Big Red drops Big Green football 21-10 in Hanover
In a game that often appeared to be a rare duel between the arm of one quarterback and the legs of another, the 312 passing-yards of Dartmouth quarterback Josh Cohen '09 were not enough to overtake Cornell (4-4, Ivy 2-3) on Saturday. En route to a 21-10 victory on a gorgeous afternoon at Memorial Field, the Big Red defense forced seven sacks and two turnovers while its potent rushing offense, led by senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn, piled up an astounding 282 yards on the ground.
With the loss, the Big Green slides to 2-6 on the season with a 1-4 mark in Ivy League play. With only two games left, moreover, the team is assured of its second consecutive losing season.
Cornell wasted little time in putting points on the board. On Dartmouth's first play from scrimmage, Cohen's pass was tipped and intercepted by safety Joel Sussman, who returned the ball to midfield. On the ensuing drive, a 22-yard Kuhn dash down the left side of the field led to a one-yard burst into the end zone by running back Luke Siwula.
In the second quarter, Dartmouth would strike back. After Ian Wilson '08 recovered a fumbled punt at Cornell's 44-yard-line, Cohen completed a 28-yard strike to Brian Evans '08, who was streaking down the right sideline. Inside the 10-yard-line, however, Cohen was sacked on his next two pass attempts, setting up a 38-yard field goal attempt that kicker Erik Hinterbichler '06 drilled, narrowing the Cornell lead to 7-3.
Before the end of the first half, however, Cornell would tack on another touchdown and open up an 11-point advantage. A 32-yard Kuhn completion to wide receiver Anthony Jackson highlighted an 11-play, 73-yard drive capped by a one-yard Kuhn touchdown on a quarterback keeper.
Towards the end of the third quarter, Dartmouth finally managed to punch the ball into the end zone after seeing drive after drive stall in Cornell territory.
To the surprise of about 5,000 faithful Dartmouth fans and the dismay of the Big Red squad, however, Dartmouth scored a touchdown from 90 yards out, providing what may have been the Big Green's most exciting play of the season.
On second down and two from the Dartmouth 10-yard line, Cohen delivered a beautiful high-arcing throw into the outstretched hands of Jason Raiti '06, who had advanced a step beyond the Cornell cornerback on the right sideline. After reeling in the pass, Raiti dodged a diving attempt at a shoe-string tackle near midfield and scampered all the way into the end zone, hit too late by a second Cornell defender as he barreled in for the score.
The pass play was the third longest in Dartmouth history and the converted extra point made the game 14-10.
For the game, Raiti hauled in eight passes, leading all players with 151 receiving-yards to go along with the score.
A touchdown away from victory, Dartmouth's defense would do its part to keep the team within striking distance. On a gutsy decision by Cornell head coach Jim Knowles to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Dartmouth two-yard-line, linebacker Josh Dooley '06 strung Siwula out to the right sideline and brought him down shy of the end zone to give Big Green possession of the ball. At the end of the second quarter, the men in green had made a similar fourth-down stand inside their own 10-yard-line.
"Stopping them on those two fourth downs was huge for the defense," said linebacker Joey Gibalski '07, who led the defense with 16 total tackles. "The whole defense knew they were big downs and everyone did their jobs. In situations like those, you just seem to get a little more energy and are able to react faster and make big plays."
Unfortunately for the frenzied Big Green, the offense could not capitalize on the momentum generated by the defensive stand. Cohen overthrew receivers on consecutive pass plays and Dartmouth punted after a three-and-out from its own two-yard line. Punting near the back edge of the Dartmouth end zone, Hinterbichler rushed his kick, which sailed out of bounds at the Big Green 30-yard-line.
Four plays later, the Big Red put its green adversary away. From the 15-yard-line, Kuhn faked a handoff to Siwula out of the shotgun and bolted down the left side of the field for his second touchdown of the game. The extra point lifted Cornell's lead to 21-10 with less than two minutes to play, putting the game out of reach.
Kuhn gave the Big Green trouble all day, keeping the ball in the Big Red's spread option attack or scrambling for yardage when his receivers were covered. Although he only completed nine passes for 87 yards, the burly and speedy 6'4", 240-pound quarterback amassed 136 yards on only 20 carries. Sophomore tailback Siwula grinded out 130 yards of his own, although it required 37 carries.
"Both of them ran the ball hard and just seemed to make plays when they had to," said Gibalski. "They also had a big offensive line that did a good job blocking for them."
Playing without bruising running back Jason Bash '06, who was injured a week ago against Harvard, Dartmouth was unable to establish a running game with Ikechi Ogbonna '06 and Milan Williams '09 splitting duties. The duo combined for only 33 yards on 12 carries, as Dartmouth netted "1 rushing yards compared to 282 for Cornell.
In Dartmouth's one-dimensional passing-attack, Cohen was forced to fire 43 passes, 24 of which he completed for 312 yards and the 90-yard touchdown toss.
The lack of a running game, however, made it almost inevitable that penalties, sacks, or an interception would keep Dartmouth from sustaining long drives. For the game, Dartmouth was penalized an unseemly 13 times for 86 yards. Cohen was sacked seven times and intercepted twice on the day.
With games remaining against Brown and Princeton, teams knotted for first place in the Ivy League, Dartmouth may have squandered its last opportunity for a league win. Playing for pride, however, the Big Green players will pick themselves up after a frustrating loss and fight to the finish.
Said Gibalski, "Everyone is holding their heads up and we are going to go back to work and try to get a win next week against Brown."