Facing the loss of 11 valuable seniors, the introduction of two new assistant coaches, and an untested freshmen class — an off-season of major changes and uncertainty loomed over sprint football’s first game of the year this Saturday.
But Cornell put many lingering doubts to rest when the team opened its 2018 campaign with a towering 28-11 win on the road over Caldwell, the second-consecutive season in which the Red has put away the Cougars in its season-opener.
Last week, associate head coach Bob Gneo had predicted the matchup against Caldwell would be a difficult one.
“We have a tough schedule early,” he said. “Caldwell will be much, much better this year, they have a lot of new freshmen.”
But the Red quickly proved such humble expectations were largely unnecessary. After Caldwell made a 34-yard field goal attempt just five minutes into the game, Cornell responded by going on a tear — scoring 28 consecutive points.
Following the Cougar’s early field goal, the Red went 71 yards in eight plays, finished off by senior quarterback and captain Connor Ostrander’s four yard toss into the endzone. Then, with 6:15 remaining in the first half, Cornell added a second touchdown in the form of a three yard run from junior running back Connor Young.
The Red went on to add two more touchdowns, blocking Caldwell from getting back on the board until only three and half minutes were left in the fourth quarter.
In a typical show of offensive prowess, Ostrander threw 38 yards to senior Brooks Panhans and 46 yards to junior tight end Reed Fratt, closing out the game with 191 yards in the air.
Complementing Ostrander’s efforts, Panhans notched five receptions throughout the contest, while sophomore wide receiver Joseph Welsh had four in his collegiate debut.
According to Gneo, the team had lost “almost its entire interior defensive line” over the off-season to graduation, leading to concerns that it would be the squad’s weak link. But a combination of remaining veterans and new freshmen ensured that those concerns would not be realized.
Led by senior linebacker Alfonso Nazzaro’s 10 tackles, the Red’s defense finished the day with six forced turnovers, three fumble recoveries, three interceptions and held the Cougars to a mere 18 rushing yards.
The Red will hit the gridiron next Friday as it travels away to Philadelphia to square off against Penn, one of the league’s strongest teams.