Cornell dropped a couple of closely-contested key Ivy League games early on, and when Ithaca College lost to Union a few weeks ago, their hopes for a Liberty League title vanished, but neither team gave up on their quest to make the most of their season, and last weekend, both stepped up with season-defining victories.
For Cornell, it was a dramatic win over undefeated Dartmouth, pulled off as the visiting team. The Big Red were down at halftime, but they fought back to win 20-17, and in doing so dealt the Big Green their first loss of the season. Senior quarterback Richie Kenney threw for 267 yards on a 22-38 passing day, and reliable workhorse Harold Coles pounded out 111 rushing yards. Cornell’s offense produced 384 total yards against the nation’s number 5 ranked defense. On the defensive side of the ball, Cornell seniors Jelani Taylor and David Jones led the way. Taylor had 11 tackles, while Jones had the clinching interception as the defense held Dartmouth to 3 of 14 on third down conversions.
The win over a ranked opponent (Dartmouth was ranked number 12) was Cornell’s first since they beat #13 Penn 69 years ago. And no player, coach or fan will ever look back at the 2019 season without remembering that historic win. Head coach David Archer told me, “Season-defining… that’s a great term for it.” He added, “For us, it was a very validating win. We know who we are, we know how hard we have worked. We finally put it all together, and we beat a very good football team.”
For Ithaca College, the Cortaca Jug game is always a big deal, but given the Bombers and the Cortland Red Dragons would travel to MetLife Stadium and play in front of 45,161 fans added a layer of drama to the affair. The attendance shattered the previous Division III record.
Determined to win the Jug for the third straight year, Ithaca came out on top in several important categories: Total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, first downs and a couple of other stat lines. In terms of time of possession, the Bombers were nothing short of dominant, controlling the ball for an astounding 44:26 to Cortland’s 15:34. When one team had the ball for three-quarters of the game, the opponent faces a serious uphill climb. In this case, the Red Dragons could not make that climb and the most important number of all – the score – ended up 32-20 in the Bombers’ favor.
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I promised to circle back around after last week’s column to share some insights and observations from my trip (with former ICSD Athletic Director Bill Bryant) to sit in Cleveland’s Dawg Pound to watch the Browns play the Steelers.
We arrived early so that our friend and host Jeff Grover could give us a tour of the stadium, including the suites, private clubs and several other off-limits areas that only those affiliated with the team can gain access to. It was a great experience to see the inner workings of preparing to feed, entertain and manage 65,000 fans. By the 8:20 p.m. kickoff, given some of those fans had been tailgating for eight hours prior to the game, it got loud and crazy. The Browns beat their rivals 21-7, and by now virtually everyone knows that the game will be remembered for the brawl that resulted in heavy fines and suspensions. I was somewhat saddened by that, given the Browns’ fans had endured a dismal stretch a couple of years ago, and the team had been on an upswing on many fronts. The Browns still have a shot at the playoffs, and they would no doubt like to make a run and get back into the headlines for the right reasons.
As mentioned last week, I was very excited to watch JC Tretter, the Browns’ elite center (and Cornell grad) who just signed a much-ballyhooed three-year, $32 million contract extension.
Coach Archer was an assistant coach when Tretter played at Cornell, and he told me, “Watching JC develop into such a fierce competitor, a dominant player and a vocal leader has been a great experience. In the NFL, he has become such a dependable player for two different franchises, and that’s great to point out to current players and recruits. People are not familiar with the guys coming out of the Ivy League because we don’t have a playoff, but it’s a fact that the best players in the Ivy League go to the NFL.”