Yale Drops Ivy Opener at Cornell
Wallace Accounts for Bulldogs' Touchdown
ITHACA, N.Y. – Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews won the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League's offensive MVP last year, and he got his campaign to repeat off to a good start Saturday afternoon at Schoellkopf Field at Yale's expense. Mathews threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns as the Big Red beat the Bulldogs 45-6. Two early turnovers changed the complexion of the game quickly in Cornell's favor, as the Big Red's first 14 points came on plays immediately following Yale turnovers. That negated 350 yards of offense from the Bulldogs.
Cornell's offense opened with seven straight plays for positive yardage before a penalty knocked the Big Red back five yards. Junior defensive end Beau Palin then kept Cornell going backwards by dropping Mathews for an 11-yard sack. After Cornell got to the Yale 17 for a fourth-and-two, Mathews' pass for receiver Luke Tasker was broken up by senior cornerback Collin Bibb with a hit that sent Tasker's helmet flying off. But on the very next play, Cornell safety Andrew Nelson cut in front of a short pass from freshman quarterback Eric Williams for a diving interception at the Yale 11. Mathews then handed the ball off to running back Luke Hagy for a touchdown on the next play, putting Cornell up 7-0 at the 8:55 mark.
The Yale defense made another stand when freshman defensive back Cole Champion broke up a third-and-four pass to force a punt. But the Bulldogs were once again hurt by a turnover, as a fumble on the punt was recovered Big Red long snapper Dylan Chayes at the Yale 14. The Big Red offense capitalized immediately, with Mathews dropping an 18-yard pass into the far left corner of the end zone for Tasker.
"Cornell played a very good football game, and we made way too many mistakes," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "With the interception and the fumbled punt early, you put yourself in a hole. We had trouble coming out of that hole."
Yale drove to the Cornell 36 at the end of the first quarter, but the Big Red stuffed a fourth-and-one run from there. Cornell then drove 62 yards in eight plays, including 31 yards on two completions by Mathews, for a touchdown. Hagy capped the drive with a four-yard dash up the middle to put Cornell up 21-0 at the 12:54 mark.
Another Bulldog interception set Cornell up at the Yale 31 for the next Big Red drive, and this one also ended in the end zone. Mathews hit receiver Kurt Ondash for a five-yard TD, making the score 28-0.
Turnovers had also vexed the Bulldogs in the season opener, when they made five but were still able to come away with a 24-21 win at Georgetown.
"It's a matter of mental focus," Williams said. "The heart's there. We just need to focus on the details, me especially. I had some costly turnovers."
Yale's next drive ended with a missed 40-yard field goal. Three plays into the ensuing Cornell drive, Mathews hit Hagy for a 41-yard gain on a screen pass. Three plays later Mathews found Ondash in the end zone again, and the Big Red had a 35-0 lead with 1:29 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs managed to get in position to try a 45-yard field goal as time expired in the half, but that attempt was also no good.
Senior nose guard Nick Daffin helped keep Cornell from extending its lead on the Big Red's first drive of the third quarter by dropping Hagy for a three-yard loss on second-and-one from the Yale nine; two plays later the Big Red missed a 30-yard field goal attempt.
Cornell (1-1, 1-0 Ivy League) got another touchdown pass from Mathews with 3:43 to play in the third. He hit Tasker in stride for a 21-yarder at the 3:43 mark.
Freshman tailback Tyler Varga provided some highlights for Yale (1-1, 0-1 Ivy League) on the next Eli drive, rushing for 59 yards on five carries -- including a 40-yarder. He would total 91 yards on 13 carries for the day. That drive ended with sophomore wide receiver Grant Wallace catching a seven-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal. It was Wallace's first career score. The Bulldogs' try for a two-point conversion failed, leaving the score 42-6 Cornell with 7.3 seconds left in the third.
A 22-yard field goal by Cornell's Boomer Olsen was the lone score of the fourth quarter. Yale thus allowed just 10 points in the second half after allowing 35 in the first.
"Guys kept playing," Reno said. "That shows what this team is starting to become."
Yale hosts Colgate next Saturday in the home opener at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity