Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Cornell avenged the 31-21 loss it suffered to VMI on homecoming last year.

September 17, 2022

Football Dominates on the Road in Season Opener

Print More

This story has been updated.

Football opened its season with a dominant, 28-22, win on the road over the Virginia Military Institute, avenging last season’s opener.

In its first trip to the state of Virginia in the program’s 134-year history, Cornell (1-0) was outstanding on defense, forcing three turnovers, racking up nearly half a dozen sacks and shutting out the VMI offense for the first 54 minutes of the game.

Cornell had a comfortable 28-2 lead with six minutes to go, but a series of quick drives by the Keydets over the game’s final few minutes closed the gap on the scoreboard. Ultimately, the Keydets’ comeback effort fell short and Cornell hung on for the win.

“We really played well for the first 55 minutes of the game, and then we kind of let it go in the last five minutes and gave them some scores,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “I told the team it’s a great type of win, because a) it’s a win and b) there’s a lot of things we can get better at.”

Cornell was firing out of the gate. After forcing a three-and-out on VMI (1-2)’s opening drive, sophomore quarterback Jameson Wang, who won the starting job after a promising performance in the second half of last season, took the helm.

Wang led the Red right down the field, converting four third downs during a 13 play, 66-yard drive. The Cornell signal caller showed off his arm throughout the drive, completing a 17-yard pass to senior wide receiver Thomas Glover, a 14-yard gain to junior wide receiver Nicholas Laboy and a three yard touchdown toss to senior tight end William Enneking on a rollout. Putting the pressure on early, the Red took the lead, 7-0.

After a pair of three-and-outs from both teams, VMI appeared to be putting together its first extended drive. The Keydets worked the ball deep inside the redzone, but were stuffed repeatedly on the goal line. After failing to convert on 4th and goal from the Cornell 1-yard line, the Red took over on downs.

Backed up deep in its own territory, the Red could not find any room to run, giving up a safety on the second play of its drive. VMI was on the board, but still trailed, 7-2.

Archer decided to give junior quarterback Luke Duby a look in the second quarter. Duby put together a promising drive, but on his first play in the red-zone, he threw a pick that VMI ran back to its own 40.

The Cornell defense excelled in the first half, forcing three sacks and two turnovers. The first turnover came immediately after Duby’s interception. On the first play of the ensuing Keydets drive, fifth year defensive lineman Max Lundeen forced a fumble, recovered by senior linebacker Jake Stebbins deep in VMI’s territory.

Wang returned to the game to lead the offense with a short field and showed off his mobility with an eight yard scramble on third down to move the chains. Freshman running back Gannon Carothers quickly followed with a two-yard rushing touchdown, his first at Cornell, giving the Red a 14-2 lead.

After a holding call forced the Keydets deep into their own territory, Cornell’s defense stepped up once again. Junior safety Holt Fletcher jumped an out route, picking off VMI and walked in for the easy score to put Cornell ahead 21-2.

The Red took its 19 point lead to the half, and its defense did its job protecting the lead in the third quarter. The defense came up with two key sacks in the third quarter, and senior safety and captain Demetrius Harris pulled down an interception at the end of the quarter that set Cornell up in its red-zone. 

After missing a drive following a hard hit, Wang returned to the game and found Enneking in the end-zone for the second time of the afternoon to give Cornell a commanding 28-2 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

On the ensuing drive, the defense stepped up once again, backing the Keydets up before forcing a turnover on downs. 

Duby and the offense methodically worked down the field and burned clock, but a blocked punt with six minutes left set the Keydets up with an opportunity to spoil Cornell’s defensive shutout.

Over the final few minutes of the game, VMI put together a series of quick scoring drives to cut into Cornell’s lead.

“The game looked one way for 55 minutes,” Archer said. “Clear as day, it looked one way. We’ve just got to finish it out.”

Playing with urgency, the Keydets finally moved the ball down the field, completing a 41-yard pass down to the Cornell one yard line. On the next play, VMI rushed it up the gut for six. The two play drive yielded the first offensive points of the day for the Keydets, cutting the Red’s lead to 28-9. 

VMI’s first offensive success of the day came with many of Cornell’s defensive starters out of the game.

“We rotated some other guys in, but it doesn’t matter. We expect anybody that we put in the game to execute what we need to do,” Archer said. “There’s certainly a lot of good teaching [moments] that came out of the end of the game.”

The Red forced VMI to burn all its timeouts before punting it away. The Keydets once again came up with a quick score, using a big play to drive all the way down field and score in just over 30 seconds.

Despite cutting into the Red’s lead, VMI could not recover its onside kick attempt with three and a half minutes left, allowing Cornell to dwindle the clock down to 1:30. 

VMI possessed the ball one more time, moving quickly down field with some more big passing plays. They Keydets scored with five seconds remaining in the game, but once again could not recover the onside kick, and Cornell closed out the win.

Cornell opens Ivy play next Saturday against Yale at Schoellkopf Field.