Cornell geared its defense towards stopping Harvard’s passing game on Saturday afternoon. Offensively, the Big Red hoped to control the clock with a ball-control offense.
Cornell certainly accomplished the latter goal, keeping the ball for 35:28 as compared to Harvard’s 24:32. But the Big Red’s failure to execute on the other side of the ball sealed its fate in the Crimson’s convincing 52-23 win.
“I was very encouraged through parts of the game with our offensive performance, but defensively we broke down in every possible area,” said Cornell coach Tim Pendergast, after watching his team surrender 353 passing yards and 553 yards of total offense. “We thought coming in that Harvard was going to try to throw the ball on us. I guess we guessed right. But guessing right didn’t help us at all.”
Cornell surrendered five touchdowns that covered more than 20 yards, including an 89-yard kickoff return by Rodney Byrnes and 54-yard TD catch by Carl Morris.
“When you look at the fact that Harvard held the ball for 24 and a half minutes and put up 52 points, that just tells you about the big-play problem that we had,” Pendergast said. “They just have so many weapons.”
Cornell’s offense, meanwhile, was very effective in the early going. It ate up over 12 minutes of clock in the first quarter, committed no first-half turnovers and was efficient in throwing short passes out of a multiple-receiver offense.
“In preparing for Harvard, we wanted to go with five wide [receivers],” said Cornell quarterback Mick Razzano, who had a career day with 198 yards passing. “We thought we could spread them out, and for the most part I think we did. We used some short passes and got underneath them.”
The Big Red trailed by just seven at halftime but couldn’t keep pace with Harvard’s 26-point effort in the second half.
“It’s great that we passed the ball well and ran it well, but when it comes down to it we have to score,” Razzano said. “We had a few opportunities that we didn’t convert on. We just didn’t score enough.”
Puttin’ on the Fitz
After two impressive outings already this season, Harvard sophomore quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had the best performance of his college career on Saturday.
He hit on 24 of 32 passes for 353 yards—the fourth highest single-game total in Harvard school history—and also threw for a career-high three touchdowns.
And Fitzpatrick’s 64 yards rushing on 13 carries pushed his total yardage on the day to 417, the second best total in school history behind senior Neil Rose’s 427-yard effort at Brown in 2000.
“The bottom line is that we scored 52 points,” said Murphy of Fitzpatrick’s performance. “Any time you do that without making any turnovers, [your quarterback] is managing the offense the way you want it to run.”
In addition to his best statistical game, Fitzpatrick had his most poised game at Harvard, as well. He led the Crimson with a veteran’s confidence, even in cold and rainy conditions not typically conducive of the type of career day he had.
“I definitely feel more comfortable out there,” said Fitzpatrick, who currently leads the Crimson with 325 rushing yards this season. “I feel like I have the trust of my teammates out there. Our timing is down.”
Pendergast was very complimentary of Fitzpatrick’s continued efforts in place of senior captain Neil Rose, who did not play on Saturday because of a nagging sciatic nerve problem.
“Fitzpatrick is an outstanding quarterback,” Pendergast said. “They didn’t miss a beat when Rose went down.”
Spreading the Wealth
A major reason for Fitzpatrick’s success this season has been the bevy of playmakers that he has at his disposal.
“It makes it a lot easier to put the ball in great athletes’ hands and let them take care of it,” said Fitzpatrick, who completed three or more passes to four different receivers in Saturday’s game.
With opposing defenses keying primarily on stud wideout Carl Morris and the emerging Rodney Byrnes, other players have found themselves with more room to work with and Murphy said “it’s a necessity” to get big contributions from them.
Sophomore Brian Edwards—who caught his first collegiate pass last weekend at Lehigh—certainly did his part. He opened the scoring with a 23-yard touchdown catch early in the first quarter and finished with three catches for 62 yards.
Junior Kyle Cremarosa had a nearly identical day, hauling in three passes for 63 yards and a sensational 27-yard touchdown catch on a pass that was tipped by a Cornell defender.
“It was the first start for Brian Edwards, and he played really well,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s a really great athlete. Same thing with Kyle Cremarosa, with that touchdown catch in the end zone.”
Pendergast certainly realizes what an asset a deep receiving corps has been for Harvard.
“You can’t sit here and game plan against one player,” he said. “They have a lot of weapons, and they’ve done a great job with the weapons they have.”
—Staff writer Jon Paul Morosi can be reached at email@example.com.