September 29, 2003

Penalties, missed assignments, dropped passes plague Cornell in loss

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NEW HAVEN — In a game that was much closer and more tightly played than the final 21-7 score indicated, the difference between a great team and a team aspiring for greatness became abundantly clear. It wasn’t the talent on the field or the “X”s and “O”s. It was a matter of Yale executing on the field, and Cornell failing to do the same.

“We’ve got to look at the details, the little details of what we did wrong, but I think it’s going to boil down to fundamentals and execution that caused us to lose the game,” Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast said. “I think that we lost the game.”

One of those little details was the costly penalty yardage that either extended Yale drives or backed up Cornell offensive efforts. The penalty flags flew early and often, as Yale’s first offensive drive was aided by a 15-yard defensive pass interference call on Cornell. That helped set up Yale quarterback Alvin Cowan’s one-yard plunge that gave the Bulldogs an early 7-0 advantage.

In the first half alone, the Red was flagged five times for a total of 45 yards. For the game, Cornell was penalized six time for 56 yards.

“The thing I was concerned about was that we had five penalties at halftime, which was one more than we had last week,” Pendergast said. “I also knew that we had to do a better job of executing in the second half, and we didn’t. We didn’t execute.”

Despite gaining excellent field position in the first half, Cornell was unable to score until the first play of the fourth quarter, on sophomore running back Josh Johnston’s 28-yard touchdown scamper. Part of Cornell’s scoring woes had to do with drive-killing infractions.

“Second-and-five, when you get a holding penalty, it brings you back ten yards or whatever the case may be,” senior quarterback and co-captain Mick Razzano said. “It made it harder on ourselves, and then we just didn’t come up with big plays. We didn’t execute.”

However, it wasn’t just the penalties that hurt the Red. Missed assignments also plagued Cornell.

“You look back at the game, and you miss an opportunity on fourth down where you call for example a three step drop, and you take a sack,” Pendergast said.

Defensively, although Cornell limited a potent Yale offense to 21 points — compared to the 62 it scored the week prior against Towson — the team had trouble corralling Cowan and Bulldogs tailback Robert Carr.

“We missed tackles,” Pendergast said. “The reason Alvin Cowan had 100 or 99 yards and Carr had 115 yards — yes they’re good. They’re good players — but when you go back and turn on the tape tomorrow, and see how many opportunities we had that we didn’t finish