Football entered this Saturday with an important goal in mind: To break its 17-year stretch without a winning season. Facing off against Columbia in the Empire State Bowl, the team fell short of breaking the drought, losing heavily against the Lions, 45-22.
The Red (5-5, 2-5 Ivy) has employed a run-based, ball control style of football throughout the year. However, with its top three running backs sidelined, its identity was put to the test. Sophomores Eddie Tillman and Robert Tucker III, along with freshman Gannon Carothers, are all currently injured, leading the running responsibilities to be shared by freshman AJ Holmes and junior Drew Powell.
Columbia (6-4, 3-4 Ivy) was coming off of an exciting overtime win against Brown. The Lions was seeking its fourth winning season in the last five years.
Cornell got off to a slow start, going three-and-out on its first possession. The same could not be said for Columbia, with its offense churning off the bat.
The Lions charged down the field, with quarterback Caden Bell hitting wide receiver Marcus Libman for a 53-yard strike over the middle on a 3rd and 9. Putting Columbia just outside the red zone, the team was able to put together a series of positive rushes to push the ball into the end zone.
Looking to respond, a false start against the Red put the team behind the chains. Faced with a third-and-long situation, sophomore quarterback Jameson Wang overthrew junior wide receiver Nicholas Laboy, and it was picked off by the Columbia defense. The ensuing runback gave the Lions an instant redzone opportunity.
With a chance to create an early cushion, Columbia took over on offense. Similarly to last week, however, it was the Red’s defense picking up its offense. Two plays into the drive, sophomore safety Trey Harris forced a fumble, and senior cornerback Paul Lewis III fell on it to get Cornell the ball right back.
The Red attempted to capitalize on the turnover, putting together a drive into Columbia territory. Eventually faced with a 4th and 1 situation, a sneak by Wang was stuffed by the Lions’ defensive line, and Cornell turned it over on downs.
Utilizing the Red’s offensive strategy, Columbia began moving the ball on the ground with ease, picking up chunk yardage every play. Cornell’s defense had no answer, and the 13-play, 62-yard drive put the Lions up, 14-0.
Looking for any sort of offense, the Red began driving from its own 22. Mixing the rush and the pass, Cornell worked the ball down the field methodically.
A 23 yard rush by Holmes put the Red in Columbia territory. Facing a 3rd and 12 from the Columbia 14 with just over a minute remaining in the half, Wang found senior wide receiver Thomas Glover at the front corner of the end zone. Glover went up the ladder to beat his man, and the Red narrowed the Columbia lead to seven at the half.
Coming out of the locker room, the Lions’ offense kicked it into gear. Seemingly unchecked while marching down the field, Bell found receiver Bryson Canty for 31 yards before running back Ryan Young rushed it up the gut for a two-yard score to put Columbia back up by 14.
The Red was unable to get its run game going on its opening possession of the second half, and punted back to Columbia. The Lions had an opportunity to put some series distance in the game.
The Red’s defense struggled to stop Columbia’s run game, and two crucial defensive penalties on third downs kept the drive alive. Working with a goal-to-go opportunity, it was Young again pounding it into the endzone for his second score of the day.
Entering early desperation mode, the Red needed fast points. Drive sustainability continued to be an issue, however, and on a 4th and 7 from its own 45, Cornell could only get five yards, turning the ball over on downs once again.
With a chance to put the nail in the coffin, Columbia took over at midfield. After converting a third down on a 17-yard dime to Canty, Bell found JJ Jenkins down the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown, putting the score at 35-7.
Entering garbage time early, the Red finally found success driving down the field, culminating in a five-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Matt Robbert.
After a Columbia field goal, Cornell once again was able to work the ball against the Lions’ defense, ending in Glover’s second touchdown of the day. Going for two, the Red used a hook and ladder play to convert.
Going onside kick, the ball took a Columbia bounce, and was returned 48 yards to the house. This was the most points the Red allowed in any game this season, as the game went final, 45-22.
Despite the loss, the Red still picked up three games from its performance last season, when it finished 2-8. While the team will lose some important seniors, most notably Glover and linebacker Jake Stebbins, a number of pieces will return next year, including Wang, Robbert and the running back room.