Cameron Pollack/Sun File Photo

The Red is seen battling against Colgate in 2016. The team will face Colgate for the 104th time at its 2023 Homecoming game.

September 27, 2023

Football Gears Up for the Latest Chapter in its Historic Rivalry Against Colgate

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On Saturday, Sept. 30, Cornell will be facing Colgate in its 2023 Homecoming game. Despite not playing in the same conference, the Red and the Raiders, formerly known as the Red Raiders until 2001, are very familiar with each other. The rivals first squared off against each other on Sept. 26, 1896, just over 127 years ago. The two teams have been evenly matched over the years, with Cornell leading the series narrowly, 51-49-3.

In the inaugural matchup between these two schools, it was the Red that prevailed, shutting Colgate out, 6-0. After a scoreless first half, Cornell’s right halfback found the endzone for a touchdown. 

Approximately 850 students were in attendance for the game at Percy Field. This set the tone for the early years of the rivalry, with Cornell winning the first 10 contests –– during this span, the Red outscored the Raiders, 162-16.

In recent years, however, it has been Colgate that has had the upper hand. Since the turn of the century, the Red has won just five out of the past 21 games. Regardless of which school has the hot hand, one thing is certain: the Red and the Raiders have produced some thrilling battles over the years. In particular, the 1966, 1997 and 2016 match-ups represented the lengths of the Cornell-Colgate rivalry. 

1966 — Cornell 15, Colgate 14

After taking care of business in 1961, beating the Raiders, 34-0, the Red dropped its next three matchups against Colgate and earned a 0-0 tie in 1965. Going into the game in 1966, the team was looking to put an end to this skid. The Red faithful certainly wanted to see a win, as an estimated 20,000 people packed into Schoellkopf to watch the bout. 

The star of the game for Cornell was running back Pete Larson ’67. Larson rushed for 143 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. 

In the first half, Larson had his biggest rush of the game, finding the end zone on an 85-yard gain. However, a series of short punts by the Red led to a Raider touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion, the Raiders secured an 8-7 advantage going into halftime.

The go-ahead score came on the Red’s second drive of the second half. Starting at its own 26 yard line, quarterback Bill Abel ’67 connected with halfback Jimm Heeps ’68 multiple times as Cornell moved up the field. After Larson helped rush the ball into the red zone, Abel found Heeps in the endzone to give the Red the lead.

Later in the second half, Colgate scored a second touchdown, cutting its deficit to one. The Raiders attempted a two-point conversion to take the lead. 

Defensive end Tom Lucas ’67 was able to apply pressure to Colgate’s quarterback, causing the attempt to be unsuccessful. This proved to be the play-of-the-game, as the Red hung on to win the game, 15-14. 

This set the stage for the Red to dominate Colgate in the years that followed, beating the Raiders in seven of the next eight matchups.

1997 — Colgate 44, Cornell 38 (OT)

Going into the 81st edition of this rivalry, the Red had only tied the Raiders three times. These ties came in 1906, 1913 and 1965, all of which were scoreless contests. In 1996, overtime was introduced to college football, and these two teams wasted little time to test these new rules.

At a Homecoming game that drew a crowd of 11,700 fans at Schoellkopf, the game was an offensive shootout from start to finish. Quarterbacks Scott Carroll ’98 and Mike Hood ’99 had historic performances, combining for 386 passing yards and setting a team record of 41 completed passes. 

The Raiders did the bulk of its damage through its running game, totaling 336 rushing yards by the game’s end. Going into overtime at 38 points apiece, Colgate scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 9-yard run to seal the win, 44-38.

The 82 combined points scored in this game is the second highest mark in the rivalry’s history. 

2016 — Cornell 39, Colgate 38

From 1993 to 2015, Cornell lost 17 of its 19 matchups against the Raiders. Going into the 2016 game, Colgate was ranked 25th in the FCS.

Out of the gate, the Red faced struggles. On the Raiders’ first drive of the game, a 93-yard pass put it ahead, 7-0. Colgate found the end zone on its next two possessions as well, putting up a daunting 21-0 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter. 

“Everyone kind of came out slow… Colgate is really good and if you miss a gap, they’re gone. That’s what’s happening,” head coach David Archer ’05 told the Sun in 2016.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Colgate faced a third down on its own four-yard line. Linebacker Kurt Frimel ’18 pushed through the defensive line and sacked the Raiders’ quarterback for a safety, giving the Red its first points of the game.

Despite the Red converting a 70-yard touchdown pass later in the quarter, the team still had no answer for Colgate’s offense. Going into halftime, the Red trailed, 31-12. 

Cornell needed defensive stops in order to make its comeback, and the defense stepped up in the second half. After trading touchdowns at the start of the third quarter, Cornell did not allow another point. The Red outscored the Raiders 21-7 in the third quarter, setting it up to enter the final frame trailing, 38-33. 

The Red’s offense in the fourth quarter was sloppy. In its first three possessions of the quarter, Cornell fumbled the ball once and threw two interceptions. The defense did not relent. On two occasions, the Raiders attempted to convert on 4th and short. Both times, the Cornell defense shut the Raiders down.

In the final minutes of the game, the Red was finally able to take the lead. Quarterback Dalton Banks ’19 threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Colin Shaw ’18. This gave Cornell a 39-38 that it did not give up.

2023 — Cornell’s Homecoming Game

On Saturday, Sept. 30, the Red gears up for the 104th chapter of this rivalry. The history between Cornell and Colgate on the football field is not lost on Archer.

“[Colgate is] a standard of toughness — well coached teams of hard-nosed play, of physical play, of winning,” Archer said. “We have a ton of respect for them. I think they are a class act.”