Columbia-Cornell Full Analysis
Columbia 21 Cornell 14
Why Columbia Won
The offense and the defense worked together to get a lead and keep it for 60 minutes. Columbia started the game with a pass-heavy 77-yard drive for a touchdown that rewarded the defense before it even took the field. The other two Lion scores were set up directly by the defense, but Columbia's offense moved the ball well the entire game and never turned it over.
Why Cornell Lost
The Big Red forgot to bring a passing game. Cornell's defense and running attack was impressive throughout the contest, but they could not get anything going in the air. When they did try to pass, good things were just as likely to happen for Columbia as they were for the Big Red. Three interceptions sealed their fate.
Key Turning Points
1) With Columbia leading 7-0 late in the first quarter, Cornell faced a 2nd and nine from their own 16. Nate Ford's pass was intercepted by Adam Brekke at the Big Red 25 and Brekke then broke a ton of tackles to run it back for a touchdown.
2) With the score 14-7 Lions late in the second quarter, Cornell started to move the ball on its last possession of the half. The Big Red quickly went from their 21 to their 48 and had 16 seconds left to do more damage. But Columbia forced three straight incomplete passes and the seven-point halftime lead was preserved.
3) Cornell took the opening possession of the second half and began driving again. Siwula rushed three straight times to give the Big Red a 2nd and two at the Columbia 44. But the Columbia defense stiffened after that. Siwula's fourth straight carry went for only yard and then Nathan Ford fumbled the ball on 3rd and one. Cornell kept possession, but they had to punt it away.
4) In a similar sequence, Cornell's next possession began at their own 40, and after two straight Shane Kilcoyne runs and a Nate Ford scramble, the Big Red had a 1st and ten at the Lion 47. But two straight Kilcoyne runs after that netted just two yards, and on 3rd and eight, Matt Bashaw sacked Ford back to the Cornell 46. That led to another punt.
5) On the Cornell's third possession of the half, Big Red Coach Jim Knowles gave the ball to back-up QB Stephen Liuzza, who threw a pass on the first play that senior free safety Tad Crawford went very high in the air to pick off at the Cornell 33. One play later, Columbia's Craig Hormann found tight end Jamal Russell open on the west sideline and he rumbled into the end zone for a 21-7 Lion lead.
6) Early in the fourth, Cornell scored a touchdown to make it 21-14 and followed that with a beautiful on-side kick to take the ball at their own 47. The Big Red were cruising down the field until they got into the red zone. On 3rd and two from the Columbia 19, Phillip Mitchell and Darren Schmidt stuffed Siwula for no gain. Then on 4th and two, freshman Justin Masorti came in untouched from Ford's left and sacked him for an 11-yard loss, giving the Lions possession at their 30.
7) Columbia's offense actually went five yards backward on the ensuing series, but by running the ball three straight times, they forced the Big Red to burn their final two timeouts. That made Cornell need to beat the Lions on their own without any help from a turnover.
8) Cornell's freshman returning sensation, Bryan Walters brought the final Columbia punt all the way to the Lion 32, but the defense didn't let down. A Big Red illegal motion pushed the ball back to the 37 and on the next play, Drew Quinn intercepted Ford to end the game.
The offense got the job done. Jordan Davis rushed for 89 yards on 19 carries for 4.7 yards a rush. Craig Hormann had his best game of the season, going 14-of-20 for 187 yards, (a 9.35 yards per pass average), one touchdown and no interceptions or fumbles. Jamal Russell had only one catch, but he made it count, rumbling down the sideline for a 33-yard TD.
The defense had another game where the unit just wouldn't quit. Cornell had numerous chances to tie the game, but the "D" just wouldn't let it happen. The Big Red put up some impressive rushing totals, but the Lions shut them down on the ground in most of the key moments of the game. When the tried the pass, Cornell QB's only completed 11 passes, threw three interceptions and were sacked three times. Columbia's defense is now on a pace to give up less than 160 points for this entire season.
Overall, the win means a tremendous amount as it ends the Lions' 16-game Ivy League losing streak and puts the squad in a position to get a .500 overall won-lost record for the season. It also pretty much means 2006 will go down as a successful start for Norries Wilson and crew who have delivered four wins, and nine straight weeks of competitive football games for the Lion faithful.
The offense had one or two chances to put the game away in the fourth quarter, but got bogged down by illegal motion and procedure penalties. The defense came through of course, but they had to make one or two more stops than they should have.
And while the defense was superb, it gave up too many yards on Cornell's delayed runs up the middle and quick runs to their right. If the Big Red passing game had any bite, Cornell may have won this game.
A lot of players can lay claim to the award this week. Craig Hormann played mistake-free ball. Jordan Davis had some huge runs. Tad Crawford led the team in tackles and had a key interception. And Justin Masorti's huge fourth quarter sack was completed earlier by a big first-down saving tackle. But I have to give the award to senior captain Adam Brekke. His interception return for a TD was a lesson in perseverance and perseverance is this four-year star's calling card.