Following a first-week bye, combined with a rigorous, daily training schedule, Cornell sprint football took the field Friday evening feeling invigorated and eager to begin its season on a high note.
And after an off-season marked by notable changes — namely, the departure of 14 seniors and the appointment of a new head coach — the game also represented an important test of resiliency for how the team would respond to an offseason of change.
Cornell, however, managed to put much of those lingering doubts to rest, decisively defeating an upstart, inaugural Caldwell team by a healthy margin, 48-20.
“Overall as a team, we played well,” said junior quarterback Connor Ostrander. “We accomplished a lot of the goals we set before the game and we came away with a win, which is the ultimate goal.”
Though the Red’s season-opener revealed an impressive team, its performance was not evenly distributed. Cornell owed much of its victory to a commanding first half in which it scored 35 points, while an iron-clad defense kept Caldwell to six.
Spearheading Cornell’s explosive start was sophomore Will Griffin, who burst out of the gate to power in two first-quarter rushing touchdowns, from 12 and six yards out, respectively.
Caldwell managed to answer Griffin’s offensive spurt with a touchdown of its own but failed to keep up as Cornell’s onslaught continued. In addition to another Griffin touchdown, senior wide receiver Ryman Seeley and junior quarterback Brooks Panhans each found the endzone, padding Cornell’s margin by another 21 points.
Rounding out the first half, and in one of the game’s most striking moments, Ostrander scored on a dramatic 50-yard run. The Cornell starting quarterback would go on to throw for 99 yards in the air, completing eight of his 13 passing attempts.
However, the Red was not able to fully replicate its dominant offensive campaign coming out of halftime.
Caldwell, a brand new team looking to avoid an 0-2 start after last week’s 69-6 blowout at the hands of Penn, started to put the pieces together, scoring two touchdowns in the final quarter.
But whatever momentum Caldwell had built, it was ultimately too little too late, as Cornell’s lead was large enough to stave off a comeback.
Despite a convincing win to begin the season, the Red’s players are still eager to improve their play as they head into potentially more formidable waters.
“We are always looking for ways to improve as a team,” Ostrander said. “We’ll have to break down the film and focus on the areas of need and work for improvement in the [upcoming] game against Mansfield.”
The Red will hit the gridiron again this Saturday, Sept. 30, when it travels to Pennsylvania to face Mansfield University.
Though the Mountaineers matched Cornell’s 2-5 record last year, it has begun the 2017 campaign on weak footing. The team has fallen in both of its two games this year, most recently suffering a lopsided 41-14 defeat to a forbidding Navy team.