October 20, 2008

Sprint Gets Revenge on Rival Penn

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It was almost as if red wasn’t only the color of Cornell’s jerseys, but also the color of their ruby slippers on Friday night. After losing to the Quakers at Franklin Field to start the 2008 season, the Red took on Penn at Schoellkopf Field this weekend and followed the yellow brick road to a 23-20 victory.
In a back-and-forth battle with four lead changes, Penn (4-1, 2-1 CSFL) got on the board first with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Michael D’Angelo. Cornell (3-2, 2-1) responded quickly with a three-yard quarterback scramble by senior captain Zak Dentes to tie the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Cornell took its first lead early in the second quarter on a 20-yard field goal from senior Mitch Ottinger, only to have Penn tie the game on a 41-yard boot by Raiam Santos eight minutes later. The score remained knotted at 10-10 until the end of the first half, while both teams also seemed to match each other’s level of intensity.
[img_assist|nid=32789|title=The lone gunman|desc=Senior quarterback Zak Dentes (11) looks to pass in the Red’s 23-20 win over Penn at Schoellkopf Field on Friday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We came out really hard, and we had a bunch of guys that were playing injured,” said senior captain John Parke. “Everyone just came out and played hard. And after a tough practice on Wednesday, when the coaches were upset with us, it really changed our mood on game day and everyone was just pumped from the first play until the end. Obviously the game was close, and nobody was relaxed during the entire game. We stayed pumped the whole game.”
Despite the Red’s motivation — if Cornell lost, they’d be out of the running for a share of the CSFL title — Penn was able to take its second lead of the game on a 45-yard field goal from Santos.
The Red offense, however, responded in a big way, as Dentes connected with senior running back Ryan Smith for short touchdown passes with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, and again with two minutes remaining.
“Momentum,” Parke responded when asked of the significance of Cornell being able to respond to Penn’s first and third quarter leads. “If Penn scored and we weren’t able to answer right away, it puts more strain on the defense. But Friday, we were able to get the lead back every time, and it gave us the momentum — and also confidence, that even if we did give up points, our offense would answer.”
Down 23-13, D’Angelo was the one who answered. The reigning second-team all CSFL quarterback led his team down the field and capped of a five play, 56-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run as time expired in the third quarter.
Despite ending the third quarter by coming within three of the Red, D’Angelo would prove to be ineffective in the fourth, as neither team scored.
“In the fourth quarter we knew they were going to pass, and they just weren’t able to move the ball,” Parke said.
That includes the Quakers’ second-to-last drive, which proved to be their final legitimate chance to score before throwing a couple Hail Marys in the last seconds of the game.
With two minutes left and the game in the balance, D’Angelo was picked off by senior Matt Malleo. It was Malleo’s second interception of the game and the play that secured Cornell the win.
“Penn was looking for a huge play, and they did a semi-trick play — they had the running back delay, and then release out down field,” Malleo said. “I was playing deep, and I saw the running back coming down the middle. He was open, but fortunately John Parke was able to give him a good hit before the quarterback released the ball. The quarterback was under pressure, and he assumed the running back would be there and just through the ball up, and I dove and got the ball.”
And with that, the win.
“Basically every time we needed a big play, someone stepped up,” Parke said. “Malleo had a big impact with those two interceptions and [sophomore] Clay [Hemminger] had a bunch of sacks, but there’s also other things that might even go unnoticed. In the fourth quarter, only up by three, every time they touched the ball was a big play, and people were stepping up every single play.”
Throughout the game, the Red’s focus was on the Quaker’s signal caller, D’Angelo — Penn’s version of the wicked witch of the west.
“The first time we played them, D’Angelo scrambled around a lot and he was able to make a lot of big plays for them, and we definitely had to focus on containing him,” Malleo said. “We had to make sure that if he scrambled out there, we would hit him and make him pay for it.”
With the defense focused on containing D’Angelo, Penn’s quarterback was held to 10 completions on 23 attempts with only 129 yards and two interceptions.
“We put as many clean hits as we could on him, and by the end of the game he was bleeding, he was hurt, and I think he started making some throws a little quicker,” Malleo said.
D’Angelo, who averages 24 rushing yards a game — after yards subtracted due to sacks – was held to negative six yards on the ground, taking into account the six sacks the Red laid on D’Angelo. The six sacks, of which Hemminger was in on four, sent the Quakers back a total of 58 yards.
“Our main goal was to contain No. 10, [D’Angelo], and we did that pretty efficiently throughout the game,” Parke said. “When the quarterback is getting sacked, he isn’t creating the big plays that he was in the first game, when we lost. We were able to get to him and wrap him up. Last time, he was breaking free. This time, we were making plays.”
While Penn’s quarterback spent a lot of Friday night getting a good view of the brand new turf at Schoellkopf, Dentes was putting together yet another impressive game in the red and white. Dentes ended with 27 rushing yards, 286 through the air, one score on the ground and two more passing.
Both of Dentes’s touchdown passes when to Smith, who had a breakout game, leading the Red with 48 rushing yards. Josh Friedman led the Red receivers for the second consecutive week, catching six balls for 78 yards.
With the win over the Quakers, Cornell is now tied with Army and Penn in the loss column. The Red will play Army next week, needing a win to stay in contention for the title. With that in mind, the focus has not completely shifted away from Ivy foe Penn.
“We have to come out and do our job, and win out in these last two games,” Parke said. “But we also need some help from Penn or Army to beat Navy to give us a part of the championship.”
With the win against Penn, Cornell increased its winning streak at Schoellkopf to seven. For the Red, there’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.