There’s something about this Cornell football team that whenever the Red does something well, the team follows it up with a mistake. Against Princeton today, that was abundantly clear. If Cornell were to put together a strong offensive possession, the team would slow to a halt deep in Princeton’s territory, and come away scoreless. If the defense were to make two strong pass break-ups, the Red would miss tackles and allow a long run for a first down.
The Red (0-7, 0-4 Ivy) leaves Princeton (5-2, 2-2) still without a win. The Tigers never trailed and won 47-21. Princeton put up 452 yards of offense led by do-it-all quarterback John Lovett, who finished with 92 rushing yards, two touchdowns and countless broken tackles.
“It kind of mimicked our season where you’d see a ton of incredibly good things and then some really bad things,” said head coach David Archer ‘05. “The first part of the game we couldn’t finish, we weren’t able to come away with points from our field goal unit and we weren’t able to come away with points from our offense. It’s like a microcosm of the season.”
Senior running back Luke Hagy returned to the Red after sustaining a concussion two weeks ago against Sacred Heart, and the offensive captain made an impact, rushing for 128 yards, accumulating 41 receiving yards and scoring a touchdown.
“It was awesome to be back,” Hagy said, “It was hard to be on the sidelines, watching everybody work so hard when I’m not being able to do anything.”
Junior quarterback Robert Somborn finished with 279 yards and two touchdowns, and Cornell as a whole compiled 444 yards of offense. But it wasn’t enough to hang with Princeton.
Cornell’s defense came out strong in the first half, forcing three straight three-and-outs to begin the game. The offense was similarly clicking, that is until Cornell made it deep until Princeton territory. On the Red’s first three possessions, Cornell made it within the Tigers’ 25-yard line. Yet the team couldn’t come up with any points, missing two field goals and failing to convert a fourth down.
“I thought we came out and the offense was on a roll,” Hagy said. “We were moving the ball down the field. Our defense was doing really well. It came down to we just weren’t finishing plays. We were doing really well till we get it to the red zone then we kind of stalled. We’d make a mistake, we’d get a penalty that kind of set us back. So we got to make sure that we continue to have these great drives but also make sure we finish the drives with touchdowns.”
The offense had a tough break when sophomore quarterback Jake Jatis’ pass bounced off the hands of wide receiver Chris Lenz and Princeton came away with it later in the first quarter. The Tigers marched down the field following the take-away and got on the board first with a 8-yard touchdown pass from Princeton quarterback Chad Kanoff.
Cornell failed to capitalize in Princeton territory again in the second quarter, turning the ball over on downs after the offense couldn’t convert a fourth-and-6 at the Tigers’ 24-yard line. Princeton got the ball back and, thanks to two long plays, quickly and efficiently worked its way down the field. Lovett ran in for a touchdown, putting the Tigers up by 14.
“He really made some plays,” Archer said about Lovett. “He’s a great athlete. He was playing quarterback and receiver for them and lining up all over of the place. Obviously he made some plays for them and we had trouble defending him.”
After forcing another three-and-out, the Red had good field position after another weak punt from Princeton. Cornell worked its way down the field and then Somborn threaded the needle and connected with Ben Rogers from 26 yards out to get Cornell on the board.
Princeton quickly responded with a field goal to give the Tigers a 10-point lead going into the half. Princeton then used some strong runs to start the second half with a score, but Cornell responded with a touchdown of its own. Hagy started the drive with a 44-yard rush, breaking through the line of scrimmage and shaking off a Princeton defender before being brought down at the 30-yard line. Somborn found Rogers twice on the drive before Hagy dove into the end zone.
Yet, as has been the theme all year, Cornell couldn’t continue the momentum. Princeton’s offense exploited poor tackling by Cornell. The Tigers ended with 261 rushing yards, most of the yards coming after contact. The Tigers added one more touchdown and field goal in the third quarter.
“Missed tackles plagued us,” Archer said. “Those things are going to get you beat, missed assignments are going to get you beat … So it’s all falls to me. I’m the head football coach, and I have to make sure that this team is going out and producing and making plays.
Cornell again showed some life down 20 points, when Rogers returned a kickoff all the way to Princeton’s 30-yard line. Hagy broke through five tackles giving the Red a first-and-goal. After a penalty, Lenz dove to catch Somborn’s pass in the end zone, bringing the score to 34-21.
But Princeton immediately responded on the kickoff when Tigers’ Dre Nelson returned the ball 103 yards for the score, giving Princeton a 40-21 lead, effectively putting the game away.
With three games left in the season, including one against No. 21 Dartmouth, Cornell is still in search of its first win this season.
“We’re looking to build a program at Cornell, which we’ve never really had,” Archer said. “These are the hard few years, the growing years. That being said, we have to do a better job. I have to do a better job, our coaches have to do a better job, the players have to do a better job. We’re all in this thing together, and so we need to analyze what each of us can do and make sure we come out and do it to the best of our ability.”