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ITHACA, N.Y. — Bucknell’s R.J. Nitti, falling to the ground under relentless Big Red pressure, sailed a pass into the end zone – a virtual hail mary with just under two minutes left in the game.
Joey DeFloria went up amongst double coverage and wrestled the ball away to give Bucknell its first football win in Ithaca in 20 years as the Bison topped Cornell 19-14 on Saturday afternoon at Schoellkopf Field. With the win, Bucknell moved to 2-1, while the Big Red lost its season opener on Homecoming in front of a boisterous crowd of better than 16,000 fans.
Big Red senior tailback Luke Gay rushed for 105 yards and scored once and the Big Red twice rallied from deficits, but the Bison were able to make one more play to earn its second straight win in the series. The defense sparkled, surrendering just 286 total yards despite being on the field for more than 37 minutes and 77 plays, with senior captain Rush Imhotep posting an interception and sophomore defensive end Seth Hope tallying 2.5 tackles for loss.
After DeFloria’s touchdown, a 14-yard catch with 1:53 left in regulation, Cornell had two chances to tie or take the lead. The Big Red were intercepted, then after forcing a three-and-out and leveraging another possession by spending its final two timeouts, a fumble and a snap through the end zone for a Bucknell safety as time expired closed out the game.
Bucknell, coming off an 8-3 season and picked to finish second in the preseason Patriot League poll, limited Cornell to 240 yards of offense itself and controlled the ball thanks to the running of C.J. Williams, who posted 133 yards on the ground. R.J. Nitti, whose brother John played at Cornell, was 20-of-33 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Will Carter, who missed the first two games of the season due to suspension, caught seven passes for 65 yards and a score in his return to the field. Jimmy King had a team-best seven tackles and two sacks while forcing a fumble.
• Senior Luke Hagy had 105 yards rushing, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. He became the first Cornellian to hit the century mark four straight times since Chad Levitt ’97 did so six consecutive times during the 1996 campaign.
• Hagy boosted his career rushing yards total to 1,727, passing Scott Oliaro ’93 for 10th on the all-time list. Next up is Pete Larson ’67 with 1,751 and Joe Holland ’79 with 1,755.
• Hagy also had one catch, giving him a reception in 30 consecutive games.
• The interception for fifth-year senior captain Rush Imhotep was the third of his career.
• Sophomore Seth Hope had 2.5 tackles for loss after recording three total tackles a year ago.
• Sophomore wide receiver James Hubbard had three catches for 60 yards and an acrobatic touchdown in his first varsity game.
• Junior punter Chris Fraser averaged 45.0 yards on three punts, well above his Ivy-leading average of 41.7 yards per punt a year ago.
• Junior linebacker Justin Solomon made his first varsity start count with a game-high eight tackles, including a half-tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
• Cornell’s defense limited Bucknell to 286 yards on just 3.7 yards per play.
• The Bison controlled the time of possession category (37:08-22:52) and had 20 third down opportunities in the game (converting 10) to just eight for the Big Red (converting three).
• Freshman place-kicker Zach Mays booted through two PAT kicks for his first collegiate points.
“We were on the wrong end of a really fan-friendly football game to watch. We didn’t make enough plays when we needed to, there were certainly a lot plenty of positives, but it came down to critical plays. We were on the wrong end of it. What a miraculous play by them at the end on fourth down, I have no other word to describe it than miraculous. For some reason, they were supposed to complete that and win the football game. I thought our kids came out and played well – that’s a team that was picked to finish second in the Patriot League. What we’re going to see when we watch film is now we’ve made plays in football games, but we’ll see the difference between winning and losing is just a few critical plays, and Bucknell made those today.” — David Archer, the Roger J. Weiss ’61 Head Coach of Cornell Football
Solid Opening Drives To Kick Off The Season
• Cornell started out strong, going on an 11-play, 58-yard drive that featured long runs by junior Marshall Deutz (11 yards) and Hagy (13 yards), but ended on a missed 35-yard field goal after a bad snap.
• The defense surrendered one first down on its initial drive, but forced an incomplete pass on third-and-2 to force a punt.
The game was scoreless at the conclusion of the first quarter, and remained tied at the half (7-7).
• Cornell’s two touchdowns were both impressive plays.
• Hagy hurdled himself into the end zone from three yards out after juking another defender to cap off a 20-yard run that tied the contest at 7-7 with 9:15 left in the second quarter.
• Trailing 10-7 in the fourth and facing third-and-8 from the Bucknell 21, junior quarterback Robert Sombornthrew a missile through two defenders and sophomore James Hubbard made an impressive jumping catch in the end zone to give the Big Red its first lead at 14-10 with 9:46 left.
Hall of Fame
• The Big Red honored 11 new inductees into the Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday night following the game, but introduced them at halftime of the contest.
• Among the 11 honorees is legendary longtime football coach Pete Noyes, who guided the defense for the better part of two decades and was part of two Ivy League championship teams.
• The Big Red had a number of first-time starters, as the offensive line featured RGJohn Foster for the first time, while the defense had DE Seth Hope and OLB Justin Solomon.
• Other players who made their first varsity appearances included LB Malcolm Chaka, S Gustavo Dorsett, WRJames Hubbard, WR Brady Malone, PK Zach Mays, RB J.D. PicKell and KO Ardian Sahinovic.
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