Neither Cornell (2-7, 2-5 Ivy), Penn (8-1, 6-1) nor the officials calling the men’s final football game on Franklin Field seemed to want the Red to win last Saturday. Cornell committed four fumbles, the Quakers overcame a 14 point first quarter deficit and the referees made a couple of crucial second half calls against the Red to ensure its loss, 38-14.
While Cornell entered the game seeking revenge for last year’s 45-15 loss at Schoellkopf Field and hoping to send its seniors out with a win, Penn entered believing that half of the Ivy League title was in its grasp. In order for that to happen though, Harvard would have had to lose at Yale (the Crimson won, 35-23). Despite not repeating as Ivy champions, Penn finished its season 6-1 for the third time in the last four years. Cornell, with the loss, failed to win three games on the year for the first time since 1984.
Ironically, in the first quarter, it was Cornell that came out of the box quickest. After choosing to receive on the opening kickoff, senior quarterback Ricky Rahne led the team downfield 74 yards. Senior tailbacks Justin Dunleavy and Evan Simmons caught passes for 20 and 21 yards, respectively, to set up a 19-yard touchdown strike to sophomore John Kellner. It was the first time this year that Cornell scored on its opening drive.
Part of the success on that first quarter came from the four and five wideout sets that Cornell hadn’t run all year.
“We hadn’t shown that all year, we wanted to give them a little different look,” Rahne explained, also assuring the team hadn’t abandoned its rushing game, “but we went out there and tried to run the ball, too.”
Penn also played like a team resigned to settle for second place in the Ivies in that quarter.
“I was a little bit disappointed in the way we came out — that we didn’t really have as much fire and emotion given how much these kids had invested in the program,” Penn head coach Al Bagnoli said.
After a Kellner fumble, followed by a pick from junior corner Neil Morrissey and another fumble recovery, the Red stood 13 yards away from the Penn goalline. Four plays later Rahne ran the one yard for Cornell’s second score.
Penn’s Kris Ryan and the Quaker defense, after suffering the pair of turnovers and a blocked punt, played virtually mistake-free football in the remaining three quarters. Using a balance between wideout Rod Milanese and Ryan, quarterback Gavin Hoffman was able to lead his team twice to tie up the game at 14 heading into the half. The first was a 9-play, 64-yard drive, capped by a Milanese catch from 34 yards out 2:35 into the second quarter. Nine minutes later, Ryan rushed for a 7-yard touchdown.
After the first 13 minutes of play and a 14-0 lead, Cornell could not regain the advantage it once held, though it was not for lack of trying. Once the Quakers had captured the momentum they would not relinquish it. The turning point came with 3:30 left in the third quarter with Cornell down 21-14. The Red got the ball on the Penn 42-yard line following a 20-yard punt. Four plays later, senior tailback Evan Simmons broke through the No. 1 rushing defense in D-IAA and ran 29 yards down the right sideline into the endzone. However, an offensive holding call moved the Red backwards instead of allowing it to tie the game.
Simmons challenged the call: “You work hard to make plays and then you turn around and something like that happens — its a call on some other guy’s judgement.
“Bottom line: I don’t think that Penn could stop the run. I think that the officials could stop the run. It’s a shame that a beautiful game like football can come down to [the judgement of a] couple guys on the field.”
On the ensuing field goal attempt, senior kicker Pete Iverson’s kick was blocked and run back 68 yards by Kyle Chaffin. Penn doubled Cornell’s score, 28-14.
Cornell couldn’t rebound after the blocked field goal in third quarter. The Nice and two Rahne fumbles in the final 17 minutes resigned the Red to a 2-7 overall record. The Quakers kept the ball in Ryan’s hands to burn out the clock and simultaneously boost him into Penn’s No. 1 career rushing spot with 3213 yards. Having eight yards in the first quarter, Ryan ended the game with a total of 152 and two touchdowns.
“I think that the blocked field goal took a lot of steam out of both sides,” Pendergast said.
Another more controversial call occurred with 35 seconds left in the first half. Rahne threw a bullet to sophomore wideout Chad Nice which Nice dropped as he was being tackled by Rudy Brown. It was ruled a fumble, even though it seemed that Nice never had control of the football.
“On one of the turnovers I have to go to the tape to see if it was a catch,” Pendergast said, alluding to the called fumble.
Rahne, who finished his career as the third all-time Ivy League passer, threw for 271 yards, but had a 48 percent completion rate. Hoffman threw for the same yardage but with a 66 percent completion rate.
In the end, Pendergast didn’t blame the refs or Penn, he turned to the same cause that he had in all of Cornell’s previous losses.
“Today, we were beaten by a real fine football team,” he said, “that being us.”
Archived article by Amanda Angel