It’s a common practice in the world of sports fandom, particularly for those involved in fantasy sports: checking the box score. However, while the box score is a great tool for consolidating statistics, it never really tells the true story of the game itself. Such was the case when the Cornell football team traveled to Providence, R.I., this weekend to take on the Brown Bears. A quick glance at the box score would reveal a 27-14 Cornell loss in which the Red was out gained on the ground and through the air, but a closer look would unveil a much different story.
After the Bears (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) got on the scoreboard first with a 45-yard field goal from kicker Alexander Norocea, the Red (1-5, 0-3 Ivy) responded with a quick score of its own. In just five plays, Cornell covered 70 yards behind the throwing of freshman quarterback Jeff Mathews and the running of freshman running back Grant Gellatly. Mathews stole the show, first connecting with junior receiver Shane Savage for 31 yards and then finding junior tight end Ryan Houska for a diving 21-yard touchdown. Gellatly contributed 23 yards on the drive with just two carries.
“I thought our [offensive] line played their best game of the year this week,” Mathews said. “Those guys have really grown together and I feel that they’re playing good football right now. They’re blocking well up front in pass protection but also in the run game. They’re opening holes for Grant to make good runs. Up front we did a much better job and I think those guys should get a lot of credit for that.”
On the ensuing drive, the Bears moved 59 yards down to the Red’s 4-yard line before quarterback Joe Springer fumbled an attempted hand-off and the ball rolled towards the end zone. Unfortunately for the Red, Bears running back Mark Kachmer was in the right place at the right time and fell on the ball for a Brown touchdown. In the box score, Kachmer was awarded a touchdown, but to the Cornell defense that had a chance to drastically change momentum with a recovery, that touchdown signified a missed opportunity.
“The little things in the game, Brown did them and we did not,” said junior defensive end Mike Spooner. “Brown is a very good football game and we just can’t afford to make those mistakes. It comes down to us coming back this week and really focusing on the little things. That’s really all it is, we just can’t afford to make mistakes like that against good teams.”
Another missed opportunity, which didn’t appear in the box score, came on the Red’s next drive, when Mathews connected with sophomore Luke Tasker for a 62-yard touchdown only to have the score called back due to a 15-yard clipping penalty.
“That was a big play that we ended up not getting and that hurts,” Mathews said. “It hurts to take a big play away, but at the same time you have to get over the play and focus on the next one.”
The penalty marked a shift in momentum and Cornell’s offense was silenced for the remainder of the first half.
The Bears, on the other hand, continued to strike, first kicking a 24-yard field goal to extend the lead to six with 5:28 remaining.
After two failed Cornell drives and one Brown three-and-out, the Bears got the ball at its 43-yard line with just 55 seconds left in the half. Time proved not to be an issue, as Springer completed three consecutive passes to cover 57 yards. The final pass was a completion through busted coverage to Alexa Tounkera for a 20-yard score and the Bears entered the half leading the Red, 20-7.
“They are a good team, but it’s not really anything they did,” Spooner said. “We shot ourselves in the foot. Going into the half at 13-7 as opposed to 20-7, it’s a one-possession game still. We just can’t afford to make small mistakes like that, they really add up in the final score.”
The third quarter was relatively quiet for both sides, as neither team threatened to score. This trend ended just two minutes into the fourth quarter, however, as Springer found Tounkera for a 13-yard touchdown to extend the Brown lead to 27-7.
As has been the case all season long, the Red refused to go down without a fight and capped off a 67-yard drive with Houska’s second touchdown of the day. This time, Houska ran the ball into the end zone from 2-yards away.
“[Houska is] a big guy with good hands,” Mathews said. “He’s one of those guys that when you get down close and throw the ball to, he makes plays. Right now he’s been making plays for us, so that’s exciting.”
Down 27-14, Cornell got the ball back with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game and a chance to stage a late comeback. After driving to the Bears’ 35-yard line, Mathews dropped back and was sacked for the fifth time of the game, all but assuring the loss for the Red. A failed fourth-down conversion two plays later gave the ball back to the home team and Brown killed the clock to remain undefeated in Ivy League play.
The Red stays winless in the conference with the loss to the Bears, but comes away from the game with some promising signs for the future. The young Mathews finished with 232 yards and one touchdown through the air, and most importantly, no interceptions. Savage recorded his first 100-yard receiving effort of the year with an eight-catch, 104-yard performance and Tasker contributed 70 receiving yards of his own. Cornell will have the opportunity to build on these positive take-aways when it returns home for a Halloween weekend matchup with Princeton on Saturday.
“We just need to take the next step and win a game,” Mathews said. “Whatever that takes, we need to win.”
Original Author: Dan Froats