“We’ve taken a major step backward.”
That was football head coach Tim Pendergast’s assessment of his team’s performance against Yale Saturday in front of a Homecoming crowd of 13,224.
After moving the ball down the field well and tackling consistently in a loss to Bucknell last week, Cornell was unable to stop a speedy Yale ground attack and failed to regularly piece together drives in a 50-23 loss to the Bulldogs.
“Offensively, we obviously didn’t do a job at all of protecting the quarterback,” said Pendergast. “When we did have opportunities in the first half, and even in the second, there were some overthrows, some underthrows. We didn’t rush the ball. Defensively, we missed more tackles than I can ever recall seeing. Ever.”
The contest began on a good note for the Red. Senior quarterback Mick Razzano and the offense started their first drive from their own 35 after Yale kicker Andrew Sullivan kicked off out of bounds. Then Razzano completed his first four passes and sophomore tailback Marcus Blanks posted consistent positive yardage on the ground as Cornell moved the ball 65 yards in 15 plays to go up 6-0.
“We came out, we moved the ball right down the field, we scored, and I thought everything was fine,” said Razzano.
The Red attempted a two-point conversion after the score, using an odd formation where the offensive line set up to the left of the ball and the holder and kicker, junior Vic Yanz and sophomore Trevor MacMeekin, respectively, were decoys for a back lined up behind the off-centered line. On the attempt, the pitch was fumbled, keeping the score at 6-0.
On the first play of the subsequent Yale drive, sophomore tailback Robert Carr took off for a 29-yard gain, reaching the Cornell 31. Junior quarterback Alvin Cowan threw incomplete to classmate P.J. Collins in the end zone on the next play, absorbing a hit in the process from Red sophomore linebacker Joel Sussman. The hit broke Cowan’s leg, and last week’s Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week had to leave the game.
Sophomore Jeff Mroz took over as the signal-caller, but the quarterback’s job was made easy by Carr, who rushed on the next four plays after Cowan’s injury to put the Elis in the end zone. Carr racked up 65 yards on the drive, which gave Yale a 7-6 lead.
The two sides traded three-and-outs on the next three drives, but the Bulldogs were able to drive to the Cornell 25 with one second left in the first quarter. Yale called a timeout to set up a 42-yard field goal with the wind at its back. However, Sussman blocked sophomore John Troost’s attempt. Red senior Rosco Newsom tried to scoop up the bouncing ball, but was unable to come up with it. Then fellow cornerback Kyle Thomas succeeded in grabbing the elusive pigskin, which he then carried 48 yards in the other direction to give Cornell a touchdown and a 13-7 lead after one quarter. It was the first block field-goal attempt to be run back for a touchdown in the Red’s history.
On the extra point attempt, Cornell initially lined up in its off-center formation, but only faked it this time as MacMeekin added the single point.
The Elis were able to strike back five minutes into the second frame when senior lineman Stuart Satullo sacked Razzano, forcing a fumble — the game’s only turnover — which sophomore cornerback James Beck returned for a touchdown. The defensive score put Yale ahead 14-13, and the Red never saw the lead again.
On the Bulldogs’ next possession, a late hit penalty on sophomore linebacker Brad Kitlowski gave Yale a first-and-10 on the Cornell 45. Carr took a handoff on the very next play and knifed through the Red defense, dashing untouched to the end zone for his second touchdown of the afternoon.
The Red responded with another three-and-out, although sophomore punter Mike Baumgartel — who last year set the Ivy record with an 81-yard punt — boomed a punt from his own 20 that was downed at the Eli three-yard line — a 77-yarder.
MacMeekin added a 37-yard field goal with 1:21 left in the half to make the score 21-16 at the midpoint.
At that point, Yale took over for good.
On the Bulldogs’ next two possessions, Carr ran for 66 yards and two touchdowns — effectively ending his day with totals of 237 yards, a Yale record, and four touchdowns. The two scores gave the Elis a 36-16 lead.
If that wasn’t enough, Yale’s third possession of the third quarter also resulted in a touchdown. The Bulldogs needed just one play, a 40-yard pass from Mroz to Collins, to extend their lead to 43-16.
“The big play to P.J. kind of broke their back,” said Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki. “That throw to P.J. was as good a throw was you’re gonna have.”
Junior transfer quarterback D.J. Busch then came in for the second time in the contest. Busch, who led a three-and-out in the first half, wasn’t able to improve the second time around, and after a four-yard Blanks run and two incompletions, the Red had to punt again. Seven of the 11 Cornell drives ended in punts on the afternoon.
In the fourth quarter, both teams added seven points to their scores.
Junior Pat Bydume, who replaced Carr and ran for an additional 125 yards, sped past the Red defensive line for the final Yale scoring play of the day, and Blanks responded on the next drive with his second touchdown run of the game.
MacMeekin added the extra point on the touchdown, but only after Cornell lined up in their off-center formation and was whistled for a snap infraction penalty.
The Red quarterbacks were sacked seven times in the contest — Razzano six times, Busch once — and the beating that Razzano took was evidenced by the large bruise on his right shoulder after the game.
“Once we got into the feel for what they were doing, I thought our defense just dominated,” said Siedlecki. “And once they started putting it down the field, we started getting the quarterback.”
On the other side of the football, the Red defense was unable to beat the Bulldogs’ offensive line all game long, allowing Yale to pile up 415 yards on the ground in the game.
“The offensive line just dominated the game. You saw what these two running backs can do; they ran all over the field,” said Mroz. “Whenever you have holes like that, and big strong backs to do it, it worked out very well.”
“Little strong backs,” corrected Siedlecki.
Although both Carr and Bydume are just 5-7, their speed torched the Cornell defense the whole game.
“They were faster than we were, no question,” said Pendergast. “I saw a lot of our guys taking bad angles and missing, and taking good angles and missing, and just missing. Their speed was better than our ours.”
The Red will have a week to break down the tape of the blowout and correct the problems. Towson will visit Schoellkopf Field next Saturday.
“It’s a tough loss — a very, very tough loss, because we’ve taken a major step backward,” said Pendergast. “And we’re gonna find out if we can regroup to take a major step forward.”
Archived article by Alex Fineman