Saturday”s game against Colgate might have officially been homecoming for the Red. However, the Raiders showed no neighborly kindness towards Cornell and stole the show from the home team at its own Schoellkopf reception. Repeatedly in the spotlight was Colgate”s talented offensive triumvirate of senior quarterback Chris Brown, senior wide receiver Luke Graham, and senior running back Jamaal Branch. Combined, the three passed, caught, and ran for 254 yards — eclipsing Cornell”s total team output by by 78. And Graham”s nine receptions for 159 yards moved him into second place on Colgate”s all-time reception list with 186.
Senior quarterback D.J. Busch”s two intercepted passes, senior Trevor MacMeekin”s missed chip-shot field goal, and junior Brian Romney”s muffed punt return only set the Red back further and sealed the team”s fate.
‘It was a gutsy win, a tough one,’ Colgate head coach Dick Biddle said. ‘The defense played outstanding, and the offense did a good job.’
Cornell head coach Jim Knowles “87 thought differently of his team”s performance. ‘The defense played lights out against a good team, but when you let a team that good hang around, they”re going to find a way to win.’
The Red”s troubles began early and lasted throughout most of the contest. On the team”s first possession midway through the first quarter, Colgate cornerback Geoff Bean intercepted Busch on the Cornell 36. The pick was Bean”s first of two on the day. He later nabbed another errant throw in the second quarter. Busch finished 12-for-25 for 100 yards.
‘Players don”t lose games, coaches do,’ Knowles said, taking blame for the team”s various miscues. ‘D.J. had time [to throw the ball], but we win and lose as a team.’
Cornell”s special teams also failed to contribute much in the name of a winning effort. After driving to the Colgate eight-yard line, Cornell stalled and lined up for a kick. MacMeekin, who scored 13 points on kicks against Yale three weeks ago, couldn”t find his mark Saturday and missed a chip shot from the 25 yard line.
Later, following Cornell”s only touchdown of the afternoon, MacMeekin again failed to score when his extra point attempt was blocked by the swarming Raiders. The block was the first against the Red this season.
‘It”s been a roller coaster on special teams,’ Knowles said. ‘You can win a lot of games in this league with great defense and special teams. That”s what we need.’
The final insult was a bobbled punt return which led to turnover for Colgate. Though usually known for his sure hands, Romney let a punt drop, and Colgate recovered. The turnover did not result in any points, but it did contribute to the sloppy spectre that hung over the Red like Ithaca cloud cover all afternoon.
In comparison, Colgate”s three stars shone brightly. Graham hauled in 9 passes for 159 yards, Branch rushed for 95, with a long of 23, and Brown went 13-for-24, amassing 170 yards in the air with no interceptions. Graham, in particular, showed why he is one of the most dangerous players the Red will play this season.
In one instance, the Hamilton, N.Y. native made a spectacular one-handed grab along the sideline on third down for a 29-yard pickup. The play put Colgate in scoring position and led to three points on a field goal.
Later in the game, Graham had another highlight reel reception when he leapt between two Cornell defenders and snagged a pass from midair for the game”s longest play, 42 yards. ‘I wish [Graham] would have just stayed home,’ Knowles said. ‘He was just better than anyone we had. We called a double cover, and he still beat us. It”s a familiar theme: we”re just one athlete short. It”s really hard to swallow.’
‘The D-line played solid. The secondary was in position, we just needed to make plays,’ said junior whip Kevin Rex. ‘We weren”t in the wrong spot; he beat us.’
‘I”ve never seen anyone who makes catches like this kid,’ Biddle said. ‘It”s phenomenal the way he catches the ball. Someone needs to say it.’
With the loss, Cornell drops to 1-4 on the year and resurrects memories of last season”s debacle, in which the team earned its only victory of the year early in the season, but failed to replicate that result for the remainder of the season.
Feeling that pressure, Knowles spoke reservedly about his feelings on the team”s current state and the things he must do to make it improve. ‘This is unacceptable.You have to challenge yourself to get better. Right now, we”re not mature enough to go out and take that win. It”s not a lack of effort, it”s a lack of maturity. We need to find ways to win.’
Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor