Despite a well-fought comeback, the sprint football team suffered a painful loss at home against Penn, 17-12, on Friday evening.
With the loss, Cornell drops to 4-1 (2-1 CSFL), putting the coveted conference title perhaps out of reach. Penn improved to 5-0 (3-0 CSFL).
With games coming up against one-loss Army and heavy underdogs Princeton, Penn has become the strong favorite to the win the conference.
The game was highly touted as a perhaps season-defining matchup between sprint heavyweights and the only two remaining CSFL unbeatens. Under the lights at Schoellkopf Field, the two sides did not disappoint.
Penn put up an early lead in the first quarter on a Mike Bagnoli 6-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Todd Busler and receiver Whit Shaw extended the Quaker lead to 14 when they hooked-up for a long 39-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes left to go in the period.
“We missed a lot of tackles, and we lost our assignments,” said senior defensive lineman Kevin Schmidt of the defense’s first quarter play. “It took us a while to settle in … once we settled in we played a lot better.”
The reliable leg of senior kicker Alex Perilstein, however, would keep the Red in the game. Continuing his phenomenal season, Perilstein drilled four field goals of 24, 23, 35 and 30 yards.
“I do [feel confident],” Perilstein said. “I’ve been kicking for a handful of years now, and I have a lot of confidence in my snapper and holder.”
Despite the first quarter lapses, the Red defense was able to tighten-up as the game entered the second period. The unit held the Quakers to 178 yards of total offense, and only eight first downs. They were also able to successfully contain Bagnoli –– the league’s leading rusher –– to only 89 yards on the ground and one score. Schmidt had eight tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, while senior linebacker Clayton Hemminger added seven tackles.
Senior quarterback Elliot Corey and sophomore wiedeout Spenser Grunenfelder were electric all night, despite not being able to find the end zone. Grunenfelder had another spectacular game, racking up 13 catches for 121 yards.
“He’s a very hard worker in practice, and really works well with the quarterbacks,” Perilstein said of Grunenfelder.
Corey had something of a career night, throwing for 203 yards on 24 for 46 passing. Despite the solid yardage, the Red offense was unable to connect on any long routes, and the two thrown interceptions proved to be back-breaking.
Junior running back Douglas Famularo led the team rushing with 82 yards on 20 carries.
On the final drive of the game, with Cornell moving the ball down the field and working towards a game-winning touchdown, the Red seemed set-up for the dramatic come from behind win with first-and-goal and 46 seconds left to play. After a tough illegal shift penalty and three straight incompletions, Cornell gave-up a game-ending sack on fourth-and-seven, sealing the win for the Quakers.
Despite the disappointment, the players know the season is not lost yet.
“It definitely was a tough loss but the coaches have been reiterating what we’ve been saying as players, and that’s that the season is not over,” Perilstein said. “If Penn losses and we win, we’re back in the same spot that we were.”
The Red will take the field again on Friday as it welcomes the Navy Midshipmen to Ithaca.
“We just need to take care of business against Navy, and hopefully things fall into place,” Schmidt said.
Kickoff at Schoellkopf Field will be at 7 p.m.
Original Author: Holden Steinhauer