One look in the eyes of head football coach Tim Pendergast told it all. There were no words needed to convey the utter disappointment that was the football team’s 49-21 loss to the Brown Bears.
“I’m just hard-pressed to have a lot to say right now,” the coach tersely remarked following the contest.
And what more can he say about a performance that saw his team cough up the ball four times, including three fumbles, a porous defense that surrendered 478 yards and a run game that once again failed to establish itself as a legitimate threat. Add a blocked punt to the Red’s list of shortcomings and it becomes all the more clear why there was a scarcity of words following the game.
All week leading up to the game, Pendergast and company had prioritized getting off to an early start. Having fallen behind from the get go in each of its previous games and facing one of the most potent aerial and ground attacks in the Ivy League, the Red was well aware of the importance of a strong start. However, almost from the opening whistle, it was clear that Red would be unable to attain that goal.
A dismal first quarter effort saw Cornell gain only one first down compared to Brown’s 10. The Bears had control of the ball for nearly 11 minutes and penetrated the Red’s defense for 122 yards.
Brown’s quarterback Kyle Rowley completed 10 of his first 12 passes including a 35-yard touchdown connection with standout receiver Chas Gessner who burned Cornell’s soft secondary all game long. The score midway through the first quarter put Brown ahead 7-0, dashing the Red’s hope of striking first blood.
“We wanted to make a statement that we wanted to end the game quickly. My objective was to force them to make plays,” Brown coach Phil Estes said.
In the open moments of the second quarter, the visitors capped a 62 yard, 13 play drive with a 25 yard field goal to add to their lead.
The Red got on the board on the ensuing drive, when senior tailback Evan Simmons found the end zone on a short carry.
After adding a second field goal, Brown executed the two-minute drill to perfection in the closing moments of the half. Rowley connected with his brother Travis with six seconds on the clock to expand the lead to 21-7.
“They took it right down the field. I don’t know if they missed a throw in there, I don’t recall that they did. We couldn’t stop them,” Pendergast conceded.
Gessner explained, “Once we get our momentum rolling like that, we’re hard to stop.”
The Red failed to get any offensive momentum built in the opening half. With the exception of the Simmons scoring series, Cornell had no drives that lasted longer than 2:19.
“There are a lot of things we [didn’t] do correctly. I guess we could throw more, but then we’d get pressure and sacks, so pick your poison,” Pendergast offered.
“You have to have a running attack to be able to throw the football. Overall, our offense isn’t doing what it needs to do. I don’t have any explanation for that other than that we need to execute and as the leader of the offense I need to will them there,” senior quarterback Ricky Rahne added.
The second half proved to be even more abysmal for the Red as last week’s turnover bug against Harvard manifested itself once again.
Return man Vinny Bates was unable to complete a routine fair catch on a punt early in the third quarter and fumbled at the Red’s 12-yard line. It took just one play for Gessner to make Cornell pay, as Rowley connected with the senior on a touchdown pass.
The home side followed the turnover with another costly error as Simmons fumbled the ball, leading to an 82 yard touchdown return by Hunter Young. It added to what was already a rough day for Simmons who managed just 57 yards on 14 carries.
The Red’s propensity to surrender the ball was confounding to Pendergast.
“We gave up some points there in the second half that just. I don’t know how to define it other than a lack of focus,” he reasoned.
The Red showed some fleeting signs of life earlier in the third quarter when senior Jamie Moriarty stepped in front of a Rowley pass and recorded Cornell’s first interception of the season. But as has been the case all year, the offense was hopelessly unable to capitalize on the opportunity, going three and out on the ensuing drive.
“Getting the interception kind of sparked the team a little, and put us back on track. [The next drive] does take something away but you just have to have faith in the offense,” Moriarty stated.
Brown’s final score exploited a glaring Cornell weakness: the inability to make a tackle. Tailback Joe Rackley who finished with 122 yard on the day, inexplicably broke away from the Red’s defensive corps exploding for an 80 yard touchdown run.
When asked what he planned to do to improve the tackling, Pendergast simply responded “tackle.”
“We’re not going to quit tackling. We’re going to continue to try to tackle. We’re going to try harder,” the coach said, searching for an explanation for Cornell’s failure to complete solid tackles.
The game ended appropriately enough with the Red having several chances to score on the closing drive, however backup quarterback Mickey Razzano was unable to complete either of his final two attempted touchdown passes.
Though he was disheartened by the effort, Pendergast remained optimistic.
“Our guys never quit. That’s something they can be proud of.”
Archived article by Gary Schueller