This article has been updated.
ITHACA, N.Y. — With the Ivy League as open as it’s been in years, football played a meaningful conference game this Saturday, Oct. 28 when it hosted Princeton. Both teams sat at 2-1 in conference coming into the day, and the winner would be one of two teams leading the Ivy League with three wins.
Though Cornell had chances, Princeton’s defense was dominant throughout the game, forcing two turnovers and limiting the Red to just three points. The Tigers’ two first half touchdowns, one on a 77-yard pass and one with just eight seconds left in the second quarter, were enough to secure a 14-3 win, dropping the Red to .500 in conference.
“Two really good teams in the league, real heavyweight fight, particularly at the line of scrimmage,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “This game was like a playoff game and a bowl game had a kid — that’s what this game was like. And it just comes down to a couple plays.”
The Red (3-4, 2-2 Ivy) started the game off with the ball and looked to score early, working it methodically down the field with short rushes and passes. After breaking into Princeton (4-3, 3-1 Ivy) territory, on the twelfth play of the drive, Cornell was faced with a 4th and 6. Opting to go for it, junior quarterback Jameson Wang’s pass went incomplete, and the Red turned it over on downs.
Both teams started slow on offense, as the Tigers and the Red traded punts following the turnover on downs. Princeton started its second drive of the game on its own 23-yard line.
It took just one play for the Tigers to get on the board. With time to let the play develop, quarterback Blake Stenstrom found receiver Tamatoa Falatea wide open behind the Red’s defense at the Cornell 35-yard line. Falatea ran untouched into the end zone, and Princeton quickly took a 7-0 lead.
Looking to respond to the Tigers’ touchdown, the Red got a big boost on the opening play of its ensuing drive. Wang found senior tight end Matt Robbert over the middle, threading the pass just over the outstretched hand of a Princeton linebacker.
Robbert turned the catch into a 30-yard reception, which became an even bigger gain after a roughing the passer call against Princeton. The Red picked up one more first down before stalling inside the red zone. Senior kicker/punter Jackson Kennedy came out for a 31-yard field goal attempt and drilled it, cutting Princeton’s lead to 7-3.
The Red’s defense stood tall for much of the second quarter, picking up two sacks and forcing consecutive punts out of the Tigers. Nevertheless, Cornell’s offense struggled equally to score, and with just over a minute left in the half, Princeton got the ball on its own 26, looking to grow the lead before halftime.
Helped by a pass interference call against the Red and a 19-yard pass, Princeton was able to work the ball into Cornell territory. On 1st and 10 from the Cornell 33, Stenstrom found receiver Luke Colella open over the middle.
Colella continued to cut left after making the catch, and dove into the end zone with eight seconds remaining in the half. The 7-play, 74-yard drive took just 58 seconds of game time, and the Red went into the locker room trailing, 14-3.
“That was tough, particularly because we aided them with a pass interference call,” Archer said.
Coming out of halftime, the Red was able to force a Princeton punt. Cornell took over on its own 15, needing points to get back into the game.
The Red’s drive started off promising, with a 20-yard pass from Wang to senior wide receiver Nicholas Laboy and a 13-yard rush from Wang on a 3rd and 7 to keep the drive alive. However, on a 2nd and 17 from the Princeton 41, freshman running back Ean Pope coughed up the football after looking for yards after the catch. Princeton pounced on it, and took over on its own 46.
With solid field position near midfield, the Tigers had an opportunity to add to its lead. The Red’s defense remained stout, as senior linebacker Nic Paschall came up with a sack on third down to force a Princeton punt.
The Red continued to struggle to find offense in the third quarter, going three-and-out following Princeton’s punt. Cornell ran just four offensive plays inside Princeton territory in the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter started, the Red’s offense began to show more life. Wang completed passes of 12 and 26 yards, and a personal foul against Princeton put Cornell into Tigers’ territory.
The Red’s momentum was stunted on a first down play from Princeton’s 21, when a double reverse got blown up for a nine-yard loss. Cornell ultimately settled for a 47-yard field goal attempt, but Kennedy’s kick was no good, keeping the deficit at 11.
“They hadn’t shown that blitz on 1st and 10 ever,” Archer said. “So I think the process of making the call [the double reverse] was sound because they’re fast and they were over pursuing..[but] for whatever reason they call an all-go blitz and it was unfortunate.”
The Red had another opportunity to score midway through the fourth quarter following a Princeton punt, but on a 3rd and 4 from the Cornell 35, Wang’s pass down the right sideline was picked off by defensive back Mason Armstead. The Tigers took over on its own 43 with a chance to put the game out of reach.
Cornell’s defense was able to get another stop, but the Tigers worked three minutes off the game clock. The Red had a last gasp with just over three minutes remaining in the game, but penalties once again slowed the drive. Wang made an attempt to the end zone as time expired, but the pass went incomplete, and the Red fell, 14-3.
Outside of Kennedy’s field goal, Cornell struggled to generate consistent offense. Penalties and turnovers both served to stunt the Red’s attack, despite winning the time of possession battle and accumulating more total yards.
“It’s a great learning experience with the games we’re going to be playing now,” Archer said. “With the team that I think we are and we can show people we are.”
Cornell now looks ahead to a two-game road stretch, starting with Penn next Saturday, Nov. 4. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.