September 23, 2002

Red Zone Offense Weakness for Gridders

Print More

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Some losses are harder to take than others. For the football team (0-1, 0-0 Ivy), Saturday’s 14-3 defeat to Bucknell (1-2) was a bitter pill to swallow. The Red, which has lost eight of its 10 games under the tenure of head coach Tim Pendergast, scored just three points despite four trips to the red zone.

Bucknell struck first with a little over nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. After a Cornell possession stalled at its own 33 yard line, the Bison’s Daris Wilson gave his team great field position, returning sophomore punter Mike Baumgartel’s punt 16 yards to the Cornell 49. From there, Bucknell freshman running back Blamah Sarnor took over. During the drive, Sarnor carried the ball three times for 37 yards, capped off by his 21 yard touchdown run through the heart of the Cornell defense, which gave Bucknell a 7-0 advantage.

The Red had two long drives of its own in the first half but neither resulted in points. Late in the first quarter, after gaining possession at its three yard line, Cornell engineered an 11-play drive to the Bison’s 13 yard line, with the big play coming on a 32-yard catch by junior wideout John Kellner. However, a timely Bucknell sack presented the Red with a fourth-and-16 from the 24 yard line. Rather than attempting a 41-yard field goal, the Red went for it and turned the ball over when Razzano’s pass to sophomore running back Marcus Blanks fell incomplete.

“We didn’t feel and don’t feel like our kicker’s leg is up to that distance,” Pendergast said of the decision to bypass the field goal attempt.

The Red threatened again on its very next possession, moving the ball 61 yards to the Bucknell eight-yard line over 17 plays and almost nine minutes. Cornell, however, stalled once inside the Bison 10-yard line and was forced to attempt a field goal. Sophomore Trevor MacMeekin, in his first action of the season, had his 25 yard attempt blocked by Anthony Lewis, as Bucknell retained its 7-0 advantage.

That lead soon doubled, though, as Bucknell quarterback Todd Wenrich connected with Albert Marquardt for a 70 yard touchdown. After catching the ball at his own 35, Marquardt ran down the sideline past senior defensive backs Rosco Newsom and Jamie Moriarty for the score.

Despite leading in virtually every statistical category and controlling the clock for more than 19 minutes of the first half, Cornell entered the break trailing by two touchdowns.

“They played a tremendous football game,” Pendergast said of his players. “They could’ve folded at halftime being down 14-0 at halftime, but we didn’t.”

“I told the players flat out that we’re going to win if we execute,” he added. “We didn’t execute.”

The Red came out in the second half and immediately put up its first points of the season. Starting from its own 34 yard line, Razzano led Cornell to the Bucknell 17-yard line. During the drive, senior wide receiver Keith Ferguson made the Red’s most exciting offensive play of the evening, turning a short pass into a 27 yard gain, darting across the middle of the field, breaking several would-be tackles. Cornell, however, once again stalled as it moved inside the Bison 20, and had to settle for MacMeekin’s 35 yard field goal.

Trailing by 11, the Cornell defense provided the offense a golden opportunity to slice into the lead early in the fourth quarter. Sophomore defensive lineman Jason Morgan burst through the Bison offensive line, sacking Wenrich and forcing a fumble which was recovered by sophomore linebacker Brad Kitlowski at the Bucknell six yard line.

After Blanks carried to the Bucknell five, Razzano found senior tight end Mike Parris wide open in the back corner of the end zone. Parris, however, could not handle the pass, as it fell harmlessly to the turf. Razzano then misfired on his next two passes, as the Red turned the ball over on downs in its last serious scoring threat of the evening.

On the night, the Red scored just three points in its five visits to the red zone.

“We had opportunities, and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities,” Pendergast said. “It had nothing to do with effort or how hard our kids played.

“There were a few series in there where we moved the ball period. We moved it pretty easily in fact. But we stopped ourselves,” he added.

Despite its struggles inside the opponent’s 20, the Red had its share of bright spots on the offense. Blanks, making his first career start at halfback, carried the ball 19 times for 98 yards. And although Razzano ended up just 10-27 for 125 yards, he earned the praise of Bucknell coach Dave Kotulski.

“He ran the ball very very well. he tucked it down, he’s a big physical quarterback,” Kotulski assessed. “I thought he played with composure and for a kid playing in his first game, I think he played pretty darn well.”

Despite first snap jitters, Razzano was comfortable thereafter.

“After the first snap you’re fine. It’s just football,” he said. “I felt comfortable. After the first series, I thought we were doing well. We were controlling the ball.”

Cornell’s defense, much-maligned last season, kept the Red close all evening long. Sophomore linebackers, Kitlowski and Joel Sussman, led the way, with each reaching double digits in tackles. In the second half, with the Bison trying to run out the clock, the defense limited Bucknell to just 31 yards on the ground.

“In the second half, I thought Cornell did a great job defensively getting after us and stopping the run and putting us in some different situations,” Kotulski said.

Despite the loss, Pendergast is excited about his team’s prospects.

“I’m real proud of where this football team is right now, very proud. All I can do is compare it with game one of a year ago, and there is no comparison,” he said. “I think you’re looking at a very good football team in Cornell University.”

Archived article by Alex Ip