The game did not start out pretty, with the Red trailing by 16 points in the second quarter. And despite clawing back to take a late one-point lead, Cornell could not hold on.
In the end, Cornell sprint football (1-2) lost to Chestnut Hill (1-2), 25-29 on a touchdown pass in the final minutes of the contest.
Chestnut Hill grabbed an early lead with a rushing touchdown and a field goal to lead, 10-0, at the end of the first quarter. The Red’s struggles continued with the Griffins scoring another touchdown, this time through the air. Cornell faced a 16-point deficit midway through the second quarter.
“I think we came out flat on Friday and we were fighting an uphill battle the rest of the game from there,” said senior quarterback Rob Pannullo.
“We started off the game game flat on both sides of the ball and this hurt us as it allowed Chestnut Hill to grab an early lead and momentum,” added senior running back Evan Ball.
But from that low point, the two would turn the game around with a huge 73-yard screen pass from Pannullo to Ball for a touchdown.
“The touchdown to Evan definitely was a turning point in the game and gave us some new life when we were down,” Pannullo said, “Coach Amato made a great decision to call a screen and we made some great blocks down field to open up a running lane for Evan.”
Ball agreed that the play would not have been possible without stellar blocking from his teammates.
“What really made the play though were the great blocks I had to work with from my linemen and receivers, particularly blocks on the edge by receivers Xander Furman and Rob Hendricks and lineman Caleb Minsky,” Ball said.
The revitalized Red continued to chip away at Chestnut Hill’s lead. About a minute before the half expired, Pannullo took one into the end zone on his own to put Cornell within two points.
After a scoreless third quarter, Chestnut Hill answered 30 seconds into the fourth with a 26-yard passing touchdown to go up, 23-14.
Just a few minutes later, Cornell marched 99 yards down the field to close the gap back to two points.
Then the Red finally grabbed the lead, with a 27 yard field goal from freshman Ben Finkelstein with just five minutes remaining in the fourth.
“Despite being down by two scores to start the game, we kept our poise, fought back strong and played a competitive game down to the last whistle,” Ball said.
“We showed a lot of resiliency and fought back enough to take the lead late in the game,” Pannullo added.
But Chestnut Hill would not go down without a fight. Taking only 33 seconds to find the end zone, the Griffins established a five point lead which they would keep until the clock struck zero.
Cornell had their chances to regain the lead, but could not seal the deal.
“We got the ball back twice [at the end] but couldn’t score,” said co-head coach Bart Guccia. “The kids played hard, came back, but just didn’t have enough at the end.”
The Red found itself failing to produce points on many of the opportunities it was given.
“We had chances to score but couldn’t finish the job especially at the end of the game when we didn’t successfully complete our two minute drill,” Pannullo said. “We fought hard all game though and I’m encouraged going into next week with the guys we have on our side.”
Cornell came up short too often, and ultimately failed to close the gap.
“Offensively, having to settle for field goal attempts instead of punching in touchdowns proved to be the difference in the end,” Ball said.
Another issue the Red faced on offense was maintaining momentum, converting only four of 18 third downs.
“We did not convert on third downs very well … and that hurt us,” Guccia said.
The Red must learn from their mistakes and move on, as a much tougher opponents is on tap next time.
“We’re looking to learn from this game, but put it behind us and come together as a team as we prepare to play Army on Friday at West Point,” Ball said.