Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of the Big Red Sports Network, which provides excellent Cornell sports coverage throughout the year for alumni, parents, students and fans everywhere.
For the first half of Saturday’s game, it seemed appropriate that Cornell was playing in a stadium that opened in 1903, as the first thirty minutes seemed like a throwback to the earliest days of college football.
But after a scoreless first half that featured a combined nine punts and five turnovers, Harvard dominated the second half, and the Crimson (4-0, 2-0 Ivy League) defeated the Big Red (0-4, 0-2 Ivy League) 24-7 at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass.
Coming into the game as huge underdogs, and in front of a crowd that featured the boisterous Big Red Marching Band and hundreds of Boston-area alums, it looked as if Cornell had endless opportunities to go ahead in the first half.
After heavy rain at the beginning of the game, Harvard, which came into the game averaging over thirty points per game, had a lot of trouble establishing its offense.
On the first play from scrimmage, senior defensive co-captain Justin Harris intercepted Crimson quarterback Scott Hosch at Harvard’s 43-yard line, but was immediately followed by a three-and-out by Cornell’s offense. This became a theme, as the Big Red forced four turnovers in the first half (three of which came in the first quarter), off two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, but were unable to capitalize on any of their opportunities. But due to the multitude of turnovers, the Crimson also ended the first half scoreless after they missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
However, as the rain stopped and the sun came out at the start of the second half, Harvard’s offense finally looked like the high-powered unit they’ve been all season. No longer hampered by the weather or soaking turf, the Crimson opened the half with an impressive 10-play, 71-yard drive, that culminated in a fourth down 24-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Anthon Firkser. They added a field goal and four-yard touchdown run by Paul Stanton on their next two drives to make it 17-0, and capped the scoring with a Andrew Casten rushing touchdown by Andrew Casten in the game’s final minute.
As improved and impressive as the defense looked, Cornell’s offense continued to struggle mightily. Freshman QB Jake Jatis completed 14 of 22 passes on mostly quick routes and screen passes, but was only able throw for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The poor weather conditions at the beginning of the game that helped neutralize the Crimson’s offense in the first half did not help the Big Red’s already sputtering offensive unit. Despite repeatedly getting good field position due to forced turnovers and Harvard having to punt deep in their own zone (due to another exceptional game by sophomore punter Chris Fraser), Cornell was unable to take advantage of any of these opportunities.
The Big Red however finally got on the board with four minutes left in the game with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Collin Shaw after an impressive scramble by Jatis, a play that was set up by the defense’s fifth forced turnover (and third fumble recovery of the game). But after the score made it 17-7, the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds, essentially sealing the game for the Crimson.
Cornell will continue to search for it’s first victory of the 2014 season next Saturday, as they face Lehigh (0-5, 0-1 Patriot League) in their Homecoming matchup.