After two consecutive home losses to Ivy League opponents, the Red sought to secure its first Ivy League win of the season at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The winner of the matchup would lay claim to the prestigious Trustee’s Cup, an award Cornell football has not received since 2013. Coming into the game, Cornell (2-6, 1-4 Ivy League) was prepared for a defensive battle against a stout Penn (3-5, 1-4 Ivy League) defense.
Both teams are led by talented freshmen quarterbacks that should illustrate a tough matchup between the two squads for years to come. Penn’s young quarterback Aidan Sayin is known for his strong arm, while Cornell freshman quarterback Jameson Wang has consistently showed his strong running ability as a dual-threat player.
The matchup certainly was a defensive battle, filled with penalties, turnovers and big hits. Although Penn’s defense forced five three-and-outs for the Cornell offense, Cornell’s defense held the Quaker offense to a mere six points and Wang added two rushing touchdowns to spur the Red to a 15-12 victory over Penn for its first Ivy League win of the season.
Late into the game, Cornell was able to make some ground on a drive but ultimately turned the ball over. After marching down the field, Wang was picked off by Quaker defensive back Jason Mccleod Jr. deep in Penn territory on a long throw. Down by three, Penn had 6:39 remaining in the game to avoid a loss.
Although the Quakers showed success on the next drive, running back Trey Flowers was stuffed rushing up the middle on a third-and-two opportunity and Penn elected to punt instead of trying for the fourth-and-one.
The Red was unable to build on its lead, failing to make it into Penn territory. After losing five yards to a penalty and several short runs by fifth-year running back SK Howard, the Red punted it back to Penn. Penn had just 2:39 remaining in the game to respond.
Under pressure, Sayin found wide receiver Joshua Casilli up the middle for a first-down gain. On the next set of downs, Sayin was unable to convert a third-and-seven opportunity when he missed his target for an incomplete pass. On the ensuing fourth-and-seven chance, Sayin rushed up the middle, then fumbled the ball and recovered it. The recovery was short of the first-down marker, so Penn turned the ball over on downs with 1:34 remaining in the game.
With fifth-year quarterback Richie Kenney starting the game, the Red got off to a hot start. Kenney immediately found senior wide receiver Thomas Glover for a 10-yard gain. Two consecutive 5-yard rushes for Howard again moved the chains for the Red.
On the next play, fifth-year wide receiver Alex Kuzy made a 9-yard catch but had the ball knocked out by Quaker defensive back Logan Nash, which was recovered by defensive back Chris Rankins to secure the turnover.
Coming off of the fumble recovery, the Quakers were unable to muster any momentum. Cornell fifth-year linebacker Lance Blass and senior defensive lineman Jack Muench’s forced quarterback hurries on Sayin and a 13-yard run loss by Sayin forced Penn to punt back to the Red.
Although Cornell’s next drive started off with a 34-yard pass from Kenney to senior wide receiver Curtis Raymond III, the Red was unable to score once again. With a rotation of Kenney and Wang, the Red continued to move the chains. After Wang converted a third-and-six on a quarterback rush, Kenney hit Raymond for a 37-yard touchdown, but the play was called back due to offensive pass interference on Raymond.
After the penalty, the Red was unable to convert a first-and-25, although Wang connected with Kuzy for an 18-yard gain before Cornell was forced to punt. On the subsequent drive, Penn was unable to light a spark on offense, only moving the chains once on a 15-yard pass from Sayin to wide receiver Owen Goldsberry on third-and-six before punting.
With Cornell’s offense back in control, Kenney and Wang started to push the pace at the helm. After a third-down conversion on a quarterback rush for Wang, Kenney found Raymond for a 14-yard gain and another first down. Now in the second quarter of play, the Red once again had a touchdown called back after a holding call on a 30-yard breakaway score by freshman running back Eddy Tillman.
On the next set of downs, Cornell finally broke the game’s scoreless tie. Facing a fourth-and-one, Wang took the snap, escaped the pocket and avoided several tackles en route to a 31-yard touchdown run, giving the Red a 7-0 lead with 13:19 remaining in the first half.
Penn responded by quickly marching down the field and threatening the Red’s lead. Sayin opened the drive with a 19-yard pass to Casilli and Penn continued to move the chains all the way down to the redzone. Seeking to tie the game, Sayin heaved the ball to the left side of the endzone but Cornell senior safety Eric Diggs leaped up in front of the Quaker receiver and snagged an interception right in front of the endzone to hold Cornell’s lead at 7-0.
Cornell’s next drive quickly sputtered and the Red was forced to punt deep in its own territory, giving the ball back to the Quakers at the Cornell 48-yard line. After a 5-yard rush by running back Isaiah Malcome, Sayin completed four consecutive passes to bring Penn another 20 yards forward. Three incomplete passes later, Penn kicker Daniel Karrash successfully booted a 40-yard field goal to cut Cornell’s lead to 7-3 with 3:48 remaining in the half.
Following another short Cornell drive, the Red punted back to the Quakers once again before halftime. With just 2:15 remaining, Sayin drove his team back down to the redzone, connecting with Casilli and tight end Shane Sweitzer for long passing gains. After the Red thwarted a Sayin rush on a third-and-seven try in the redzone, the Quakers attempted another field goal with three seconds remaining in the half.
This time from 20 yards out, Karrash notched his second field goal of the game to cut Cornell’s lead down to 7-6 going into halftime.
Indicative of the tough defensive battle present in this matchup, the third quarter started out slow. Though Sayin faked a pass and ran out of the pocket to convert a third-down, the Penn rushing attack, headlined by Malcome and Flowers, was unable to secure another first down and the Quakers elected to punt.
The Red’s responding drive was just as fruitless. After a penalty and several muffed passes, Penn’s defense forced the third three-and-out of the game for the Red.
On the next drive, Cornell’s defense showed stellar play to stop Penn’s offense once again. Although Flowers ran up the middle for a nice 13-yard gain, the Red did not allow Penn to creep very far into Cornell territory. Senior linebacker Christoph Sontich batted down his second pass of the game and fifth-year cornerback Kenan Clarke jumped up to break up a deep pass and force another Penn punt on fourth-down.
After forcing yet another three-and-out for the Red offense, Penn took the lead on the very next play. Cornell senior punter Koby Kiefer’s punt was blocked by the Penn special teams squad. Penn linebacker Mozi Bici for a touchdown. After Sayin’s pass on the two-point conversion attempt was broken up, Penn led 12-7 with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.
Cornell’s offense finally responded on the next drive. After an 8-yard throw from Kenney to Kuzy to secure a first down, Kenney launched another pass to Glover for a 40-yard gain that flipped the field. With Wang under center, he connected with Kuzy for an 18-yard gain to set up a first-and-goal on the Penn 1-yard line.
Wang kept the ball and dove up the middle for his second rushing touchdown of the game. On the two-point conversion attempt, Wang found Glover and successfully executed the conversion attempt, giving Cornell a 15-12 lead with 1:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Malcome had a 11-yard rushing game to open the next drive, but Penn was unable to muster any more momentum and was forced to punt back to the Red just after the start of the fourth quarter.
Cornell’s next drive was just as poor, as the offense went three-and-out for the fifth time. Penn’s offense was unable to put together much of anything better and was forced to punt after netting only one first down.
Next weekend, the Red faces off against Dartmouth (7-1, 4-1 Ivy League) in Hanover, New Hampshire on Saturday, November 13, at 1:30 p.m.