After scoring 34 points in an offensive reawakening against Colgate last week, Cornell hosted Brown in search of its first conference victory on the season.
With Brown averaging 435.8 yards per game and led by one of the best quarterbacks in the Ivy League in E.J. Perry, Saturday’s contest promised to be a high-scoring affair, and that’s exactly what both teams produced. In a shootout, it was ultimately Brown that came out on top, 49-45.
In typical E.J. Perry fashion, he finished 23/36 with 280 yards passing and 4 passing touchdowns, as well as 16 rushing attempts for 91 yards and a touchdown, even after throwing a rare three interceptions in the first half.
Senior strong safety Isaiah Hogan was one of the three Cornell defenders to pick off Perry. “He’s a good player, everyone knows Perry,” said Hogan. “We just had to keep our eyes on him and make sure we contained them in the box.”
“I think EJ Perry is the best quarterback I’ve played or coached against period,” said Cornell head coach David Archer ‘05. “Seeing how he doesn’t ever get rattled and his ability to throw the ball, his ability to move in the pocket, his ability to run and get first downs; I think he is as high level of a quarterback as I’ve seen.”
Finding itself down 35-30 in the midst of the back-and-forth affair, Cornell (1-5, 0-3 Ivy League) went with freshman quarterback Jameson Wang to catalyze a comeback. Senior wide receiver Thomas Glover drew a long pass interference call to give the Red the ball at the Cornell 40-yard line and proceeded to make a 34-yard grab, bringing the action near the red zone.
Facing the pressure on 4th-and-6, Wang delivered in a big way, scrambling out of the pocket and finding senior wide receiver Curtis Raymond III for a 22-yard open touchdown pass. The Red successfully completed a two-point conversion on a Wang pass to Glover, giving Cornell a 38-35 lead with 4:17 remaining in the game.
The Bears (2-4, 1-2) were quick to respond. Facing a 3rd-and-1, DeLucia broke several tackles en route to a 56-yard touchdown run that put Brown up 42-38 with 2:27 remaining.
It took just three plays for the Red to respond. With fifth-year quarterback Richie Kenney under center, Raymond nabbed a 50-yard juggling catch to bring the ball to the Brown 25-yard line. On the very next play, Kenney found Glover wide open for a 25-yard touchdown pass. The Red led 45-42 with just 1:59 left on the clock.
“It’s a situation where it’s not like we got in the 15 or the 10-yard line,” said Archer of the Glover touchdown. “If we were more in the low redzone, then you would start to say let’s conserve some time here, but we threw a real basic route and with busted coverage we were able to pick that [touchdown] up.”
Ultimately, 1:59 proved to be too much time for the Red to give Perry. In just seven plays, Brown took back the lead. After a 13-yard rush up the middle for Perry, he found wide receiver Mark Mahoney for a 22-yard gain. On the next play, Walker caught a 30-yard laser from Perry in the corner of the endzone, giving Brown a 49-45 lead with a mere 29 seconds for the Red response.
Cornell tried to mount a comeback but ultimately fell short. Kenney failed to connect with Raymond on a deep play and was sacked on the next play. On the last play of the game, the Red tried to confuse the Bears with laterals but couldn’t make it work.
“When you play a very elite quarterback, you know you’re gonna have to score and we just came up one score short,” said coach Archer.
Prior to the last-minute frenzy, the Red defense started the game strong, forcing three incomplete passes before junior safety Jalyx Hunt blocked Declan Boyle’s punt and sent the ball through the back of the endzone for a safety to put Cornell up 2-0.
Led by senior quarterback Ben Mays to start the game, Cornell’s offense was unable to gain momentum on their first drive. Although freshman quarterback Jameson Wang was brought in for third-and-long, the Red were forced to punt. After a long punt return by Brown’s Wes Rockett, Hogan picked off Perry on the first play of the drive, bringing the ball to the 46-yard line.
On the next drive, the Red again utilized a rotation of Mays and Wang, with each making several notable plays. Wang came in to convert a 3rd-and-3 on a quarterback rush and Mays later converted a 4th-and-11 with a 20-yard pass to fifth-year wide receiver Alex Kuzy. The Red capped off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Eddy Tillman on third down. After a successful extra point conversion by senior Scott Lees, the Red were up 9-0.
Led by Perry, the Bears quickly responded with several solid rushes by running back Jordan DeLucia, bringing the ball to the 41-yard line. After a 17-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan McIntyre and a 10-yard gain on a screen pass to DeLucia, Perry connected with Rockett in tight coverage for a 28-yard gain to set up first-and-goal on the 4-yard line. Perry quickly rushed up the middle on first down for Brown’s first score of the day, putting the score at 9-7 after the extra point kick.
The back-and-forth scoring continued, with Mays and Wang confusing the Bears’ defense on their way to a long touchdown drive. Wang again converted on third down with his legs and then converted a 4th-and-1 with another rush after Brown received a penalty for running into senior punter Koby Kiefer on the first punt. Mays then connected with senior wide receiver Devan Cross on a 10-yard screen pass and on the next play, hit senior wide receiver Thomas Glover up the middle in stride for a 43-yard touchdown pass to give Cornell a 16-7 lead after the extra point.
Another long kickoff return by Brown set the Bears up in Cornell territory. The Bears drove all the way down to the red zone after long gains by running back Ian Franzoni and DeLucia, bringing the ball to 1st-and-goal on the 4-yard line just after the start of the second half. After Perry’s pass was tipped, fifth-year cornerback Kenan Clarke snagged the ball in the endzone for a touchback, preventing a Bears touchdown.
Cornell covered some ground on the drive before facing a 4th-and-1 from its own 43-yard line. Unfortunately, this fourth-down attempt did not go the Red’s way as senior running back Delonte Harrell was stopped short of the line to gain, giving Brown the ball in Cornell territory.
Brown quickly capitalized off the turnover. Perry and running back Allen Smith led the team down the short field with several long rushes, and Franzoni punctuated the drive with an 18-yard touchdown rush to pull the Bears within two, 16-14.
Cornell started the drive off with an automatic 15-yard gain after a roughing the passer penalty on Brown, but failed to gain any traction and were again forced to punt. On the other side, Brown kept it rolling with an18-yard catch by Rockett and several big runs by Smith, including a 22-yard rush to set up first-and-goal on the 9-yard line. On third down, Perry connected with wide receiver Hayes Sutton for a nine-yard touchdown pass to give Brown a 21-16 lead with 5:38 remaining in the half.
The Red quickly responded with a 49-yard kickoff return by junior Javonni Cunningham. Wang used his legs for a 17-yard gain before sprinting up the middle of the Bears’ defense for a 28-yard touchdown run to give Cornell a 23-21 lead. Though the Brown offense quickly notched four first downs, Perry threw his third interception of the game before the end of the half. Facing intense pressure from fifth-year linebacker Lance Blass on 3rd-and-5, Perry tossed the ball directly to senior defensive tackle Jack Muench.
Fifth-year quarterback Richie Kenney came in for a shot to build on the Red’s lead before the half, but didn’t have enough time to put together anything meaningful.
Just like it was in the Colgate game, Cornell’s rotation of multiple quarterbacks was frequently utilized to give the Red a variety of playmaking options. Throughout the first half, the Red used a total of four quarterbacks: Wang, Mays, Kenney and sophomore Luke Duby.
“I do enjoy [the QB rotation] because they all bring a different element to the game,” said Glover. “It gives us a lot more options because you can show different quarterbacks and you can use different packages so the defense has to account for a lot more things than just one guy.”
For now, Archer and his staff seem intent on keeping the rotation in place, although nothing is for certain. “I think we’ll have to go week to week with [the QB rotation] in terms of how quickly everybody learns the playbook,” said Archer. “Those kids compete on Tuesday, Wednesday, and during reps on Saturday, so we’ll stay week to week for now.”
The Red continued its use of a quarterback rotation throughout the second half of the game, mainly featuring Wang and Kenney.
Leading 23-21, Cornell received the kickoff to start the second half of action. With Kenney in to start the half, the Red sputtered on the first drive after an illegal blocking penalty and punted to give Brown the ball back within the Cornell half of the field. The Bears took advantage of their good field position and a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Clarke to bring the ball to the 17-yard line. On 3rd-and-11, Perry found Hayes Sutton again in the endzone for an 18-yard touchdown pass to give Brown a 28-23 lead.
Brown’s success converting on third down proved to be a major obstacle for the Red’s defense throughout the game, allowing the Bears to convert 10/15 third downs for a high 66.67% conversion rate. “They were getting the ball out there throwing and doing what they wanted to, we just couldn’t get a stop on third down and I think that was the issue,” said Hogan.
With Wang under center once again, the Red quickly responded with a touchdown drive of their own. Continuing his phenomenal success on the ground, Wang bolted for a 28-yard run to give the Red the ball in Brown’s half of the field. After two long passes to Glover and sophomore tight end Matt Robbert, fifth year tight end Ryan Fitton made an 11-yard touchdown catch on 3rd-and-7 even as the defender was called for pass interference for hugging Fitton as he made the catch. His score once again gave the Red the lead, 30-28.
On the next drive, Brown’s offense failed to respond. Cornell’s defense stuffed DeLucia on 4th-and-1 to get the ball back within the Brown half of the field. After an 11-yard catch by Kuzy, the Red gave up their first turnover of the game when Wang was picked off by free safety Griffin McGovern on 3rd-and-10.
Though the Bears put together some nice plays, the Red defense forced them to punt after Perry lost 5 yards on a quarterback hurry and overthrew Sutton on 3rd-and-7. On the next drive, the Cornell offense couldn’t overcome yards lost to penalty and were forced to punt after a failed conversion on 3rd-and-27, ending the third quarter. However, Brown would not have the ball for long.
After receiving Kiefer’s punt to start the fourth quarter, Rockett was hit hard on the return and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by senior free safety Demetrius Harris. With the ball back in the hands of the Red offense, Kenney was unable to muster much motivation at the helm. Although Wang came in and delivered a long run on 3rd-and-4, the play was called back for holding and Cornell was forced to punt the ball back to the Bears.
This time, Brown once again found the recipe to crack Cornell’s defense. Junior defensive tackle Wallace Squibb Jr. delivered a huge sack on Perry for a 6-yard loss to set up 3rd-and-7, but Perry responded with a 15-yard run to convert the third down. After some solid rushing gains by Smith and a 12-yard gain on a screen pass to DeLucia, the Bears found themselves well within Cornell’s half of the field. The Red forced Brown into a 4th-and-1, but Perry converted with a short rush up the middle. Two plays later, Perry lofted a 19-yard pass to Sutton, giving the duo their third touchdown of the game and putting Brown up 35-30.
The Red came up short in the fourth quarter, though, and will now set its eyes to a Friday-night home game against undefeated Princeton.