Jason Wu/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Cornell was unable to keep up with Harvard on Friday night.

October 7, 2022

Cornell Falls Short Against Harvard Under the Friday Night Lights

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This story has been updated.

Football faced off against Harvard (3-1, 2-0 Ivy) in its sole Friday night game of the season. The Red (2-2, 0-2 Ivy) fell to the Crimson last season, 24-10, in Cambridge. With an opportunity to extend its home win streak against Harvard to three games, the Red came up short, 35-28.

Cornell started off hot, forcing Harvard to punt on its first possession. Following the Crimson punt, Cornell took over at its own 11-yard line.

Backed up in its own zone, the Red embarked on a 17-play, 89-yard drive. Led by sophomore quarterback Jameson Wang, Cornell held the ball for 10:01, its longest span for a possession since 2013. The drive was highlighted by a 19-yard pass to senior wide receiver Thomas Glover and a 21-yard pass to junior wide receiver Nicholas Laboy.

A crucial roughing the passer call on 3rd-and-goal kept the drive alive, and three players later, Wang took it up the gut into the end zone. The extra point made it 7-0 Cornell.

“It’s just what you want, right,” said head coach Dave Archer ‘05. “You want to shorten the game, you want to finish with points, you want to dictate the tempo we did all the things we talked about wanting to do.”

Both teams traded punts on their ensuing drives, before a seven yard punt set Harvard up at the Cornell 45. The Crimson moved the ball down to goal-to-go territory, before an unsportsmanlike conduct call forced it to settle for a field goal. The Red retained the lead, 7-3.

After a three-and-out, the Red had its punt blocked by Harvard. The Crimson recovered the loose ball and took it into the end zone for six. Cornell faced its first deficit of the game,trailing, 10-7.

Neither offense was able to get going, and the following three drives resulted in punts.

The Red’s defense remained staunch through the second quarter. With Harvard threatening in Cornell territory, sophomore safety Trey Harris forced a fumble and senior linebacker Jake Stebbins fell on it.

Cornell was not able to capitalize on the turnover, and committed a catcher’s interference penalty on its following punt, giving Harvard strong field position. The Crimson was further aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty against senior safety Demetrius Harris, and kicked a field goal with 18 seconds left in the half. Heading into the locker room, Harvard led, 13-7.

“Those are two types of penalties that are completely within our control, and we gave away yards there,” said Archer.

The Red came out for the second half using much of the same schemes seen in the first. It relied heavily on sending players in motion and play action while in trips, ace, or spread formations. Both teams continued to struggle on the ground after combining for only 23 net yards in the first half.

Special teams played a crucial role for both teams throughout the contest. After Cornell’s opening drive of the second half stalled, Harvard muffed the punt from sophomore Ayden McCarter. Sophomore long snapper Gavin Heintschel pounced on it, and the Red was set up with an immediate scoring opportunity at the Crimson 12.

It took just three rushes from Wang to capitalize on the turnover. The six-yard scramble from the Cornell signal caller gave the team the lead back, 14-13.

Harvard immediately responded, moving the ball down the field for a nine play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The possession was highlighted by a 37-yard strike over the middle from quarterback Charlie Dean, setting up the eventual three-yard touchdown pass. The Crimson was quickly back in front, 20-14.

The Red was unable to match on its next drive, giving Harvard an opportunity to tack on. Taking advantage, the Crimson drove 67 yards on 10 plays to take a two possession lead, 27-14. 

Down 13 points, Cornell’s offense began to show life. Wang was efficient on play action, most notably on a 24-yard dart to senior tight end William Enneking to set the Red up in the endzone.

Facing a pivotal 4th and 8 on the Harvard 11, Archer opted to go for it. The move paid off, as Wang found Glover over the middle, backpedaling as he released it. With nine minutes remaining, the Red was down six, 27-21.

Needing a stop to give the offense a chance, the Cornell defense was unable to hold. Burning six minutes of clock, Harvard drove 10 plays, nine on the ground, to regain a two possession lead. The Crimson opted to go for two, converting a double reverse trick play to take a 14-point lead, 35-21.

“I think 21 [on Harvard] is a hell of a back,” said Archer. “I think that kid’s a really good player and so mixing up blitzes and different front calls to stop him you gotta do a lot of good.”

Desperate for quick points, the Red moved the ball down the field with haste. Wang showed off his ability to run, converting a 4th-and-2 with a 32 yard sprint down to the Harvard two yard line. He capped off the drive with his third rushing touchdown of the game. With just under a minute remaining, the Red trailed, 35-28.

After a failed onside kick attempt with 58 seconds remaining, Harvard took a knee, securing its 35-28 victory.

The Red finishes out its non conference schedule at home next Saturday, Oct. 15, against Lehigh (1-4, 1-0 Patriot League). The game will be available on ESPN+.