ITHACA, N.Y. — Playing in its Homecoming home opener in front of a full Schoellkopf crowd, football had a chance to improve to 3-0 on the year this Saturday, Sept. 30, when it took on Colgate. After taking a lead into halftime, the Red (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) faltered in the second half, committing two turnovers and going one for six on third downs. Colgate (1-4, 0-1 Patriot) was able to capitalize on Cornell’s mistakes, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to win the game, 35-25.
“Colgate is a tough team and a physical team, but we just weren’t in the same sync today,” said head coach David Archer ’05.
The game started off slow, with both teams punting on their opening drives. Junior quarterback Jameson Wang rushed for 20 yards on the Red’s opening play from scrimmage, but Cornell stalled in its own territory.
The Red’s defense, which harassed Yale quarterback Nolan Grooms last week, made its mark early. On the second play of Colgate’s second drive, quarterback Zach Osborne lost the ball, and junior linebacker Hunter Sloan pounced on it. The Red was immediately set up with a goal-to-go opportunity at the Colgate 10.
It took just one play for Cornell to get on the board. Wang took it himself on the right side, and found the end zone with ease to give the Red an early 7-0 lead.
In the middle of the first quarter, the Colgate offense began to come to life. Starting on its own 37, running back Chris Gee burst through on the Raiders’ first play, rushing for 41 yards. Three plays later, Osborne found wide receiver Treyvhon Saunders over the middle for a 20-yard score, tying the game at seven.
The Red started the second quarter with the ball, looking to take the lead back. Starting at its own 20, Cornell drove 80-yards, converting two third downs. Wang looked sharp both passing and rushing on the drive, completing four passes of more than 10 yards and capping it off with a five-yard rushing touchdown, his second of the game.
The Raiders struggled to generate offense through most of the second quarter, but broke through on its final drive of the half. Osborne completed passes of 29 and 34 yards, as well as an 8-yard strike to William Parker for a touchdown. The Raiders drove 90 yards in just over two minutes to tie the game back up at 14.
Seeking to take a lead into halftime, the Red went into its two-minute offense. Mixing the rush and the pass, Cornell worked the ball into the Colgate red zone.
On second down from the Colgate 16, Wang took a shot to the end zone to senior tight end Matt Robbert. It was a close play, as Robbert appeared to have potentially secured the catch, but the play was called incomplete. After failing to convert on third down, the Red settled for a 34-yard field goal from senior kicker/punter Jackson Kennedy, and took a 17-14 lead to the locker room.
Cornell came out of the gate hot in the second half, with a 14-yard rush and a 33-yard pass on its first two plays. Working in Colgate territory, the Red could not move the ball any further, opting to go for it on a 4th and 11 from the Raiders’ 29. Wang’s pass went incomplete, and Colgate took over on downs.
“I really start to think about a field goal that’s not a game winner… [when] the ball is at the 20-yard line,” Archer said. “So until then, it’s four-down territory.”
The teams traded punts, but a Colgate return set it up with favorable field position at the 50. After completing a 10-yard pass, Osborne took a deep shot down the left sideline, but senior cornerback Anthony Chideme-Alfaro jumped in front of the Raiders receiver and picked off the attempt.
The Red was unable to capitalize on the interception, but a booming 66-yard punt from Kennedy put the Raiders at its own three-yard line.
As the fourth quarter started, Colgate began to mount a drive. Taking what the Cornell defense gave it, the Raiders marched down the field, putting together a 17-play, 97-yard drive that ended in a 10-yard rushing touchdown from Osborne. The drive took up just over seven minutes of game time, and gave Colgate its first lead of the day.
“We couldn’t stop the run the way we typically stop the run, and that was the difference in the game,” Archer said.
With just over seven minutes left, the Red got the ball at its own 23. Cornell needed points, but on the first play from scrimmage, Wang fumbled the ball as he tried to escape pressure, and the Raiders pounced on it.
Set up with an instant red zone opportunity, Colgate had a chance to widen its lead. Four plays later, the Raiders did just that, converting a one-yard rushing touchdown to take a two possession lead, 28-17.
Facing an 11 point deficit, the Red’s offense went to work. Wang was at his peak on the drive, converting a 4th down and marching Cornell down the field.
With two-and-a-half minutes remaining, Wang found senior wide receiver Nicholas Laboy for an 11-yard touchdown. The Red opted to go for two to make it a three point game, and Wang converted, taking it himself on a two-yard rush. Just like that, the Red had life.
A short kickoff and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Cornell set Colgate up on its own 45. Needing a stop to remain in the game, the Red’s defense stepped up and prevented the Raiders from getting a first down.
After a deep punt, Cornell got the ball back on its own three-yard line with two minutes remaining. On the second play of the drive, Wang was sacked, fumbling the ball in the end zone where it was recovered by Colgate for a touchdown. The Raiders once again went up by two possessions — this time for good — as Colgate topped the Red to win its first game of the year, 35-25.
For the first time this season, the Red did not lead in time of possession, as it held the ball for just over 29 minutes of game time. After rushing for 122 yards over the first three quarters, Cornell’s offense mustered just one yard on the ground in the final 15 minutes.
“We just didn’t help ourselves enough,” Archer said. “We made too many mistakes, whether it’s a penalty on an interception or a fumble and not taking the ball… and part of that is just executing better, and that starts with me.”
The Red now looks forward to a short week, as it will go on the road to Cambridge, Massachusetts on Friday, Oct. 6 to take on Harvard. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.