HANOVER, N.H. – After losing its first three games on the road this season, the football team finally put one in the win column with a 21-10 victory over Dartmouth (2-6, 1-4 Ivy) on Saturday afternoon. Even though the team is out of contention for the Ivy League championship, the Red (4-4, 2-3) played inspired football, dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
“We just couldn’t knock them out,” said Cornell head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “While the whole time we felt like we had control of the game, they were still close enough for one play to make the difference. That will give you a heart attack. I thought [Dartmouth] hung in there well. We couldn’t knock them out until the end. But, eventually, the control of the line of scrimmage was what won the ballgame for us.”
The Red opened the scoring on its second possession of the afternoon with a nine-play, 60-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore tailback Luke Siwula. The rushing attack was once again the strong point for the Red, as it accounted for over 75 percent of the team’s offense. The Red compiled a total of 282 yards on the ground, including 130 from Siwula on 37 attempts.
After an Erik Hinterbichler field goal cut Cornell’s lead to 7-3, the Red put together another scoring drive, which was again capped off by a 1-yard touchdown plunge, before the end of the half. However, this time, senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn did the honors, giving Cornell an 11-point lead heading into the intermission.
For the third time this season, Kuhn and Siwula surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in the same game, while also accounting for all three of the team’s touchdowns. Kuhn compiled 136 yards on the ground with two scores, while completing 9-of-14 passing for 87 yards through the air.
“We had some big runs,” Kuhn said. “Luke ran the ball well and I had a pretty good day running the ball. The offensive line did a great job blocking up front. Like all season, our misdirection, I feel, gave Dartmouth a tough time.”
Even though the Red dominated in the first half, Dartmouth remained within striking distance in the third quarter. Down 14-3, quarterback Joshua Cohen threw a 90-yard touchdown to Jason Raiti, to pull the Green to within four points of the lead.
Despite proving to be susceptible to the big play, the Red defense played extremely well on Saturday, completely shutting down the Green’s running game. The tandem of Milan Williams and Ikechi Ogbonna mustered only 33 yards on the ground, as Dartmouth finished the afternoon with a total of -1 yards rushing.
In addition, Cornell’s defensive front put tremendous pressure on Cohen, recording nine sacks of the freshman quarterback. The Red entered the game with the plan of trying to put the rookie under fire – a scheme that worked very effectively, forcing a pair of interceptions, including one in the red zone. However, Cornell’s aggressive style did allow Cohen to toss for 312 yards on 24 completions.
With a 14-10 advantage, Cornell tried to put the game away early in the fourth quarter. Starting at its own 22-yard line, the Red marched 74 yards down to the Dartmouth 4-yard line, with a full set of downs to cash in. However, after three-straight unsuccessful runs, Knowles decided to go for it on fourth down from the 2-yard line. Unfortunately for the Red, Siwula was denied on a run off-tackle, keeping the Green within one score of the lead.
“I thought our defense was playing very well at that point. We were looking to take the knockout punch there,” Knowles said. “We were in a close, tight battle. I thought at worst, if we missed it, they would have to go 98 yards for a touchdown. – I just thought we were going to make the knockout punch right there. You get a feeling in the flow of the game, and this was the time we were going to go for it.”
It was the second time on Saturday that the Red turned the ball over on downs in the red zone, with the first coming early in the third quarter.
Regardless, Knowles’ defense held tight, forcing the Green into a three-and-out and a punt from the back of the end zone. Unfortunately for Dartmouth, Hinterbichler’s punt traveled only 28 yards, giving the Red a golden opportunity to deliver the finishing blow.
And Cornell did just that, capping off the afternoon’s scoring with a 15-yard touchdown scamper by Kuhn. In the second half, the Red’s rushing attack really hit its stride, gaining 180 yards.
“They watched tape on us, so they made adjustments coming into the game of how they felt they were going to stop [our running game],” Kuhn said. “Our coaching staff did a great job of adjusting back. We came back with some plays that we knew were going to work based on what they were giving us. We did a good job with that.”
However, Knowles was quick to credit the dominating performance by offensive line.
“Our offensive line has developed over the course of the year,” Knowles said. “Coming into the year, we were really concerned about it. [Senior] Kevin Boothe is one of the best offensive linemen I have ever seen, but around him, they were all guys who hadn’t played before. They have all really developed. And they believe in this system. The misdirection puts the defense on their heels enough, to give our guys a chance to get into them.”
Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor