Eldon Lindsay / Courtesy of Cornell Athletics

Senior running back Harold Coles speeds ahead of Bulldogs.

September 29, 2019

Football Notebook: Cornell Slips to Yale in Ivy Opener

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uring head coach David Archer’s ’05 six-year tenure, Cornell football has only notched one win against Yale. Entering his seventh season at the helm, Archer’s recent squads have played the Bulldogs in tight matches before falling out of the contest late.

Unfortunately for the Red, it suffered a similar fate on Saturday. Despite playing well throughout the first three quarters, Cornell fell apart in the fourth, effectively sealing its own fate. Here are eight observations from the Yale Bowl:

Pick City:

With junior Richie Kenney filling in for injured senior quarterback Mike Catanese, the Cornell offense experienced a number of setbacks — four of which were caused by Kenney himself. That’s right — Kenney threw four second-half interceptions, including three in the fourth quarter. Asking Kenney to solely take the reins against a top-ranked Yale team was certainly no easy task, but Kenney’s picks derailed the offense and eliminated any chance that Cornell had of winning this contest. Kenney’s first interception was a painful overthrow. Yalie Rodney Thomas II snatched the ball and galloped into the endzone to erase Cornell’s only lead. With the Red trailing in the fourth quarter following scores by the Bulldogs, Kenney oftentimes forced the issue, and Yale capitalized with three more picks to curb any offensive momentum that Cornell possessed.

Balling Out:

On an otherwise dismal offensive day, Cornell saw the emergence of a new playmaker: Delonte Harrell. The sophomore running back was tabbed by Archer in the leadup to the season as a change-of-pace option behind senior running back Harold Coles. In the third quarter, the sophomore found himself wide open on a route, and he took the pass from Kenney to the house for an 89-yard score, which gave Cornell its first and only lead. Harrell then notched another touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter, bringing his total receiving yardage to 134 on the day.


Harrell wasn’t the only bright spot as Coles continued to shine as Cornell’s offensive centerpiece. Coming into this game sporting strong performances against Yale, Coles did not disappoint. The Erie, Pennsylvania, native netted 141 yards on 18 carries. Thanks to Coles, the Cornell offense found rhythm as it moved the sticks through big chunks gains. Through two games, the senior is well on his way to breaking 1,000 all-purpose yards as he has picked up 291 total yards along with a trip into the endzone.


Besides the bounty of interceptions that shifted the momentum in Yale’s favor, Cornell shot itself in the foot several other times. To kick off the second half, the Red marched into the red zone as Coles led the way with big runs. Cornell then suffered numerous self-inflicted wounds including a negative play, a false start and a sack. A once-makeable field goal now turned into a 48-yard try, which Garrett Patla missed wide left. Near the end of the game, the Red scored a touchdown to cut Yale’s 10-point lead into a mere field-goal deficit — or so it thought. Patla’s PAT was blocked, and the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Bulldogs’ JP Shohfi, who returned the ball for the game-sealing touchdown.


A week after stifling Marist to the tune of seven points and two rushing yards, the Red defense had another strong showing — this time against a far more legitimate offense. While it seems that Kurt Rawlings and the Yale offense still working out some kinks, it was impressive for Cornell to limit the Bulldogs to 327 yards of offense. And though the final score shows a Yale side putting up 27 points, the defense only gave up half of those points. The Bulldogs scored twice off a pick-six and a kick-return touchdown.

Clutch Defensive Stops:

Elaborating further on the defense, Cornell came up with several huge stops to keep itself competitive. In a first quarter in which Yale outgained the Red in total yardage, 126-28, Cornell only conceded three points. That largely stemmed from a goal-line stand on Yale’s first possession. Following a long drive, the Bulldogs made their way inside the five-yard line, but Cornell came up with an enormous stop on fourth-and-one to deny Yale the score. This goal-line stand took place a week after the defense also notched two goal-line stands in Poughkeepsie. During the fourth quarter, Kenney threw his second interception — also to Thomas — pinning the Red defense inside the 10-yard line. With Yale already up by seven, Cornell could not afford to give up a touchdown. That’s when Kenan Clarke took the initiative and picked off Rawlings in the endzone to keep Cornell in the game.


The Red continues to be inhibited by injuries early in its season. While it seemed like Catanese would suit up after only suffering “cramps,” according to Archer, in the game against Marist, the quarterback was ruled inactive. Meanwhile, Nickolas Null returned to action after missing the previous contest. Due to his quad injury, though, Null was unable to handle place-kicking duties and could only handle punts. After exiting the Marist game with an ankle injury, Jack Burns returned to action as part of a Cornell offensive line that only gave up a single sack to Yale during the afternoon.

Similar Script:

What makes this loss sting even more is how close Cornell has come to defeating Yale in recent memory. A year earlier, the Red hosted the Bulldogs on Homecoming and played them close throughout. In the final quarter, Cornell trailed by a mere two points before Yale pulled away for a six-point victory. Saturday’s contest was a day filled with missed opportunities and unfinished drives. Had Cornell cut down on its errors and been fully healthy, one could wonder how an early win of this magnitude would shift the course of the season.