PROVIDENCE, R.I. — It was a story of two halves this past Saturday at Brown Stadium as Cornell found itself on the short end of a 28-7 decision against defending Ivy League champion Brown. After playing even football throughout the first and second quarter, it was the struggling Brown squad that came out victorious, holding Cornell to under 50 yards of total offense in the second half thanks to frequent miscues by the Red on the both sides of the ball.
“We just found every way to self-destruct today,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “You call them little mistakes but they really weren’t. That’s the hard part to stomach.”
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Ford led the Red attack, completing 9-of-16 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown while junior Luke Siwula never could get started on the ground, rushing for only 49 yards on 16 carries. Sophomore Zac Canty was Ford’s main target in the passing game, catching four passes for 73 yards.
Brown quarterback Joe DiGiacomo led the way to victory for the Bears by connecting on 17-of-27 pass attempts for a total of 183 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing for another touchdown. Tight end Colin Cloherty caught both scoring passes, finishing with six grabs for 94 yards on the day. All-American linebacker Zak DeOssie anchored the Bears’ defense with 14 tackles, including 10 solo takedowns.
Cornell (2-4, 0-3 Ivy) tried to gain momentum early off the first possession of the game, with Canty hauling in a long 21-yard pass from Ford early to put the Red into Brown territory. After three plays and a forced fourth-and-five, Cornell put the pressure on the Bears (2-4, 1-2) by converting on a short pass to Siwula in the middle of the field. However, after a third-down sack on the next set of plays, junior Peter Zell’s 47-yard field goal attempt fell short.
Brown took momentum off the stop and after a couple conservative screen play calls, DiGiacomo let the Homecoming crowd get into the game early, converting a 51-yard touchdown pass to Cloherty to take the lead 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
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Fighting adversity for the first time in the game, it was sophomore safety Tim Bax who made the big play to get Cornell back to even after he stepped in front of back-up quarterback Matthew Nuzzo’s only pass of the game for his first interception of the year and returned it to the Bears’ 36-yard line to allow the Cornell offense to work with a short field. After four plays, Ford connected with sophomore Jesse Baker for a 16-yard touchdown strike, passing over two leaping Brown defenders in the middle of the field where only Baker had a play on the ball.
After playing out the rest of the half to go into the locker room deadlocked at seven, it was Brown that came out of the locker room inspired by the hometown crowd, outscoring Cornell, 21-0, the rest of the way in what the Red viewed as a letdown in effort.
“It just wasn’t good enough,” Ford said. “I wasn’t good enough. That’s not okay for any opponent. There’s a lot of work to do.”
Halfway through the third quarter the game broke in favor of Brown after a punt hit the back of sophomore Anthony Sabo’s leg. The punt was recovered by Brown and put the Bears on the Cornell 43-yard line.
After moving the ball 20 yards, it was a Brown false start on third down that made for a crucial third-and-seven. After a DiGiacomo pass fell short, Brown went for it on fourth down, but Cornell was flagged for being offsides to give them a shot at a 39-yard field goal.
Despite the converted field goal, it was another Red penalty that spelled doom for the struggling defense as senior Ryan Kiscadden was flagged for roughing the kicker to give the Bears a first-and-10 from the Cornell 11-yard line. With 10:04 left in the third quarter, DiGiacomo then found a wide open Cloherty in the end zone for the second time in the game, and after a converted extra point, Brown took the lead, 14-7.
“[Cloherty] does a great job causing a mismatch,” DiGiacomo said. “He’s built like a tight end but he has the speed of a wide receiver. He just played great today and made all the plays we asked him to make.”
The penalties and miscues continued for the Red in the fourth quarter, as a DiGiacomo 3-yard touchdown run after a failed Cornell 4-and-1 quarterback sneak late in the third quarter put the Bears up by two touchdowns with 14 minutes remaining in the game.
The last Brown touchdown was a microcosm of the entire game for the Red, as on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line the Red forced a fumble that was ultimately recovered by the Bears for a touchdown. For two teams looking for an Ivy victory to propel them into late stanza of league play, it was Brown that found the edge.
“The fun is back,” said Brown head coach Phil Estes. “In the second half when we needed to run the ball we got the job done. All the sudden there’s a lot of confidence on this squad now and it’s something we needed going into the second half of the season.”
The game was hard to swallow for the Red after a strong showing against Colgate at its own Homecoming last week. Against the Bears, Cornell held a dominant 19:10-10:50 time of possession in the first half, but finished the game behind in the statistic, 33:54-25:05. Cornell was also defeated in total yardage, 403-193, much to the dissatisfaction of the head coach.
“I told the team that this is the first time in three seasons that I have not been pleased with our effort,” Knowles said. “We haven’t won every game since I’ve been here, but we’ve played hard and we’ve been in them all till the end. … We’re going to look at everything, we’re going to start from scratch and do everything we can do to make it better.”