Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

Head coach David Archer '05 and his team kick off the season at Delaware on Saturday.

October 22, 2016

In Overtime Thriller, Brown Hands Cornell Football its Third Straight Loss

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In a game that reflected the day’s weather — rainy and sloppy in the first half, sunny and crisp afterwards — Brown edged out Cornell, 28-21, in an overtime thriller. The loss extends the Red’s losing streak against Brown to nine games and drops the team’s record to 3-3 after a 3-0 start to its season.

In the first overtime period, Cornell and Brown traded touchdowns. But when the Bears went on to score to begin the second overtime, the Red (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) had no answer, and Brown (2-4, 1-2) snapped its four-game losing streak.

“I’m just stunned we lost,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “There was no doubt in my mind we were going to win, especially when we scored first [in overtime].”

The first half was riddled with monsoon-like conditions that drastically impacted the quality of play. On top of this, it was the first time the Red played on non-turf since Brown two years ago.

Both quarterbacks had trouble getting the ball out cleanly and the head coaches opted for the run game — in the first half, fewer than 20 passes were attempted by both teams.

“All the balls were soaked and we really felt we couldn’t throw it,” Archer said. “So we had to run the ball almost every play. In the second half we felt we could run our [regular] offense a little more.”

Despite the focus on running, offense as a whole was almost nonexistent in the entire first half. The only score before halftime came off a 76-yard punt return by Brown’s Alex Jette. In the wet and muddy conditions, Jette slipped through would-be Cornell tacklers and weaved his way into the endzone to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.

The Red was lucky to come out of the first half down just seven, though. The Bears had two field goal attempts in the first half and both of them went wide right.

“I just thought it was going to be a field position game with [senior punter Chris] Fraser able to flip the field for us until we could get things going our way we needed offensively,” Archer said. “Just shows you our defense really rose to the occasion in our own territory and rose to the occasion to keep points off the board.

The missed field goals were emblematic of the first half as a whole. Players slipped all over the field, easy catches fell through fingertips and tackles that seemed like sure things simply were not made.

Cornell struggled to put together a single strong offensive possession in the first half. Banks’ passes were wobbly and off-the-mark, and it seemed like whenever his passes were thrown well, the ball slipped out of the hands of Cornell receivers.

The Bears started the third quarter where they left off at the end of the first half. Quarterback T.J. Linta found Jette for his second touchdown of the day on an 18-yard strike.

Jette — who torched Cornell for 157 receiving yards when the teams last met, a 44-24 Brown victory — finished with 196 total yards and three touchdowns.

“Jette in the open field is tough,” Archer said. “He’s a really good athlete and when you get him you have to put him down. You can’t miss a tackle in open field space.”

As the rain subsided and the field began to dry, Cornell responded to the Brown touchdown with a score of its own. Banks orchestrated his best drive of the day with five straight passes and 57 passing yards. The sophomore capped off the drive with a nine-yard pass to senior captain and tight end Matt Sullivan.

Asked what caused Banks’ impressive turnaround in the second half, Archer said bluntly, “The balls weren’t waterlogged, so he was able to throw them.”

Several drives later, junior linebacker Kurt Frimel forced a fumble and returned the ball 71 yards to put the offense in ideal position to start the ensuing drive. Replays appeared to show that Frimel’s knee may have been down when he scooped up the loose ball, but, since Ivy League does not offer referees an option to review plays, the call on the field stood.

On the ensuing drive, a passer interference penalty on the Bears extended Cornell drive and allowed Banks to find senior receiver Ben Rogers in the endzone and tie the game at 14.

Later, as the fourth quarter ticked away and as the Bears attempted to score the go-ahead touchdown, Linta looked downfield for a Brown receiver, but junior safety Nick Gesualdi swooped in and muscled his way for an interception — his fifth in as many games.

These turnovers come a week after a five-turnover performance by the Red’s defense against Sacred Heart. In that game, too, defensive takeaways gave a struggling offense prime opportunities to capitalize.

“They really take great pride in taking the football away, which is great to see,” Archer said of his defense which he as extolled all season. “They play a tenacious brand of football.”

Cornell, however, was unable to capitalize on the interception and Fraser came on to punt the ball away.

After a pair of strong stops that kept the Bears backed up at their 10-yard line, a pass interference call on junior cornerback Jelani King gifted Brown another chance on the drive. The Bears marched down the field, but stalled out on Cornell’s 21-yard line.

The Bears pulled their original starting kicker after he missed two field goals in the first quarter and called upon freshman Jack Hall to kick the field goal. The 38-yard attempt was Hall’s first ever at the collegiate level, and the freshman’s kick was short, sending the game into overtime.

Cornell started with the ball in the first extra period. In five plays, Banks connected with senior receiver Marshall Deutz for a touchdown to put the Red ahead. Deutz ended the day as the team’s leading receiver, hauling in seven balls for 70 yards.

Brown sent the game into a second overtime period thanks to a two-yard pass from Linta to a wide-open Jette. The Bears started with the ball in the second overtime and Johnny Pena — who had four touchdowns last year against Cornell — scored, putting the Red on the brink of a loss for a third straight game.

Following the Bears’ score, Cornell regained the ball and Banks’ fourth-down run kept the team alive, setting the Red up with a new set of downs. After three incomplete passes, Cornell needed to reach the five-yard line for the first down, but an eight-yard pickup by Deutz was not enough.

The game ended, and so did Cornell’s chance at snapping its losing streak against its Providence rival.

With four games remaining — each of them in-conference games — Archer continues to have faith in his team. According to the head coach, the losses sting, but they still represent a vast improvement of the past few seasons.

“It hurts right now,” Archer said, “but tomorrow when the sun comes up it’ll be time to move on keep pressing this thing forward.”