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.
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Ithaca, N.Y. — As Cornell ended their season Sunday, there were a lot of reasons to point to for why this team struggled so much.
Inconsistent QB play, the limitations of the offensive line and poor coverage by the defense have all at one point been considered main reasons for why the Big Red have been unable to consistently perform well in Coach Archer’s second year.
However, one aspect of the team that was never pointed to as an issue for the losing was the kicking game: until today. Cornell (1-9, 1-6 Ivy) missed all three extra points, and couldn’t even attempt a field goal the whole game, as they were defeated by Penn (2-8, 2-5 Ivy) 34-26 Saturday afternoon at Schoellkopf Field, giving the Quakers the Trustees’ Cup. The win gave legendary Penn coach Al Bagnoli his 148th victory with the Quakers, the second most in Ivy League history, in the final game of his 24-year career.
For the third game in a row, Cornell immediately jumped out to the lead, this time on a sensational, highlight-reel, one-handed 32-yard touchdown pass from Robert Somborn to Collin Shaw, who emerged as the sophomore’s favorite target this season. However, the snap on the extra point was high, leaving the score at 6-0. The Big Red scored two more touchdowns in the half, first on a five-yard keeper by Somborn, and the next on a pretty 51-yard pass to Marshall Deutz, who caught the ball with three Penn defensive backs trailing him. But both times Cornell came up with just six points, as Joe Pierik missed wide left on one extra point attempt, and had another one blocked. This was the second straight game vs. Penn that blocked extra points were a major storyline, as last year’s memorable 42-41 win was sealed when Tre’ Minor blocked a PAT with a minute to go.
Penn also scored three touchdowns in the first half, but unlike Cornell, made their PATs, which gave them a 21-18 lead at halftime. Sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen was sensational in the half, throwing two TD passes, and rushing for another. The Quaker’s execution of screen plays and short passes gave the Big Red fits, with two of Torgersen’s three touchdown passes coming on screens. Overall, he was 26 of 37 for 331 yards and three touchdowns (all of which going to Spencer Kulcsar) and even added 86 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He continued his success against Cornell, having come off the bench and almost leading Penn to a comeback in last year’s matchup in Philadelphia.
Cornell’s inability in the kicking game however had a bigger impact than just PATs. Down 14-12 in the second quarter, they had a fourth-and-4 on Penn’s five-yard line, but not being able to trust any of their kickers, elected to go for it, and failed after Somborn had his pass intercepted at the one-yard line. This sequence of events would unfortunately repeat itself. After Cornell recovered a fumble deep in Penn’s territory on the Quaker’s opening second half drive, they failed on fourth down yet again on the 19. Penn made them pay for their miscues, as three plays later, Torgersen found Kulcsar down the sideline for a 78-yard touchdown to make it 28-18. Their red zone woes would continue, as later in quarter, after another Penn fumble gave Cornell the ball on the Quaker’s 12, Hagy fumbled at the goal line on third down, and was recovered in the end zone by Penn for a touchback.
Their lack of kicking game also forced them to go for it on fourth and goal from the 6 at the start of the fourth quarter, but once again failed.
Even with the kicking woes and inability to convert in the red zone, Cornell still had a chance late in the game. A botched extra point, this one by Penn, kept it a two-possession game at 34-18 with just under eight minutes left. Somborn then quickly led the Big Red down the field, and finished off the drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Matt Sullivan, and then found Collin Shaw for the two-point conversion. However, after getting the ball back with no timeouts and 35 seconds to go, they were only able to get to about midfield before the clock expired, giving Penn the victory, and leaving Cornell with a 1-9 record and a seventh place finish in the Ivy League.
Even with the poor record, there is plenty to look forward to next season. After another great game by Somborn (22 of 39 for 316 yards and three touchdowns and one interception), one can only imagine what it will be like to have him healthy and starting for a full season next year. His emergence and ability to throw the ball downfield has allowed Hagy to run wild the past few games, as he finished the game with 117 yards on 23 carries, and will be instrumental in the offense next year. With the passion and endless optimism of Coach Archer, this is a team that will strive to make many improvements for the 2015 season.