Heading into Saturday’s game (Oct. 7) against the host Harvard football team, Cornell’s Big Red led all of Division I-AA in protecting its quarterback, giving up just 0.3 sacks per game. After Harvard’s defense amassed seven sacks en route to a 33-23 Crimson win – the team’s fourth straight to stay unbeaten on the season – that statistical distinction has, let’s say, been reassigned.
Leading the lockdown against the Big Red was defensive end Brad Bagdis ’08. The junior collected five assisted tackles on the afternoon to go with three sacks, including a big momentum buster in the second quarter that saw Bagdis track down Cornell QB Nathan Ford for a loss of 23 yards. The play drove the Big Red back to its own 11-yard line, promptly forcing the visitors to punt – one of six boots for Cornell on the afternoon (to Harvard’s three).
As a whole, Harvard’s defense allowed the visitors a meager 1.6 yards per rush on the afternoon, while giving up just four rushing yards in the entire first half. Such stingy play proved essential for the Crimson, who relied on their strong start and early lead – 30-10 at the break – to weather a surging Big Red team in the final two quarters. Indeed, as Harvard’s offense managed a lone field goal in the second half (a 25-yarder courtesy of junior Matt Schindel), Cornell piled on 182 total yards, including 119 through the air, for a pair of touchdowns.
Following a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the opening minutes of the final quarter, the visitors managed to close the gap to 33-17. And though Cornell’s subsequent onside kick was grounded by Harvard’s Nick Hasselberg ’10, the Big Red managed to string together another scoring drive capped by Zac Canty’s 27-yard reception at 3:13 to make it a 10-point contest. Cornell’s second onside attempt proved successful, as the football made a bouncy beeline for the sidelines before falling into the hands of a Cornell special teamer at the Harvard 49-yardline. The Crimson defense was not deterred by the Big Red’s fortunes, however, as the home team held Cornell at bay for four consecutive plays, counting senior nose tackle Michael Berg’s sack on 2 and 10 for a 5-yard Cornell loss. Following Ford’s incomplete pass on fourth down at the 2:02 mark, the Harvard offense took to the field, took a knee, and ran out the clock for the win.
Not to be outdone by the defense, Clifton Dawson ’07 again showcased his command of the field with another three-touchdown performance (his fourth this season), including a 93-yard opening kickoff return for a score. Along the way, the senior also broke a pair of Ivy League records, surpassing Brown’s Nick Hartigan (class of 2005) in total touchdowns and points scored (56 and 338, respectively). Wideout Corey Mazza ’07, meanwhile, reeled in three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown. He is now third in career receiving yards for the Harvard program with 1,694.
The Crimson (4-0; 2-0 Ivy) will look to make it five straight this Saturday (Oct. 14) at the stadium. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m.