In the leadup to Cornell football’s Homecoming contest against Georgetown, it was clear that the Red’s defense was superior to its offense. Impressive defensive showings and lackluster performances on offense occurred against both Marist and Yale, and the same proved true against the Hoyas on Saturday. In a sluggish 14-8 game, Cornell came out on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Here are eight observations from the Red’s second straight loss:
1). Offensive Woes:
As has been the case for the past couple weeks, Cornell’s offense once again underwhelmed. During the first half, the Red failed to notch a single point, yet it drove inside the Georgetown 30-yard line on two separate occasions. Cornell came away with zero points as senior quarterback Mike Catanese threw an interception on a miscommunication, and junior kicker Garrett Patla missed on a 44-yard field goal attempt. Cornell finally scored at the end of the third quarter, but that single touchdown was not enough. Evidently, it’s very difficult to win football games when the offense can only find the end zone once. Also of note was the Red’s dreadful efficiency on third down. Cornell moved the sticks on only two of its 13 third down attempts, a ghastly 15 percent conversion rate.
The Cornell defense suffered a big loss on the first play of the second quarter. Georgetown quarterback Joseph Brunell was throttled by senior linebacker Lance Blass on a pass attempt. Blass was penalized for roughing the passer, and a targeting call sent him to an early shower. While the Red continued to bleed yards on the ground as Herman Moultrie III consistently picked up chunk gains, Cornell came up with several big stops to deny scores to Georgetown.
After eclipsing the 100-yard rushing mark in his first two games of the year, senior running back Harold Coles looked noticeably less spry. For one, Coles only received 10 carries on the ground, a clear decline from his previous workloads. Even with fewer touches, Coles averaged 6.5 yards per carry, ripped off a few big gains and became the only Cornell player to score a touchdown. Coles’ hamstring has hindered him in practice and slowed him down a bit in Saturday’s game.
4). Bend But Don’t Break:
Against a Georgetown offense that came in averaging 39 points per game, the Red defense certainly did its part to keep the team in the contest. After scoring their first touchdown, the Hoyas looked like they were well on their way to running up the scoreboard once more as they marched down to the Cornell 25-yard line. But that’s when senior linebacker Mo Bradford stepped up and intercepted Brunell to halt Georgetown’s momentum. Midway through the second quarter, the Hoyas approached the red zone at a rapid rate. On 3rd-and-short, Maxton Edgerly and Nathaniel Weber converged on quarterback Gunther Johnson for an enormous sack. Then, on fourth down, senior safety Jake Watkins broke up a pass intended for Cooper Melton to force a turnover on downs. Those are just two examples of the many crucial stops that the Red made when its heels were digging in its own territory.
5). The Breaks:
That being said, the Red’s defensive unit gave up two big plays that ultimately proved to be the difference. Coming off Catanese’s early interception, Georgetown moved the ball down the field with ease. Equipped with good field position, Johnson unleashed a 33-yard pass to a wide-open Michael Dereus, who hauled in the ball mere yards from the goal line. Shortly after, Johnson ran in for the score, and Georgetown possessed the early lead, 8-0. After the Red tied it up in the waning seconds of the third quarter, both teams exchanged punts before the Hoyas took possession with six minutes left in the fourth. Boosted by a 23-yard return from Joshua Tomas, Georgetown started off its drive from midfield. It didn’t take long for the Hoyas to hit paydirt as Johnson connected with Cameron Crayton — who slipped behind three Cornell defenders in the secondary — for a 39-yard touchdown throw, which ended up being the game-winning score. The defense was excellent for a third straight week, but two mistakes were enough to cost the Red the game.
6). Just Wide:
With senior Nickolas Null still nursing a quad injury, Patla has been the Red’s starting placekicker for the team’s first three games. The results have not been pretty. On four attempts, Patla has only converted one kick. That one field goal was a 21-yarder against Yale. His other three misses have all come from beyond 40 yards. Because the offense has often moved backwards when reaching scoring position, it has forced Patla to kick from a much more undesirable distance. On all three of his misses, Patla has had the leg to convert, but each kick has sailed wide. With the offense struggling immensely, Cornell is leaving a number of points off the board in its kicking game.
7). After Further Review:
Following Georgetown’s second score, the Red failed to generate any positive yardage on its ensuing drive, which forced another punt from Null. A personal foul penalty by John Fitzgerald on the return placed the ball on the Cornell 35-yard line. The Hoyas ran the ball three times, forcing head coach David Archer ’05 to use up all three of his timeouts. The Red needed a stop on fourth down if it wanted another opportunity to compose a game-winning drive. On 4th-and-8, Johnson threw to Tomas, who appeared to bobble the ball as he went out of bounds. The pass was initially called incomplete, but after a long review, the officials overturned the ruling, effectively sealing the game. From there, Georgetown ran out the remaining two minutes on the clock and secured the victory.
8). New Rep:
Traditionally a softer opponent for Ivy League teams, Georgetown seems to have shed that reputation this season. After knocking off Columbia on the road, the Hoyas did the same against Cornell. Granted, both Columbia and Cornell rank in the bottom half of the Ancient Eight, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless. The last time the Red faced Georgetown, it came away with a 45-7 victory. It seems like the Hoyas — now riding a four-game winning streak — are a real contender in the Patriot League and FCS.