genuinely behind us and they looked up to us. But the most important thing is to understand why it was going on. The whole Pride Weekend was for the kids, and to build a stronger community — to have a good time together. And everyone there would tell you that it was an obvious success.”
“The atmosphere of this game was really exciting,” said running back Chris Rush, the game’s Most Valuable Player, in a Navy press-release. “Being able to help these kids and seeing the smiles on their faces was really fun.”
With the kids in mind, both teams battled hard well into the fourth quarter when the Midshipmen turned a 25–10 advantage into a 42–10 blowout. At the start of the period, Cornell (1–2, 0–1) held the ball at its own 43, ready to mount a comeback. But on second-and-eight, Gupta’s pass was picked off and returned to the Cornell 18-yard line.
The game seemed out of reach, but the Red defense immediately rose to the challenge, as junior Kent Ferguson recorded an interception on the very next play.
Sophomore running back Dean Coccaro and company retook possession at their own 14.
“We really had an inspiring drive to rekindle things,” Gupta said. “We converted a couple of third downs and tried a few of our deeper passes.”
Gupta’s 11-yard scamper was followed by Coccaro’s 10-yard dash around the end. Senior Henry Kim caught his fifth pass of the day and brought Cornell to the Navy 44-yard line.
It was here that Cornell’s comeback bid fell short. After junior tailback Charlie Tam was stuffed at the line, Gupta’s next three passes fell incomplete.
“There were a couple of bad passes and a couple of dropped balls,” Gupta explained. “We just made mistakes — flat out made mistakes.”
Navy took over and proceeded to score 17 points on its next three possessions.
Both the Red and Midshipmen provided highlight-reel material in the first half. Starting at quarterback, Tam went 3 for 4 for 45 yards on his first series, capped by a 20-yard over-the-shoulder beauty to Kim.
“I don’t necessarily prefer either [quarterback or tailback] because there are lots of things I like about both positions,” Tam said. “Being QB, I like to be in control of the offense and to help the team get going. At the same time, I feel a lot more comfortable [at tailback] because that is the position I have been playing for quite some time.”
After the Cornell defense forced its second straight three–and–out, Tam again drove the offense deep into Navy territory. The drive stalled, however, as freshman Chris Garnic missed a 40–yard field goal.
“The ball went above the goalposts,” Gupta described. “It literally went above the goalposts and a foot or two in one direction. The only people who could tell it didn’t go in were the referees right under the posts.”
The Midshipmen wasted no time in getting on the board as they then sailed 77 yards in five plays, keyed by a 49–yard pass.
Early in the second quarter, Cornell again drove into Navy’s half of the field before stalling out at the 43-yard line. On fourth–and–13 the Red attempted a fake punt and lost five yards. The Midshipmen then ran for 51 yards en route to another touchdown.
Statistically the Red fared well, recording a season–high 156 yards through the air. Gupta was 9/22 for 82 yards while Tam finished 6/11 for 74 yards and one touchdown. Gupta, Tam and Coccaro combined for 104 of Cornell’s 116 rushing yards.
“I’m happy with the offense’s performance,” Gupta assured. “But we made crucial mistakes that stopped drives. Our offensive power was more than 10 points. I’m not saying the mistakes shouldn’t have been there — that’s part of the game. I didn’t drop my head when bad things happened. We made some good decisions — linemen picked up their blocks and receivers ran good routes. I was happy to see the completions that were there.”
Senior tri–captain Angelo Palmieri led the defense with three tackles for a loss. Classmate tri–captain Martin Vogel added a drive–stopping 10–yard sack. The squad held Navy to 147 yards passing.
“Those were some tough guys across the ball,” Gupta commented. “But they took their share of lickings.”
The Red next faces Princeton in New Jersey on Friday.
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin