Sometimes, it is important to take a step back from the world of sports and think about what really matters. Cornell’s sprint football team (2-4, CSFL 2-4) lost to league-leading Navy (6-0, 5-0) in its game on Friday, 42-21, but more importantly, the whole team returned safely to Ithaca on Sunday after it was involved in a serious accident on the bus trip home.
The team was travelling on two buses, with a semi-truck in between the two. The offensive players’ bus was in front and the defensive bus was behind the truck. While making its way back to Ithaca, the team was driving through a snowstorm when the accident occurred.
“A branch came down on [the first bus] and we swerved out of the way to try to avoid it. The tractor-trailer behind us also tried to swerve out of the way … and the bus behind it was put in a little bit of a tight spot and tried to avoid it,” said senior wide receiver and tri-captain Tim Bruhn, who was travelling on the offensive bus. “The bus ended up scraping against the tractor-trailer and the guard rail, but thankfully nobody was seriously injured and we just had to spend the night in a hotel for an extra night.”
“[When it happened], all the guys were asleep, but we woke up … to the bus driver screaming, ‘Watch out!’,” recalled senior linebacker and tri-captain Tim Dooley, a passenger on the defensive bus. “We just felt the bus vibrating and … shaking and we were in the dark [as to what was happening]. It was only like four seconds of actual shaking and motion and the bus came to a stop. It was kind of a light mood; people were cracking jokes and didn’t realize what had just happened.”
In the game, the Red had a legitimate opportunity at upsetting undefeated Navy. The Red looked sluggish coming out of the gates, starting the game with five punts and a lost fumble. Navy took the early lead, 14-0, and seemed to be on its way to an easy victory when it punted the ball back to the Red with four minutes remaining in the first half. Suddenly, the Cornell offense came alive, as it put together a nine-play, 77-yard drive for a touchdown, capped by a 34-yard catch in the end zone by Bruhn, cutting the deficit to seven points.
On the ensuing kick-off, the Red successfully converted an onside kick, regaining possession with 59 seconds remaining. After a crucial 52-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Brendan Miller to junior wide receiver Spenser Gruenenfelder put the Red on the two-yard line, Miller completed his second touchdown pass within 30 seconds to senior tight end Ramond King. Suddenly, the Red tied the game, 14-14, heading into halftime.
“We were at a real high point going into halftime,” Dooley said. “The game turned really quickly on offense, it wasn’t really producing before that.”
“We have shown time and time again, when we are firing on all cylinders, we have that quick strike-ability on offense that was on display at the end of that first half,” Bruhn added. “However, the rest of the way, not everything was clicking and that definitely hurt us in the long run.”
After going into halftime stunned by Cornell’s two late touchdowns, Navy quickly regained its composure, scoring on the first drive out of the break. The Navy defense also reasserted its dominance, allowing just 58 yards through the entirety of the second half. Cornell scored once more as a result of a fumble on Navy’s own 11-yard line, but could muster nothing more.
“They did a good job of bottling up our whole offense,” Bruhn said. “We were kept to around 150 yards on the day, which is definitely less than our average … I think just overall they had a very strong effort against our entire team.”
Junior wide receiver Abe Mellinger, who averages 98 receiving yards per game, was held to just 14 yards on four catches. Miller, who has excelled this season under center, was just 14-of-27 with 134 passing yards, most of which came on the two big passing plays to Bruhn and Gruenenfelder at the end of the first half.
While the Red’s offense struggled, Navy’s offense was firing on all cylinders, led by its potent rushing attack. Quarterback Lewis Correale completed only 5-of-19 passes for 50 yards on the day, but the team gained 288 yards on the ground, led by 174 yards and two touchdowns from running back David Williams.
“We knew that their passing game was definitely not as strong this year, so we knew coming into the game, we had to shut down their running game,” Dooley said. “We performed well … but the punting game sputtered a little bit, and we were constantly defending deep in the red zone. We were pushed back for most of the game … It is just hard to constantly [stop them when] put in a situation where they only need 20-30 yards to score. Our defense did a good job with the situation we were given.”
Navy will face off against undefeated Army in the final week to determine who will be crowned champions this year — Navy already defeated Army this year, 38-20, in a non-league game. On Friday, Cornell will host Mansfield at Schoellkopf Field in its season finale at 7 p.m.
Original Author: Albert Liao