Football Falls in Finale to Cornell, 48-38
PHILADELPHIA - In a shootout at Franklin Field, the University of Pennsylvania football team fell to Cornell, 48-38, in the 2011 season finale for both teams Saturday afternoon.
It was a back-and-forth affair as neither team led by more than seven until the Big Red, who won for the first time at Franklin Field in 12 years, scored the game-clinching touchdown with 1:24 remaining.
On a day when the University unveiled a statue of former Penn and Philadelphia Eagles great Chuck Bednarik at halftime, there wasn't much defense from either side.
The scoring started early and continued throughout the day. Penn (5-5, 4-3 Ivy) recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and five plays later, junior Billy Ragone ran it in from eight yards out for a 7-0 lead just 58 seconds into the contest.
Cornell (5-5, 3-4 Ivy) tied the game with an eight-play drive and had a chance to take its first lead after forcing a Penn punt. However, senior linebacker Erik Rask tipped Jeff Mathews' pass into the air, then corralled it, then broke a tackle and ran 30 yards into the end zone for a 14-7 lead at the 3:51 mark of the opening quarter.
Just a little more than a minute later, Cornell responded with a 64-yard touchdown pass to draw even.
Penn's ensuing drive was its most dominant of the game. The Quakers used 14 plays and 6:56 of the clock to march 72 yards. Junior Brandon Colavita put the exclamation point on the drive with his one-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal.
Cornell needed just 3:18 to tie the game again, but Penn put together a 10-play drive and freshman Connor Loftus' 35-yard field goal gave the Quakers a 24-21 edge that held up until the half.
Cornell, which claimed the Trustees' Cup for the first time since 2006, took its first lead of the day with 4:33 to go in the third quarter. After the Red and Blue were stopped on 4th-and-1 at the Cornell 45, the Big Red threw a 54-yard bomb on the very next play to set up a 1-yard touchdown run. A botched extra point, kept the deficit at 27-24.
Penn punted, but Mathews, who threw for an Ivy League record 548 yards, was pummeled from behind by senior Matt Hamscher. The ball popped out of Mathews' hand and into the chest of senior Jared Sholly who returned it 11 yards to the Big Red 7.
On the next play, Ragone, who posted the fifth-best offensive season in school history with 2,284 total yards in 2011, found sophomore wideout Ryan Mitchell for a 31-27 lead with 1:27 to go in the third quarter.
However, three quick pass plays later and Cornell had covered 69 yards to find the end zone and regain the lead, 34-31, just before the end of the quarter.
The Quakers took their final lead of the day on the next drive. Ragone found senior Joe Holder for 40 yards, Mitchell for 12 more and then ran it in from the four to give Penn a 38-34 edge with 13:18 remaining.
The Big Red were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the seven-yard line on their next drive, but two plays later, Ragone was intercepted and Cornell had the ball at the Penn 27.
Moments later, Mathews' fourth touchdown pass of the day had Cornell on top, 41-38, with 9:15 remaining.
Penn took 10 plays to reach the Cornell 26 before they were stopped. Loftus' game-tying 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 5:23 to go.
Cornell methodically drove down the field to put the game away. On the 10th play of the drive, Mathews' connected on his fifth and final touchdown pass of the day with 1:24 to play. It marked the first double-digit lead for either team.
Colavita had a game-high 48 rushing yards and once score. Ragone finished with a career high 23 completions and 40 attemtps for 253 yards and three total touchdowns (two rush, one pass).
Senior Ryan Calvert had nine catches on the day to finish with 58 for the season. That is eighth-highest single season total in Penn history and the most since Dan Castles caught 71 passes in 2003. Mitchell had six catches for 79 yards and a score as nine different Quakers caught a pass.
Cornell finished the game with negative-seven yards rushing, but had 541 yards of total offense. Penn had 115 yards on the ground and 368 overall.
Sophomore Sebastian Jaskowski had a career high 11 tackles and two pass breakups to lead the team. Hamscher added nine tackles, two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble in his final game. Sophomore Dan Wilk had a career-best six tackles as did junior Anthony Marino. Rask also played his final game in the Red and Blue and had three pass breakups in addition to his first career touchdown.
Penn's senior class finished their careers with a 28-12 record overall, including a 23-5 mark against the Ivy League. They won two Ivy League titles, were just the third team to ever put together back-to-back undefeated Ivy seasons, and won 18 consecutive Ivy League games - the second-longest streak in league history.