This has been updated.
With a ferocious defense, a commanding offense and a hunger for revenge, Cornell football blasted Brown, 34-7, in front of a 13,000-plus Homecoming crowd to capture its first 2-1 Ivy League start since 2000.
The Red’s defense, which had twice set a record for fewest yards allowed under head coach David Archer ’05 already this season, limited the Bears to just 161 yards of offense for yet another record. Cornell’s defense rendered Brown’s offense anemic through the first three quarters, holding the Bears to 59 yards entering the final 15 minutes.
“It leaves me speechless,” said senior safety and captain Nick Gesualdi. “I’m so happy and so excited for the fact that the whole team could pull together and just put together a win like this. Especially being a senior, it hits home a little bit more. I couldn’t be happier.”
A year after a devastating double-overtime loss to Brown, Gesualdi said there was an extra level of preparation and intensity heading into this week. And it seemed to pay off: the Red scored on its first drive of the game and never looked back.
“I think the whole team had this one marked on our calendars for sure,” Gesualdi said. “Last year we knew we had it in us, but we just couldn’t put all the pieces together. This year … we’re starting to put the pieces together.”
Cornell more than doubled the Bears’ time of possession, playing polished, end-to-end football. With its victory over Harvard, the team now has wins over Brown and the Crimson in the same season for the first time since 1999.
The Red set the tone early, preventing Brown from getting a first down on its first drive of the game, eventually forcing Brown into eight three-and-outs on the day, including four straight to start the second half.
“They were really able to win the line of scrimmage,” Archer said of the defense. “They were winning in man coverage. They were confusing the quarterback. The way they were playing made you never feel like the game was ever in doubt.”
Toward the beginning of the third quarter with Cornell leading by 13, sophomore wide receiver Owen Peters fumbled the ball away seconds after coming down with a reception. The Bears took over with their eyes locked on turning the game into a one-possession contest. But the Red’s defense, as it did throughout the game, locked down and forced Brown off the field.
“That’s something we always prepare for,” said senior defensive lineman Seth Hope. “We always stress being able to bounce back after things don’t go our way.”
The dominant defense paved the way for opportunities for the offense, although it took some time for the offense to find its groove. At first, as has been the case throughout the season, Cornell’s offense put together long drives but failed repeatedly to reach the end-zone.
That all changed midway through the second quarter. Junior running back Chris Walker caught a short shovel pass from junior quarterback Dalton Banks and weaved through Brown defenders, eventually putting together a 46-yard catch-and-run. A few plays later, sophomore Harold Coles ran around the outside and scored his first of two touchdowns on the game.
From then on, each time Cornell threatened, it came away with a touchdown. Archer credited that to the offensive line “taking over” the game, giving Banks time to throw in the pocket — the junior completed 73 percent of his passes for 228 yards and no interceptions — and helping create rushing holes for the Red’s dynamic rushers — four separate Cornell players had more than 40 yards on the ground and the team had 276 total rushing yards.
“We were able to stay balanced,” Banks said. “We hit them with big runs and completed big passes when we needed them. We kept them guessing.”
Senior captain and running back Jack Gellatly led the team with 74 rushing yards, including a 60-yard rumble down the field that set up a three-yard touchdown run, his first of the year, that gave Cornell a 34-0 lead with 11 minutes to go in the game.
Gellatly’s touchdown marked the third straight Cornell drive that ended in seven points, part of the Red’s dominant second-half stretch in which Cornell outgained Brown on offense 259-9. During that 19-minute showing of dominance, the Red turned a 13-0 game into a 34-0 blowout.
With four games left, Cornell remains in the hunt for an Ivy League title in an Ancient Eight that is completely flipped on its head. Saturday could be a glimpse of what’s to come for the rest of the season, Gesualdi said.
“The energy on the team is so high,” he said. “Nobody is down on themselves, everybody is willing to keep getting better because they can see that there’s greatness out there. There are flashes of it. We’re just going to keep doing it.”