PHILADELPHIA — As the Penn football team celebrated winning the Ivy League Championship on the field with their fellow classmates, screaming the lyrics of their alma mater, members of the Cornell football team slowly walked into the locker room, as the team finished off its season with a 1-9 record for a second straight year. Going up against a Penn team hungry for a share of the conference title, Cornell football could not compete with the Quakers, who came out in the first quarter playing polished, physical football.
As soon as the ball was kicked off to begin the game, Penn showed how much they wanted the Ivy League title. The home team scored on its first two possessions of the game, amassing 168 total yards. On the flip side, the Quakers defense limited the Red offense to -1 yards and a turnover. Penn would go on to win the game, 34-21, clinching a tri-share of the Ivy League with Harvard and Yale.
“They came to ready to play today,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “We got off to a terrible start and didn’t have the firepower to climb all the way back … We got in a hole that was way too big for us. We had just one offensive play and we were already down 14 points.”
In a much more balanced second half, Cornell was able to limit Penn’s offense and hang with the Quakers, actually outscoring them, 14-7, but the damage was already done.
After a long kickoff return set the tone of the game, Penn quarterback Alek Torgerson completed two long passes to set up Penn’s first score. On the first play of Cornell’s ensuing drive, Penn defenders hit junior quarterback Robert Somborn while he was in the middle of his throwing motion result in a throw way off the mark, with the ball landing in the hands of a Penn defender. The Quakers found the end zone again a couple plays later. Cornell then went three-and-out and when Penn got the ball back, the Quakers marched down the field and scored again, putting the Red in a 20-0 hole.
Cornell began to look like the team it has in previous games later in the first quarter. Somborn’s 30-yard pass on fourth and 10 set up his 1-yard sneak into the end zone. But as soon as the Red began to close the gap, the Quakers brought it right back to 20, when Penn’s Lonnie Tuff returned the ball 92 yards to Cornell’s 4-yard line. The Quakers scored soon after on a three-yard run from Torgerson.
In the second half, Cornell did a better job of playing with Penn, but Penn sophomore standout wideout Justin Watson’s second touchdown catch of the day made the gap insurmountable. Watson ended with 133 yards and, all game, like most of the Ivy League this season, had trouble containing him.
As the game began to wind down, Cornell added a score when sophomore wide receiver James Hubbard blew past his defender and caught a touchdown pass from Somborn.
With about a minute left, senior running back Luke Hagy, on the final play of his collegiate football career, caught a pass a couple yards past the line of scrimmage and dodged his way into the end zone. On the game, Hagy had 81 rushing and 105 yards receiving to give him 4000 yards for his career.
Hagy is one of the members of the talented senior class who have been so integral in the change in team culture that Archer has talked about all year. A key to this change is the resilience nature of the team that has been evident through each game this season, despite the team’s record.
Archer gave member each of the senior class a brick with a plaque inscribed with their name on it, a gesture symbolic of how the senior class laid the foundation for future years of Cornell football.
“That certainly shows to me the message is being driven home that comes with the culture of playing for each other no matter what the score is or what is happening,” Archer said. “It shows me that that is being bought into.”
In addition to resilient, the other word that Archer has used to describe this team is inconsistent. And this inconsistency prevented Archer and his team from having a better record this year, the head coach said after the game.
After winning three games his first season, Archer now has overseen two straight one-win season. As the second youngest Division-I coach in the country, Archer sees major areas in which he can improve.
“I’ve got to do a better job to make sure I’ve got the right guys in the right position, making sure that we can execute our schemes, making sure that we play the best we can for every Saturday, all Saturdays,” Archer said. “There’s certainly a lot I need to improve on, I’m looking forward to getting back at it.”