By JOON LEE
They really did try to flip the narrative of the season. In the early part of the 2015 season, the Cornell football team had been on the wrong end of comebacks during its first two games.
Down 27 points in the fourth quarter, the Red (0-3, 0-1 Ivy League) had a chance to make Colgate University (2-3) feel the pain, just like they had when they dropping massive leads to Bucknell and Yale.
Instead, all that came out of the first night game at Schoellkopf field was more pain. Coming 10 yards short of a touchdown on the last drive of the game, the win would have changed the team’s fortunes. Instead, the Red dropped the contest to the Raiders, 28-21, and fell to 0-3 on the season.
“We [were] so close,” said senior wide receiver Ben Rogers. “There are three games right there that we feel that we should be 3-0.”
Indeed, with the luck of the draw, Cornell’s record could be looking at itself in the mirror and the Red could be the most surprising undefeated team in the Ivy League. A stop on a miraculous touchdown pass against Bucknell, a sack of Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts and a completed pass from Somborn 10 yards out against Colgate, and the Red could be undefeated on the year.
Instead, the Red has experienced fourth-quarter heartbreak, a feeling that it has known all too well so far this season. This time, coming so close, the pain was just as bad for head coach David Archer ’05.
“It hurts all of the way until tomorrow morning, when I wake up in the morning and I’m so thankful for the opportunity that I have with these kids,” Archer said. “I know this is all part of our making in [the] program and we have so much of our season ahead of us.”
Somewhere out there, Colgate junior quarterback Jake Melville is still running in circles away from the Cornell pass rush. Melville ended the day with 257 passing yards on 18-0f-28 attempts, two touchdown passes, 99 rushing yards on 14 carries and another score on the ground. The gunslinger’s direction of the Raiders no-huddle offense ultimately set the tone for the majority of the game.
“I’m hoping [Mellville]’s a senior,” Archer said. “If not, maybe we can get him an accelerated graduation program.”
The Red defense struggled to keep up against Melville and the Colgate uptempo offense through the first three quarters of the game, allowing 419 total yards versus its own 176. Frequently, Melville rolled out of the pocket after feeling pressure from the Red rush and scrambled and danced around defenders.
“We make sure that we have a good conditioning program all year long to play against the no-huddle,” Archer said. “I think it was more Melville than anything else, to be quite honest with you.”
Melville often salsaed, shimmied and scampered his way through the Red defense until a gap opened up for a quick scramble or a receiver opened up. Cornell simply had no answer for the Colgate no-huddle offense, which totaled 484 total yards of offense, 257 through the air and 227 on the ground in the game.
The Red struggled to keep up in both the running and passing game, leading to a touchdown pass from Melville to wide receiver Alex Greenawalt for the first of the game. After that, the team’s inability to stop Melville proved to be the Red’s biggest downfall.
Colgate football head coach Dan Hunt, who lead the Raiders to a 27–12 over the Red in 2014, had kind words for Archer’s squad.
“I’ve been saying all week that of all of the teams that we played last year that we played again this year, I think Cornell is the most improved team,” Hunt said. “We knew all week that they were going to be good and their defensive style is aggressive.”
The next step for Archer’s squad is making that leap from being one play away from victory to victory itself. Archer said that the team needs to put four quarters of good football together, something that it has struggled to do this season.
“I’ve been on Cornell teams and been a coach on Cornell teams where there is no shot that they come out in the second half and play that brand of football,” Archer said. “They just let it become a runaway. That’s not what these guys chose to do. They chose to make it within a play. It’s totally different.”