With Cornell holding a tenuous grip on a 21-19 lead with five minutes remaining in Saturday’s football game against Bucknell, the Bison (2-1) took possession of the ball on their own 42-yard line.
Over the next nine plays, Bucknell compiled four first downs and moved 48 yards, deep into Cornell territory. On the 10th play of the possession, Bucknell kicker Ryan Korn lined up for his fourth field goal attempt of the afternoon. The 27-yarder would have given the Bison the lead with 1:43 remaining in the game. Fortunately for the Red (1-0), the ball sailed to the left, ricocheting off the left upright and giving Cornell possession.
“I don’t think there was anyone on that sideline who didn’t feel good about our opportunity to either score a touchdown … or if not, attempt a field goal and win it,” said Bucknell head coach Tim Landis.
This stroke of luck allowed the Red to maintain the lead in a game it had thoroughly controlled through the first three quarters of play.
Cornell maintained its control just over a minute later, when junior defensive back Kyle Thomas intercepted a pass by Bucknell quarterback Darius Wilson on the first play of what turned out to be the final Bison possession of the game.
“You’re sitting on the sideline hoping and praying that someone will make a play, and Kyle came up big,” said senior co-captain Mick Razzano.
The win was Cornell’s first to start a season since 1999. The game was also the first time the Red opened its season at home since a 14-10 win over Princeton in 1997.
“It was a tremendous start that I knew, and the players knew, that we had in us,” Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast said.
Cornell came out strong in its season opener. Razzano was at the top of his game, passing for 216 yards and rushing for 30 more to lead the Red to the hard-fought victory.
Also starring for the Red was sophomore tailback Josh Johnston, who totaled 121 yards of offense in his first start for the Red.
“Today, I think he stole the show with his play,” Pendergast said of Johnston. “For a first year player to be able to step in a do those sort of things, I think says a lot.”
After Cornell’s initial drive of the game ended with a fumble by junior tailback Marcus Blanks, Bucknell took over and promptly scored the game’s first points on a 31-yard field goal by Korn.
However, the Red did not trail for long. On the ensuing drive, Razzano connected with junior Carlos Hill for a 56-yard touchdown reception to give Cornell a 7-3 lead. It was the first touchdown reception of Hill’s career.
With Cornell holding onto a 7-6 lead after the first quarter, Razzano completed a 13 play, 71-yard drive with an 11-yard run for the Red’s second score. Razzano leapt over the goal line and a couple of Bucknell defenders for the score. Junior placekicker Trevor MacMeekin converted on the point after to extend the Red lead to 14-6.
“They were covering all the receivers, and the middle opened up, and I just took it in there,” Razzano explained.
The senior quarterback would later add another rushing touchdown in the third quarter to give the Red all the offense it needed.
Bucknell scored a touchdown of its own later in the quarter to cut the Cornell lead to 14-12. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Red a lead going into the intermission.
Razzano’s second touchdown of the game came with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter. As with Razzano’s first touchdown, the Cornell offensive line opened up a hole for the quarterback to scamper into the end zone.
Throughout the game, the line made things easy for Razzano and the rest of the offense.
“I wasn’t pressured. I didn’t have to throw in a hurry, I could sit back and make my reads. They were opening up holes for the backs. I really feel comfortable with those guys protecting us,” Razzano said.
With a season-opening victory now under its belt, the Red will set its sights on its Ivy opener next Saturday at Yale, a game that is sure to present a tremendous challenge.
“What we are right now is simply 1-0. And all we have staring at us is one game,” Pendergast said.
“It’s great that we got a home win,” Razzano agreed. “But it’s one, we’ve still got nine to go. No time to relax now.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner