Quarterback Connor Ostrander could do no wrong Saturday evening.
Scoring all five of Cornell’s touchdowns, the junior led his team to a 35-14 victory at Mansfield for sprint football’s second consecutive win to begin the season.
Despite Ostrander’s success, Cornell by no means breezed through this one. The Red (2-0) found itself behind the Mountaineers (0-3), 7-0, early in the game.
“It was a high intensity, hard-fought game,” said head coach Bob Gneo. “Mansfield always plays really hard; the [final] score was really not indicative of how close the game was.”
In the waning moments of the first quarter, the Cornell defense surrendered a 12-yard passing touchdown following a blocked punt by Mansfield. In addition, the visitors could not muster up much on offense, totaling just 47 yards in the first.
But the next 45 minutes would reveal a different Cornell squad — on both sides of the ball.
Less than three minutes into the second quarter, the score was tied at seven after a 20-yard touchdown through the air from Ostrander to senior Karriem Royster. The wide receiver finished the game with six receptions for 108 yards.
“We knew we played a bad quarter and were capable of playing significantly better,” Ostrander said. “We were able to clean up the mental mistakes and take advantage of opportunities that we had missed in the first quarter.”
Not long after his first, the Red would benefit from another Ostrander touchdown. But this time, the quarterback would use his legs, taking it 15 yards for his first of two rushing touchdowns on the night.
“[Ostrander] slipped out of many difficult situations just on his own athletic ability and extended the play, either running it … or throwing on the run,” Gneo said.
Cornell was up, 14-7, following the score, and would hold onto that lead for the remainder of the contest.
While the offense continued to shine, the defense, too, found its groove after a rocky start. Mansfield would finish the game with just 151 yards of total offense compared to Cornell’s 412.
“Our defense played tremendous,” Gneo said. “Our front four were very dominant; we covered well. The defense has been playing outstanding since the beginning of the season. We need that to continue.”
Senior defensive back Dominic LaBell forced and recovered a fumble toward the end of the half. LaBell’s takeaway resulted in the Red’s third touchdown of the second quarter.
Sophomore Jack Nicoletti reeled in a 22 yard pass from Ostrander to close out the first half with a 21-7 lead.
“The defense came up with some key turnovers and stops to give the offense great starting field position,” Ostrander said. “The defense really helped shift the momentum of the game in our favor.”
Cornell would tack on a pair of touchdowns in the second half en route to its 21-point handling of the Mountaineers. Ostrander recorded another rushing touchdown and tossed a third passing score to junior Brooks Panhans in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
With the help of his supporting cast, Ostrander totaled over 300 yards of offense and no turnovers.
“The coaches did an excellent job scouting Mansfield and preparing us for the game,” he said. “The offensive line was opening huge holes for runners and giving plenty of time to throw the ball. The receivers also made some great catches. Overall it was a good team effort.”
Cornell managed to spoil what was a festive night at Mansfield. The school was celebrating “Light up Mansfield” to commemorate the anniversary of the first night game in college football history.
“Their theme was ‘Light up Mansfield’ and our theme was ‘Cornell Lights up Mansfield,” Gneo said.
The Red picked up its second win of the season following a week one bye and a 28-point win over Caldwell. But to maintain its undefeated record, Cornell will need to be near-flawless with the reigning CSFL champion Penn coming to Ithaca this Friday.
“We have a tougher schedule coming up,” Gneo said. “Every week we’ve played, the competition has gotten better.”
Action starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Schoellkopf Field.