It has been a number of years since football played meaningful games in November. But when the team traveled to Philadelphia to take on Penn on Saturday, Nov. 4, much was on the line. Both Cornell (3-5, 2-3 Ivy) and Penn (6-2, 3-2 Ivy) entered the day just a game out of first place in the Ivy League.
In a matchup of teams that like to hold the ball, it was Penn’s ground game that was the difference maker. Running back Malachi Hosley was unstoppable, finishing the game with 261 yards and two touchdowns, and the Quakers won a crucial contest, 23-8.
It was no surprise that there were a number of lengthy drives in the first half, with Cornell and Penn leading the Ivy League in time of possession. Penn started the game with the ball, and immediately began working down the clock with a mixture of the run and pass games.
The Quakers’ opening drive of 13 plays and 64 yards stalled inside the red zone, where Cornell’s defense forced a field goal attempt. Kicker Graham Gotlieb’s attempt from 28 yards was good, and Penn took an early 3-0 lead following a six minute drive.
The Red began its opening drive solidly, with a 21-yard pass from junior quarterback Jameson Wang to sophomore wide receiver Doryn Smith. The drive slowed when Cornell was held to just five yards on its next three plays, and the Red was forced to punt.
Looking to build on its lead, the Quakers embarked on another lengthy drive. The 11-play, 79-yard drive featured a trick play reminiscent of the Philly Special to convert a third down, and a 35-yard pass down the left sideline to set up a goal-to-go opportunity.
After failing to get into the end zone on its first three attempts, Penn punched it in on a one-yard quarterback sneak on fourth and goal. The Quakers’ second drive of more than six minutes grew the lead to 10.
As the first quarter drew to a close, the Red set out on a lengthy drive of its own, methodically moving the chains. Cornell converted three third downs and one fourth down as it worked its way into Penn territory.
However, faced with a 4th and 5 from the Penn 35, Wang’s pass to Smith was two yards short of the line to gain. Despite possessing the ball for nearly 10 minutes, the Red turned it over on downs.
After two long drives, Penn wasted no time on its third possession. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Aidan Sayin handed the ball off to Hosley on the right end. Hosley got a number of blocks to spring him free, and sprinted down the right sideline for a 68-yard touchdown rush. Cornell was able to block the extra point attempt, but the Quakers held a 16-0 lead midway through the second.
Facing an early hole, the Red looked to score points before halftime. Cornell converted a first down, but a sack from defensive lineman Joey Slackman was too much for the Red to overcome, and the team punted for the second time.
Coming back from halftime after being shut out for the first 30 minutes, the Red’s offense began to heat up. Wang connected with sophomore wide receiver Davon Kiser on passes of 15 and 32 yards to work the ball into Penn territory.
A couple of rushes from Wang got Cornell into the red zone, and on a 4th and 1 from the Penn 5, Wang found Smith open in the end zone for a touchdown. Opting to go for two, the Red converted on a reverse to Kiser.
Building on the momentum of the offense, the Red’s defense forced a three-and-out. Cornell got the ball back on its own 17 with a chance to tie.
Like the first drive of the third quarter, Cornell was able to move the ball down the field. Wang connected with freshman wide receiver Samuel Musungu and Kiser to get into Penn territory.
The Red converted two third downs and a fourth down to get into the red zone, but eventually settled for a field goal attempt. Senior kicker/punter Jackson Kennedy came out for a 28-yard attempt, but Penn blocked it, and Cornell came away with no points.
After going three-and-out on its opening drive of the half, Penn wasted no time extending its lead. On the first play from scrimmage from its own 4-yard line, Hosley got the handoff up the gut. He was able to cut back to the middle of the field, and ran untouched for a 96-yard score, putting Penn up by 15.
Down two possessions heading to the fourth quarter, the Red began picking up chunk plays. Wang completed four passes of over 10 yards as Cornell marched down the field.
Cornell had a prime opportunity to score, with a goal-to-go chance from the two-yard line. Nevertheless, an incompletion followed by three stuffed rushes shut down the Red’s attempt to get back into the game. Despite driving 78 yards on 12 plays, Cornell came up with no points.
The Red had another crack on offense midway through the fourth, but Wang was picked off looking for senior wide receiver Nicholas Laboy down the right sideline. Cornell had a last gasp in garbage time, working the ball inside the Penn 10, but ran out of time before it could score.
The Red’s numbers look solid on paper, as Wang finished with 325 passing yards, and Cornell outgained Penn and held the ball for nearly 38 minutes. The issue for Cornell was finishing drives, as the Red turned the ball over on downs twice in Penn territory and had a field goal attempt blocked. For Penn, it was the run game that got the job done, as the Quakers averaged a whopping 9.8 yards per rush.
Up next for the Red is its final road game of the season next Saturday, Nov. 11, when it travels to Hanover, New Hampshire to take on Dartmouth. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.