November 15, 2004

Team capitalizes on Lions' late mistakes

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NEW YORK — It was Don Henley of the Eagles who once sang, “In a New York minute, everything can change.”

It took the Red a little bit longer than a minute — 9:33 to be exact — but boy did things change.

Cornell (4-5, 4-2 Ivy) scored 25 unanswered points in that time to overcome a 19-point deficit and defeat Columbia (1-8, 1-5 Ivy), 32-26, Saturday afternoon.

The game was a tale of a struggling Lions team not being able to put the nail in the coffin and then making mistakes to let the Red back into the game.

It was also a story of resurrection for a Cornell team that has won three league contests in a row for the first time since 2000, and two of its embattled seniors who led the charge. With 1:06 left in the first half, Columbia, already leading 14-0, had a third-and-10 from the Cornell 24-yard line. The Lions failed to convert though as Nic DeGasperis inexplicably dropped a ball thrown by quarterback Jeff Otis which hit him in the hands. Columbia head coach Bob Shoop opted against a field goal attempt on fourth down and it turned out to be a wrong decision as his team failed to reach the first-down marker, turning the ball over to the Red.

Columbia appeared to have delivered the knockout blow when it scored touchdowns on its first two possessions in the fourth quarter, to increase its lead to 26-7. Unfortunately for the Lions, that is when their mistakes set in, inevitably costing them the game.

“Guys sometimes confuse the word competing with being when you’re behind,” Shoop said. “Well you’ve got to compete when you’re up 26-7 too, and I don’t think we competed [at that point].”

The first miscue occurred on the Red’s ensuing drive when senior quarterback D.J. Busch, formerly the Red’s starter, connected with sophomore Anthony Jackson for 41 yards with a little help from a Columbia secondary according to Shoop.

“We certainly said to the defensive guys on the sideline, make them drive the length of the field, no big plays,” Shoop said. “The first play of that drive is a 41-yard completion where Keenan Shaw just absolutely misjudged the ball … That was just a bad play right there.”

The play led to a one-yard plunge by junior Joshua Johnston to bring the Red within 13 points.

Senior Sean Nassoiy was the other star for the Red, and was the beneficiary of the next two Columbia mistakes, as he intercepted two passes which led to Cornell touchdowns. The first was off of Otis, giving the Red possession on the Columbia 38. The Red offense fed Johnston the ball five different times on the drive, yielding 31 yards, including the scoring play — another dive from a yard out.

Nassoiy’s next pick, thrown by Craig Hormann, was not only important because it gave the Red the ball back, down by six with 5:43 left in the game, but it gave it the team possession on the Columbia 25 after a 45-yard return.

That was all Busch and the Red offense needed, as he hit senior Chad Nice down the middle for a 23-yard touchdown pass, which tied the game at 26.

Busch put the Red up for good after a 22-yard strike to Nice, followed by a 38-yard reception by junior Brian Romney for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter alone, Busch went 7-for-10 for 146 yards and two scores.

“When I went in, I said to myself this might be the only series I get, so I’m just going to go out and have fun,” Busch said. “And one thing led to another … and we just kind of rolled from there.”

Both Busch and Nassoiy led the Red not only to its first win on the road this season, but also a chance to tie Penn for second place in the league going into next week’s contest at Schoellkopf Field.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor