On one of the few weekends in Ithaca, N.Y., where the weather is actually bearable, there were remarkably few students on Cornell’s campus.
It was fall break for students, which marks an annual mass exodus from upstate New York for the second weekend of October.
It was probably a good thing the vast majority of the students weren’t around to see the Big Red Big Bloodshed.
Saturday’s 40-3 dismantling of the Cornell football team (0-4, 0-2 Ivy) was just the fourth in line in a series of 2015 slaughters by the Harvard squad (4-0, 2-0).
Surprisingly, the majority of people actually in attendance at Schoellkopf Field—definitely a much smaller number than the 7,092 recorded tickets distributed—appeared to stick out the entire game, an impressive feat considering the final 13 minutes consisted of just five first downs gained, 91 total offensive yards, and a whopping zero points.
Maybe these diehard Cornellians were somehow not bored by yet another mundane Harvard final quarter, but I was ready for this game to be over by the time Crimson quarterback Scott Hosch barreled into the end zone to begin the fourth quarter.
As Harvard coach Tim Murphy emptied the end of his bench—which has seen nearly as much playing time as the starters this season thus far—it felt like déjà vu.
Eighteen at Rhode Island, 40 against Brown, 45 versus Georgetown, and now 31 over Cornell.
Those are the leads that the Crimson has held at the third quarter for each game this season.
Of any of the teams that Harvard has faced this year, however, Cornell seemed to have the best shot of snapping the 17-game win streak—at least, early on.
When the Crimson’s offense stalled on its first possession, the Big Red marched all the way to Harvard’s 16-yard line before kicking a field goal.
Suddenly, Murphy’s team found itself in a position it had yet to experience all season: trailing.
Perhaps something about the startling and unfamiliar feeling of being behind jump-started the Crimson offense.
On the ensuing kickoff return, rookie receiver Justice Shelton Mosley showed that he was a more than adequate replacement for injured kick returner and receiver Andrew Fischer, bringing the ball 47 yards back to set up Harvard in Cornell territory.
One play later, Hosch connected with senior tight end Ben Braunecker for the score. Seventeen seconds, seven points, and trailing no longer.
The jumbotron in Schoellkopf Field tells the story from there, of the barrage of scoring that poured out from the white jerseys.
But the most damage done on the green battlefield was reflected on the other side of the score.
After the lone field goal in the first quarter, Cornell failed to reach Harvard territory until the fourth quarter—and even on that possession, the drive resulted in a punt.
The Crimson’s defense—already atop the Ivy League in points allowed and second in the FBS—looked especially sharp Saturday.
With a front seven that prides itself on stopping the run, defensive coordinator Scott Larkee will certainly be proud of a group that gave up just 37 yards to starting Big Red running back Luke Hagy, who coming into the game averaged 114 yards per game.
And when Cornell took to the air instead, the best passing defense in the Ivy League made sure that facet of the Big Red offense was just as unsuccessful.
For every three passes that Cornell quarterback Robert Somborn completed Saturday afternoon, he threw a pick. One interception was off the hands of a tipped receiver, but the other two were the result of keen awareness of the ball by Crimson linebackers.
If there was anything that could have disappointed about Harvard’s performance, it was that the 40 points on the scoreboard wasn’t higher.
Not that Harvard should keep its first-stringers out to rack up points—though the 40 points was the lowest the Crimson has scored all season after averaging 46 points over the last three games—but the margin was just 17-3 heading into the half, and there was ample opportunity early on to widen it.
Even with Cornell’s first-team All-Ivy punter, Harvard averaged a starting field position at its own 40-yard line in the first half but an inconsistent offense managed to find the end zone just twice.
The Crimson scored just 17 points off of four takeaways and had just 27 points to show for seven red zone trips during the game.
For Harvard to continue to win in the lopsided fashion Cambridge fans have become accustomed to, the offense will need to more consistently finish the job the defense starts against the upcoming stingier defenses of Princeton and Dartmouth.
But in a quiet stadium in Ithaca, the Crimson starters played well enough to massacre the Big Red, earn another relaxing final quarter, and bore this reporter for the fourth-straight week.
Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at email@example.com.
Football Faces First Conference Road Game Against Cornell
Metoyer, Healy Lead Women's Basketball To A Weekend Sweep
Men's Lacrosse Defeats Cornell For Third Consecutive Time
Notebook: Football Drops Sloppy Contest to CornellCornell sits deep in upstate New York. For miles there is nothing but trees and hills until there is suddenly a tall concrete parking garage. Atop that garage sits the the Big Red’s windy football field.
For Second Straight Year, Cornell Steals Game from Football