Only two offensive drives into the game, the Red (3-5, 1-4 Ivy League) already recorded 93 yards. Unfortunately, the scoreboard did not reflect these efforts. With turnovers on both first-and-goal and first-and-10, the Red was unable to convert for touchdowns on either drive, and eventually fell to Dartmouth (3-5, 2-3), 33-24.
“We came out and had a lot of turnovers right away when it looked like we would score,” said senior kicker Brad Greenway.
The Red’s second turnover of the game was an unlucky one, coming off a deflected ball that fell into the waiting arms of Dartmouth’s Joey Casey, for his second interception of the game.
“It was a tough hole to dig out of,” Greenway added.
Despite the offensive troubles in the first half, the Cornell defense was able to hold Dartmouth to only 10 points, even with the early turnovers.
“Defensively we were pretty much in control, especially in the first half,” said senior defensive back Rashad Campbell, who led the team with 14 tackles on Saturday. “I think we knew we’d pull together, and that the offense would come out stronger in the second half.”
The first shift in momentum occurred when strong pressure from the Red defense caused Dartmouth quarterback Conner Kempe to make an off-balance throw, which was picked off by senior defensive end Zack Imhoff and brought back 10 yards for a touchdown.
“The defense did a great job of keeping us in the game. Imhoff’s interception really got us going,” Greenway said.
Looking to stage a comeback trailing by a field goal, 10-7, with only two minutes left in the first half, the Red was unable to hold the momentum. Kempe hit tight end John Gallagher for another touchdown, and the Red went into the locker room down, 16-7.
The Cornell offense came out hot to start the second half with an 11-yard touchdown run by senior tight end Ryan Houska to put his team within two. Only four minutes later, the Red took the lead with a 42-yard field goal by Greenway.
“Our offense has been able to move at will against every team,” Greenway said. “We did a good job of responding after the turnovers and eventually taking the lead.”
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Matthews, who completed 25-of-38 passes on the day, helped keep the Red in the game. Despite a solid outing, the young quarterback expected more of himself, according to Campbell.
“Jeff is the hardest person on himself,” Campbell said. “I’m sure he wishes he could have a couple of those throws back.”
Despite a three-interception performance, the team still has extreme confidence in its quarterback, according to Greenway.
“Jeff is the best quarterback in the league,” he said. “He’s had some bumps in the road, but he’s still growing up. Being a sophomore leader is not the easiest thing in the world.”
Despite the efforts of Matthews and the Red defense, Cornell was unable to hold the lead for long after a 21-yard run by Dominick Pierre put the Green back on top, 23-17. Dartmouth running back Nick Schwieger added to the home team’s lead with a 65-yard touchdown run, making it a two-score game. Schwieger enjoyed a career day, breaking Dartmouth’s single game rushing record with 257 yards on the ground.
“Their running back was strong,” Campbell said. “He made some plays and turned some runs that typically would have been short gains into long runs.”
On defense, Cornell was caught slightly off guard by the Green’s combination of a mobile quarterback and a strong running back, according to Campbell.
“They did a little bit of a Wildcat offense where they used their running quarterback in the backfield, and we could’ve prepared for that better than we did,” Campbell said.
The Red hosts Columbia next week for its final home game of the season, when the seniors will be honored at Schoellkopf Field.
“We need to be working on all four cylinders in the first half,” Campbell said. “That’s how we have to come out against Columbia.”
Columbia is still looking for its first win of the season, and the Red looks to take advantage of the Lions’ disappointing season thus far, according to Greenway.
“With a struggling team like Columbia, we just have to jump on them early,” Greenway said. “The only person hurting our offense right now is ourselves.”
Original Author: Scott Chiusano