November 7, 2011

SPRINT FOOTBALL | Wrapping Up the Season on a Strong Note

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After a disappointing season by Cornell standards, the sprint football team (3-4, CSFL 2-4) finished the year on a high note, beating Mansfield (2-5, 2-4) in its season finale on Friday, 21-14. Although Mansfield had a chance to tie on the last play of the game, the Red thoroughly dominated on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball — with two key special teams miscues preventing the Red from winning in a blowout.

“Both of the big plays [for Mansfield] were a result of bad snaps … that was really the only thing that was negative about the game,” said senior linebacker and tri-captain Tim Dooley. “Looking back, [those two snaps] may have had a big impact, but in a lot of other areas we performed well.”

One of those costly mistakes happened at the end of Cornell’s first possession. After the Mansfield defense held the Red to a three-and-out, the snap to sophomore punter John Rodriguez was low and bounced past him. As a result, Mansfield linebacker Jon Keller blocked the punt and ran it in for an early Mansfield lead, 7-0.

The Red maintained its composure, not allowing Mansfield to score again in the first half, while junior defensive back Chris Fieschko and Dooley both picked off passes to stop two drives. The offense also looked good, putting together two long drives for touchdowns. On the first drive, Cornell was helped by a pass interference call on a fourth-and-17 to put Cornell in the red zone.

Senior wide receiver and tri-captain Tim Bruhn made a one-handed catch to bring the Red to the 4-yard line before sophomore quarterback Brendan Miller punched it to tie the game, 7-7.  The second scoring drive was also helped by a pass interference call before junior wide receiver Abe Mellinger scored his first rushing touchdown of the year, giving the Red the lead, 14-7.

However, there were a few mistakes made by the offense in the first half, as senior running back Doug Famularo fumbled on the three-yard line and Rodriguez missed a 35-yard field goal to expand the lead.

“We made some big mistakes, a la the fumble on the three-yard line,” Bruhn said. “But, in general, we feel like we did a good job moving the ball and really executed for the majority of the game.”

The second half was much of the same story, as the Mansfield offense was unable to do anything against the Cornell defense, while the offense was able to score another touchdown on a one-yard run by Miller, expanding the lead, 21-7, heading into the final quarter.

With four minutes left, Cornell tried to expand its lead on a 40-yard field goal, but the snap was bobbled and the kick was blocked by Mansfield. Keller picked up the ball and returned it 72 yards for their second special teams touchdown of the day.

When Mansfield reclaimed the ball, the Red forced the Mountaineers into a fourth-and-17, but quarterback Mike Mansicalo — who had just seven passing yards to that point — threw a 47-yard bomb to wide receiver Sean Green. Mansfield had one final play at the 16-yard line to tie, but junior defensive back Charles Clausner sacked Mansicalo to end the game.

“Oh man, just let the ball hit the ground, let it drop, just don’t let them score here,” Bruhn said, when asked what was running through his head on the final play. “The last thing you want to do, after being on top most of the game, is let them back in at the very, very end like that, especially your last game as a senior. No one wants to see that happen.”

The close finish was a shock for the team.

“We had been controlling them from a defensive perspective the whole game, so I think everyone was confident and everyone knew what we had to do,” Dooley explained. “It was definitely a weird feeling because we hadn’t let up any points on defense, so we weren’t recognizing them as a threat. It was kind of weird to [give them a chance] to tie the game when we hadn’t given up any points defensively.”

The Cornell offense racked up 294 yards of offense, while Mansfield only gained 140 yards on 62 plays. While Miller has been the central focus of offense in most games, Famularo played a lead role in this game, gaining 113 yards on 26 carries — both season highs.

“Doug and the linemen — and really all of us — had a little bit of extra fire going in,” Bruhn said. “He went into the game 63 yards away from 1,000 on his career, so … we really wanted to get to that mark. We were able to do it, so it was pretty exciting for all of us.”

After playing their final game at Cornell, both captains praised the program and its impact on their time on East Hill.

“It has really been an amazing experience,” Bruhn said. “It has really shrunk the campus down where walking around, you’ll always run into somebody you know. Just being part of the team atmosphere really attaches you to the university and the program.”

Although the final game of their careers is over, the seniors’ involvement with the team will not cease.

“[Sprint football] has given me a great opportunity to play football at a high level, with a great group of guys,” Dooley said. “It has definitely been one of the biggest aspects of my life at Cornell and I am definitely looking forward to … be an alumnus, giving back to the program and being back for the alumni game and staying involved outside of Cornell.”

Original Author: Albert Liao