It was a dominant showing of rushing prowess put on by the Red this past Saturday on Schoellkopf Field. Cornell (4-4, 2-3 Ivy) gained 261 yards on the ground in a 28-25 win over the Dartmouth (1-7, 1-4), holding off a late Green rally to improve the team’s overall record to .500.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Ford went 7-for-10 passing and accounted for three scores in the game (2 rushing, 1 passing), while freshman backup signal-caller Stephen Liuzza ran for an 81-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The play was the longest run by a Cornell quarterback in program history. Junior tailback Luke Siwula ran the ball 17 times for 67 yards and sophomore Gus Krimm’s nine solo tackles led the team.
“We had a great game plan today,” said Cornell head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “They made some nice adjustments late, but our guys were fired up early and that gave us a good cushion. We’re so excited about playing inside Schoellkopf and it showed today.”
As has been the trend of the Red’s 2006 season, the team with the fast start ended up winning the game. For Cornell, this paid dividends as the squad dominated the first quarter of play in jumping out to a 14-0 lead. After a Dartmouth punt off of its first possession of the game, the Red started its opening drive on the Green 44-yard line off freshman Bryan Walters’ punt return and needed only four plays to put its first points on the score board. After a 14-yard rush from Ford on the first play from scrimmage for Cornell and then two short yardage plays, Ford found Siwula wide open down the left sideline for a 23-yard pass into the end zone.
[img_assist|nid=19643|title=Victory cheer|desc=Head coach Jim Knowles ’87 and the football team celebrate on Schoellkopf Field after defeating Dartmouth, 28-25, on Saturday afternoon.|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=73]
“They’ve thrown that play before,” said Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens. “We’ve seen it on film. We had an outside linebacker set up for that assignment and somehow he just didn’t seem to pick up [Siwula] running scott-free towards the end zone.”
The home team didn’t lose any momentum after that as the defense then held the Green to another three-and-out, only to give the ball back to the offense. The Red’s attack then advanced 77 yards on 11 plays in its second possession of the game which was highlighted by a Ford 4-yard rushing touchdown off a naked bootleg.
Dartmouth didn’t earn its initial first down until late in the first quarter when quarterback Mike Fritz was flushed out of the pocket and ran for a 14-yard gain. After a few quarterback runs and a crucial third-down conversion to wide receiver Phil Galligan to put the Green at the Cornell 25 yard-line, Dartmouth’s drive was then halted as Krimm made an open-field tackle to force the field goal.
The second quarter opened with a bang as Liuzza, on only his second play from scrimmage, found the opening created for him by his senior-laden offensive line to run untouched into the end zone for an 81-yard score. The touchdown run ended up being the ninth longest run in Cornell history. The score put Cornell up 21-3 only 50 seconds into the second quarter.
Facing what was looking like a blowout, the Green offense responded on its ensuing possession as Fritz and company converted on a fourth-and-10 on the Cornell 26-yard line to cap off a 10-play, 67-yard drive that ultimately would cut the score to 21-10. Galligan caught the Fritz pass which earned the Green the first down, and after a Julian Collins 9-yard gain, Dartmouth’s Milan Williams found the end zone on a 9-yard rush off the tackle.
After halftime, it was Dartmouth that seemed to come out with the edge. Although the Green might have had the momentum, breaks weren’t going its way as after a 43-yard reception from Fritz to Brian Evans, Dartmouth kicker Andrew Kempler’s 42-yard field-goal attempt fell short of the crossbar midway through the third quarter. The kick would eventually come back to haunt the surging Green.
Cornell seemed to have put the Green away early in the fourth quarter when Ford led the Cornell offense on a 9-play, 60-yard scoring drive to make it 28-10 with 12:44 left to play in the contest. The score came on a 1-yard rush from Ford.
However, Dartmouth found its rhythm and made the game interesting down the stretch. Faced with the enemy that is the game clock, the Green took advantage of a couple of costly Cornell penalties as it went 77 yards on 12 plays to make it 28-17 with 10:12 to play. The score came on an 11-yard pass from Fritz to Brett Lowe. The touchdown was Lowe’s only reception of the game.
“We weren’t making some of the plays we are used to making,” said junior linebacker Ryan Blessing of the defense’s play in the second half. “That and [Dartmouth] made some plays. We were blitzing a lot and their quick passes were getting through so that kind of hurt us a little in the second half.”
After Cornell wasted three minutes of time on its next possession, the team was then forced to punt, putting Dartmouth on its own 34-yard line. It didn’t take long for the Green to get down the field, as Fritz eventually threaded a 53-yard completion to tight end Ryan Fuselier to put the ball on the Cornell 7-yard line. After the Cornell defense put up a valiant fight, it was flagged on a fourth-and-2 when junior Colin Nash tried to break up a pass intended for Fuselier. With the first down awarded to the offense, it took Dartmouth only one play for Williams to find the end zone. The touchdown and subsequent 2-point conversion strike from Fritz to Fuselier on a fade pattern in the end zone cut the score to a field goal, 28-25.
“We knew we had to come out in the second half and convert our chances,” Williams said. “We know we have to play more than 30 minutes if we expect to win the ballgame, especially in this league. It’s tough to come back. We have to capitalize on their mistakes.”
With the hands team on the field for the onside kick, Kempler hit the ball flat straight into the arms of sophomore Brian FitzPatrick who fell on it at the Cornell 45-yard line.
Facing a critical fourth-and-inches, Knowles decided to end it right then and there as he summoned Ford to run the ball out of the shotgun formation, rushing four yards to seal the victory.
“We thought [Dartmouth] was a dangerous team,” Knowles said. “At the end there we thought that with the way our defense was playing and way our run game was going, that it was the best thing to try and just end it. Nathan dropped back and I thought he made a good decision with the ball to just tuck it in and run for it.”
Having won its second straight game, improving its home record to 4-1 in the process, Cornell looks now to take its next step in the team’s development as it strives to win a road game. The team will face Columbia next weekend at Wien Stadium in New York City.
“The next step is to go on the road and get one,” Knowles said. “We achieved our goal of winning two in a row. We’re going to work hard, look at everything we’ve done and sure things up. It’s always better to do that when you win.”