Football falls just short

By Greg Stevenson

Senior Writer

After a season-opening victory against Marist, Brandon Wesley ’14 led the Orange and Blue football team to the verge of another heroic performance in the final seconds against the Cornell Big Red last Saturday on the road.

The opposing defense stopped the Bison quarterback short of a victory on fourth down in the Cornell red zone in the final minutes, resulting in a 24-13 loss, and preventing the first 3-0 start for the Bison in 15 years.

“We knew that place was fourth and game,” Head Coach Joe Susan said. “We felt we had the right play called and wanted to put the ball in the hands of one of our playmakers. We also knew that we had two timeouts life and if we stopped Cornell from getting a first down, we would get the ball back, but the result did not work in our favor.”

After returning the opening kick-off 41 yards, the Cornell offense grabbed the momentum early with a five-play touchdown drive that took just under two minutes off the clock. The Bison defense was gashed for three plays of over 10 yards in the two-minute span.

Two series later, the Big Red took advantage of a missed field goal from Orange and Blue kicker Alex Eckard ’13 with a field goal, going up 10-0 two-thirds through the first quarter.

Despite the deficit, the Bison got on the board early in the second period on a one-yard rushing touchdown from Tyler Smith ’13. The drive was kept alive by a crucial 34-yard completion from Wesley to Victor Walker ’14 on fourth down, bringing the Bison all the way down to the one-yard line.

“These players understand that every play is its own separate entity, that a college football game is 60 minutes and every second counts,” Susan said. “They have self-confidence and confidence in each other and our system. We were down in the first game [against Duquesne] and came back twice. That experience is priceless.”

At the start of the second half, Drew Orth ’12 drained two important field goals, including a career-high 40 yarder, to give the Bison their only lead of the contest 13-10. Cornell responded to the second field goal with a one-play, 64-yard touchdown series to regain the lead entering the final quarter.

The closest the Bison would get to tying the game in the fourth quarter was their final drive of the game.

With less than five minutes remaining in the contest and trailing by four points, the Orange and Blue defense forced a Cornell punt that gave Wesley and the offense one last chance to emerge victorious. Wesley had completions, including a 46-yard pass to Frank DeNick ’12 to get the Bison in the Cornell redzone.

After two rushing plays and an incomplete pass, facing a fourth down and three, Wesley was stopped before he could get started, netting a one-yard loss and turning the ball back over to the Cornell offense.

The Big Red scored an insurance touchdown to seal the game on critical third down of the resulting drive, giving Cornell a 24-13 win in their opening game of 2011.

The Bison look to regain momentum on their 2011 season when they head to Princeton tomorrow at 6 p.m. A victory will be the program’s first against an Ivy League-school since 2006 and will ensure a winning non-conference record for the Bison.

“Princeton is a much better team,” Susan said. “They are unique in both what they do offensively and defensively. They have an active and talented defensive front and run a fast-paced, no-huddle offense. But, if we travel this week the way we always do, there should be no issues in our preparation.”

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