The No. 19 Colgate Raiders (5-0) entered Saturday’s game against Cornell riding a 10-game winning streak, including six in a row on the road, as well as seven straight against the Red (1-2, 0-1 Ivy). By late Saturday afternoon, one more tally could be added to each of those marks, as Colgate won, 27-24, on Lane Schwarzberg’s 22-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
Inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in his collegiate career, sophomore tailback Josh Johnston gave Cornell an early 7-0 advantage on a spectacular 59-yard touchdown run 10 minutes into the game. After taking a pitch, Johnston exploded through the hole and raced untouched into the endzone.
“I think it was a great call that the coaches made for the type of defense that Colgate had on the field,” Johnston said. “There was only one man in the hole, [senior fullback] Todd [Newell] picked him up, and after that it was just me and the safety.”
In the first half, Johnston ran for 70 yards on four carries, en route to career-highs of 12 carries and 109 yards.
While Johnston was impressive for Cornell, it was the running back on the other sideline that was dominating the game.
Raiders tailback Jamaal Branch, who went into the game with 561 yards, shredded the Red defense in the first half, running for 179 yards and two scores on 20 carries.
“He’s a tremendous player. We helped him obviously,” Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast said. “In the first half particularly, we missed some plays, missed some tackles, and allowed some plays to cut back against us.”
After spotting Cornell the 7-0 lead, Colgate promptly scored on its next four offensive possessions. Branch scored two of those touchdowns, on runs of five yards and one yard. Quarterback Chris Brown gave Colgate a 21-7 lead with a three-yard run around the left end, and Schwarzberg booted a 28-yard field goal to give the Raiders a 24-7 halftime margin.
“Obviously, they pretty much moved the ball at will on us in the first half. It was hard, real hard, because it seemed like we were giving up real estate in huge gobs, and were probably pretty fortunate to be down 24-7 at halftime,” Pendergast said.
After being dominated for the first 30 minutes, Cornell made an about-face in the second half.
Senior captain and quarterback Mick Razzano connected with freshman Anthony Jackson for a 15-yard touchdown with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter. Eyeing man-to-man coverage on his right, Razzano threw a fade pass to Jackson to pull Cornell within 10 points, 24-14.
Just 1:38 later, Cornell would put itself within one score of a major upset. On the ensuing Colgate drive, senior defensive lineman Mike McGinty forced Colgate’s Brown to fumble. Red junior cornerback Sean Nassoiy promptly scooped up the loose ball and raced 38 yards to make the score 24-21.
“I was pretty much sitting back in cover one. The quarterback crossed the line, and once he crossed the line, I just came up. A couple of guys made a great tackle, great sticks, popped the ball loose,” Nassoiy described. “I was just fortunate to find the ball right in front of me.”
“We knew we were in the game, but that really put us right there,” Razzano said.
After the defense put the Red within striking position, the offense took advantage of its newfound life, and knotted the score with just 6:32 left on sophomore A.J. Weitsman’s 24-yard field goal.
The offense wouldn’t have the opportunity to win the game, however, as the Colgate offense held onto the ball until the Schwarzberg’s game-winning boot at the end of regulation. After receiving the ball with 6:30 left on the clock, Brown led the Raiders 50 yards to the Cornell five.
“There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to score and win the game,” Colgate head coach Dick Biddle said.
“We were just hoping to get back on the field and put the game back in our hands, and it didn’t turn out that way,” Razzano said.
Despite the final result, there were many positives that Cornell can pull from the defeat.
“To be able to play with those folks the way we did, particularly in the second half, is a very positive building block,” Pendergast said. “While we didn’t win the game, there are still positives to be found.”
One of those positives was the play of the defense in the second half. After giving up 328 yards to Colgate in the first half, the Red held the Raiders to 178 in the second half. And although Branch ran for 228 yards in the game, he managed just 49 of those yards after the half.
“At halftime, we simply told the players that it wasn’t about playing for pride or any of that stuff. We were playing for 30 minutes. Our players came out and played real hard, and I thought real well for 30 minutes,” Pendergast said. “I’m very proud of the team. Not very proud of the fact that we lost.
“I still believe that while we sit at 1-2, lost a couple of close games, plenty of football left to play, and I think you’ll be hearing from us.”
Archived article by Alex Ip