No starting quarterback. No leading running back. No problem. Or at least that’s what the opening of Saturday’s football game against Georgetown seemed to indicate. Its closing, however, told a different story.
Cornell (1-4, 0-2 Ivy) roared into the first quarter of this weekend’s 42-20 loss to the Georgetown Hoyas (3-4, 1-2 Patriot). After the Hoyas opened the scoring with a 35-yard run by sophomore Marcus Slayton, the Red offense took over to erase the seven-point deficit.
Senior quarterback D.J. Busch, starting for an injured Mick Razzano, marched the Red downfield on 12 plays for 76 yards and the team’s first points of the game. Busch’s target of choice was junior receiver Carlos Hill, who caught two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown on the Cornell scoring drive. A quick defensive series and one field goal later, Cornell found itself with a 10-7 lead in the early second quarter.
Cornell’s defense was able to hold Georgetown during the next drive, but then, things began to fall apart.
Sophomore tailback Andre Hardaway carried the ball three times on Cornell’s next drive, steadily moving the team towards midfield. On his third attempt, however, the Red was whistled for a holding penalty, erasing all of Hardaway’s gains. Cornell’s next mistake came just a few plays later when Busch fumbled the ball and Georgetown recovered.
“I think one of the big momentum turns was the fumble,” said Busch. “You go out there, you’re moving the ball, you score a quick 10 points, and you go and put your defense in the hole. That’s what happens. Good teams will respond, and Georgetown answered.”
Already in the red zone, Georgetown easily moved the ball forward. One pass and two carries later, the Hoyas were up 14-10.
But the worst was yet to come.
Busch and the Cornell offense failed to convert on their next third-down attempt. In what appeared to be a routine fourth-down play, junior punter Mike Baumgartel sent the ball 42 yards to the Georgetown 10-yard line. What happened next, however, was anything but routine.
Hoya senior Luke McArdle fielded the punt and darted upfield. Finding an open lane, he took the ball 88 yards. McArdle appeared to be endzone bound, but junior Nate Tarsi caught up with him and hauled him down at the two-yard line. Slayton scored his second touchdown on the very next play, carrying it in from two yards out to give Georgetown a 21-10 lead.
McArdle repeated the feat on the next punt return.
Cornell failed to move the chains again, setting Baumgartel up at the Red’s 29-yard line. McArdle ran the 48-yard punt back to Cornell’s 21. Five plays later, and the Hoyas were in the endzone again.
The second half was similar, with Georgetown turning Cornell mistakes into two additional touchdowns.
While it would appear that special teams was the weakest part of Cornell’s game on Saturday, senior defensive end Kevin Rooney didn’t pass the blame for the loss.
“We don’t make excuses, and whenever we’re put on the field we have to stop them,” he said of the defense. “We failed to do that and that’s why we lost. The onus is on us to stop Georgetown and we didn’t do that.”
For Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast, the questions didn’t start with any one unit of the team. Instead, the questions, and answers, began with the Red’s mistakes.
“We don’t sit there at practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and fumble the ball. We don’t sit there on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and allow punts to be returned on us,” he said. “We don’t miss tackles. We don’t see a lot of things that we see here done today, and we’re going to try like hell to find the answers to why.”
Overall, Cornell was called for 35 yards on five penalties, and two lost fumbles. While the offense converted on four of its six red zone attempts, and gained 385 total yards on the day, the coaching staff found it hard to see any positives.
“I’m very frustrated that the positives are overshadowed by the huge negatives,” Pendergast said. “As I mentioned, turnovers, dropped balls, penalties; I can go on and on and on, but the positives right at this point don’t ease how I feel, and I’m sure they don’t ease how our players feel.”
Busch echoed Pendergast’s statements.
“Any positives we had out there on offense and defense are largely outweighed by the negatives,” he said. “We can’t turn the ball over and we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot like we repeatedly do.”
The team will spend the next week refocusing itself on its remaining Ivy games. Rooney dismissed any thoughts that the team might continue its losing trend.
“A lot of times they say there are two ways you can go, but I think for our guys there’s only one way you can go and that’s just to get back at it and try to do the things that we didn’t do today the rest of the last five games.”
Archived article by Matt Janiga