This post has been updated.
A week after a thrilling win over preseason favorite Princeton, Cornell football fell flat against Dartmouth, limping to a 10-0 loss in Hanover, New Hampshire. Coming into the game in a three-way tie for first in the Ivy League, Cornell was shutout for the first time since 2009 on Saturday.
Dartmouth scored on its second drive of the game and kept Cornell at bay throughout the rest of the contest. Led by running back Ryder Stone’s 119 rushing yards, the Green snapped a two-game losing streak after its 5-0 start to the season.
The Red’s offense, anemic and mistake-prone, failed to top 250 yards and never seriously threatened the Green’s defense. Junior quarterback Dalton Banks completed 41 percent of his passes for 184 yards, about a third of those coming on the final drive when the game was already out of reach. Dartmouth’s defense intercepted Banks once and broke up 13 of his passes, several times at the line of scrimmage.
“They made more plays than we did,” head coach David Archer ’05 said simply.
With the aerial attack sputtering, the ground game, which the Red had relied so heavily on in its previous Ivy wins, similarly struggled, accumulating just 51 yards — its lowest total since a week one loss at Delaware. In the victories over Harvard, Brown and Princeton, Cornell averaged 224 yards on the ground, including a 276-yard outburst against the Bears.
“They did a great job stopping the run game,” Archer said. “They just did not let our run game get off the ground and it hurt.”
In all, Cornell had 12 first downs, barely more than half its average through the first six games of the season. Facing several 3rd-and-long situations, the Red was forced to punt 12 times.
After an ugly first-half showing, the Red’s offense appeared to reignite when senior wide receiver Collin Shaw snagged a deep pass from Banks on 3rd and 11 and tiptoed down the sidelines to the Dartmouth 28-yard line for a 46-yard gain. Yet that momentum was squashed when Banks tossed two incompletions on the ensuing plays. Any hope for at least tacking on a field goal was deflated when Banks scrambled past the line of scrimmage and tried a forward pass. The team was hit with a five-yard penalty and a loss of a down, making a field goal, and a chance to get on the scoreboard, just out of reach.
Following that drive, Cornell totaled just 23 yards on its next seven offensive drives, five of which were three-and-outs. Each time the Red’s drive stalled out, Nickolas Null, the hero of the Princeton upset, did an excellent job pinning Dartmouth deep in its own territory. On the day, Null had seven punts that placed the Green inside its own 20-yard line. Once Dartmouth’s offense took over, Cornell’s defense came on and dominated, issuing the Green six three-and-outs in the second half.
“If you’re a defensive fan you would have wished that game went nine quarters the way both defenses were playing,” Archer said.
The head coach praised his defense, saying they played “well enough to win.” He specifically lauded the secondary, which is currently ranked first in the Ivy League for passing yards against. On Saturday, the defensive backs had 10 pass breakups and limited Dartmouth quarterback Jack Heneghan to 141 yards on 16-of-30 passing. Sophomore cornerback David Jones picked off Heneghan on an underthrown pass in the second quarter, but the Red offense squandered the opportunity to tie up the game at seven and punted away.
Following the punting ping pong, Cornell had a chance to put pressure on Dartmouth and march into Green territory to even up the game midway through the fourth quarter. But Shaw could not corral a hard-thrown Banks pass and the ball fell into the hands of Dartmouth’s Isiah Swann. The Green marched down the field, burning up time, and the squad eventually converted a field goal to extend the lead to 10, putting the game out of reach with 1:19 left to play.
At 3-2 in the Ivy League, Cornell is now tied with Harvard, Dartmouth and Columbia for second place in the Ancient Eight — all of which sit a game back of Yale.
Looking to remain in contention for an Ivy title, the Red welcomes the Lions next weekend for the Empire State Bowl. With the loss, however, Cornell no longer controls its own destiny in the championship race, and can only capture the crown if Yale drops one of its next two games.