“Almost” has characterized the Cornell football team’s (2-3, 0-2 Ivy League) losses through the first half of the 2011 season. The latest chapter, a heartbreaking overtime defeat after a furious rally at Colgate (4-3, 1-1 Patriot League) on Saturday, 35-28, was the third loss for the team in which it was right in the thick of things but failed to earn a victory.Despite playing without its starting quarterback, sophomore Gavin McCarney (separated shoulder), and leading rusher, senior running back Nate Eachus (concussion), Colgate and its makeshift offense produced enough scoring to earn its fourth straight victory over the Red.In the overtime session, junior running back Jordan McCord punched it in from four yards out and the Cornell offense sputtered on its chance to extend the game, failing on fourth-and-4 from the six-yard line. McCord rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Colgate offense compile 291 yards and all five of its scores on the ground. The Raiders attempted only 10 passes in the absence of McCarney. Cornell trailed, 28-17, and had just turned the ball over on downs with 2:21 remaining. It appeared as though the game was over until the Red got the break it was looking for on Colgate’s first play from scrimmage. Senior defensive end Zack Imhoff, who finished with 13 tackles and a sack, hit McCord and stripped the ball free, and senior cornerback and kick returner Rashad Campbell recovered the loose ball. On the ensuing Cornell drive, after two incompletions, sophomore quarterback Jeff Mathews found junior wide receiver Luke Tasker for a 52-yard touchdown. Senior tight end Ryan Houska threw a Tim Tebow-like jump pass to junior fullback Nick Mlady to convert on the two-point conversion, cutting the Colgate lead to a field goal, 28-25, with 1:52 to play.After barely missing the recovery for an onside kick attempt, the Red used its two remaining timeouts to stop the clock and forced the Raiders into a fourth-and-1 situation on the Cornell 21. Colgate declined to kick the 38-yard field goal, instead deciding to run the ball in hopes of securing the victory with a first down. Sophomore safety Josh Barut and sophomore defensive end Tre’ Minor converged on Colgate junior running back Zauhn Lewis at the line of scrimmage to earn the Red a crucial stop and give the offense a chance to complete the comeback.“As soon as we stopped them, I kind of had a feeling I was going to get a shot, whether it was going to be a really long field goal or not,” said senior kicker and punter Brad Greenway. “I knew there was enough time on the clock to get me into range. I told Jeff, ‘Get into the 56- or 57-yard range and we’ll be OK.’”Mathews complied and more, immediately hitting Tasker in the middle of the field for a 51-yard gain, and Houska hauled in a five-yard reception sandwiched between two Cornell spikes. Houska was ruled inbounds on a controversial call by the officials, leaving the clock ticking and preventing the Red from taking a chance at the end zone. Mathews’ second spike stopped the clock with 7.4 seconds remaining, and Greenway came to the rescue, sneaking a 40-yard field goal attempt inside the left upright through strong winds to send the game to overtime.“I’ve been in the position before, so I wasn’t nervous at all — I approached it like any other field goal,” Greenway said. The third-place all-time scorer at Cornell missed his first field goal attempt of the season on a 38-yard try late in the first half, which he admits helped him cash in the game-tying one. “It was definitely the hardest conditions I have played in kicking-wise — there was a pretty good wind from right to left,” Greenway said. “Without that miss in the second quarter, I wouldn’t have known where to hit it, but I aimed right outside the right upright and I knew as soon as I hit it that it was going in.”The key play on Colgate’s turn in overtime was a pass interference call on Campbell on third-and-5 from the Cornell 20, and the Raiders used three plays to drive it in from there.“The timing of my collision with the [Colgate wide receiver] gave the referee what he needed to make the call,” Campbell said. “There was a question about whether the ball was catchable. It didn’t make or break the game, but it was a big call. To have that penalty at the end of the game was frustrating.”Cornell lobbied the officials for a pass interference call of its own on the final play of the game, when Mathews overthrew freshman wide receiver Lucas Shapiro on a pass in the back of the end zone. But the Red’s call went unanswered, dropping the team’s record to 2-3.“It was probably one of the toughest losses I have had in my five years here,” Greenway said. “It was a roller-coaster game — there were so many emotions and many people thought the game was completely over with. Once we got into overtime, I thought the game was pretty much going to be in our hands … It’s really easy to give up, but the guys didn’t give up. That’s what the hardest part is — you put in so much emotion when you don’t give up.”At first, the second half was characterized by fast-paced scoring, with the two squads combining for 21 points in fewer than five minutes of play; however, the defenses soon took over to create a battle for field position prior to the dramatic finish. Mathews was nailed by Colgate sophomore defensive lineman Shane Wilson and fumbled on the first play of the second half, leading to a 7-yard rushing score from McCord. That series of events was followed by Campbell returning an 85-yard kick-off for a touchdown, the senior’s first touchdown of his career. Colgate increased its lead on the ensuing drive, 28-17, after junior backup quarterback Josh Hasenberg scored on a three-yard run with 10:07 remaining in the third quarter. Greenway knocked in a three-point field goal from 47 yards out on Cornell’s first possession of the game, but Colgate responded later in the first quarter when Hasenberg ran the ball in from 10 yards out. Mathews was also sharp early, finding junior wide receiver Kurt Ondash for an 18-yard touchdown with 11:51 to play in the first half, putting the Red back up, 10-7, but a seven-yard run by Lewis gave the Raiders the halftime lead, 14-10. Ondash’s touchdown capped a seven-play, 93-yard Cornell drive — the Red’s second 90-yard scoring drive of the season.Mathews finished with 328 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-41 passing, but threw interceptions deep in Colgate territory on consecutive second-half possessions — his sixth and seventh picks of the season. Tasker, who was held without a reception until the fourth quarter, tallied 114 yards on four catches, while Houska had a career-high 81 rushing yards on 12 carries to lead the Red’s ground attack. Ondash hauled in six passes for 78 yards and senior wide receiver Shane Savage caught four balls for 89 yards.On defense, senior linebacker Brandon Lainhart and sophomore linebacker Brett Buehler joined Imhoff as the Top-3 tacklers for the Red for the second straight week. Lainhart matched Imhoff with 13 tackles and Buehler recorded nine.Senior cornerback Nick Booker-Tandy — a converted running back from a season ago — snatched a Hasenberg pass in the end zone 14 minutes into the game for his first career interception, and junior defensive tackle Emmitt Terrell intercepted Hasenberg on the game’s opening drive. The Raiders threw only 10 passes on the day (nine by Hasenberg), three of which were completed for a total of 52 yards. Colgate attempted 66 rushes, led by 18 attempts for 127 yards from the mobile Hasenberg, who himself was injured and replaced by freshman Jimmy DeCicco in the second half. “They ran for a lot of yards,” Campbell said. “It was frustrating that they were so successful off [the option play] — I feel like we came back and figured it out in the fourth quarter. We stopped them toward the end of the game.”Cornell looks to get back to .500 in its penultimate home game of the season when Brown visits Schoellkopf Field on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Original Author: Quintin Schwab