Sept. 29, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. - The Bucknell football team had a chance to win a game on its final possession for a second consecutive week, but again fell short. One week after falling to Lafayette by six points, the Bison lost to Cornell 15-10 Saturday night at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. Bucknell had the ball inside the Big Red 15-yard line in the final minute, but turned the ball over on downs.
Bucknell's (1-3) defense did a solid job against a Cornell (2-1) offense that entered the game averaging 36.0 point per game. The Bison pressured QB Jeff Mathews all night, registering three sacks and five tackles for loss. Mathews was 27-for-46 passing for 278 yards, but was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season after throwing seven the last two weeks.
Evan Byers led the Bison defense as he recorded a career-high 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Ryan Morgan picked off a pass in the second quarter and tied Beau Traber for second on the squad with eight tackles.
Bucknell's defensive backs did have a number of chances for interceptions, but a few drops turned into incomplete passes rather than turnovers.
"We had opportunities they threw to us and we have to catch them," said Bison third-year head coach Joe Susan who helped Bucknell lead the nation in turnover margin in 2011. "Turnovers eliminate snaps they take and put us in good field position, but we didn't get them."
Morgan's first-quarter interception of Mathews near midfield was the only turnover in the game, but it did not lead to points as the Bison went three-and-out on their ensuing drive.
Cornell did struggle holding onto the ball as it played with a backup center, which helped lead to five fumbles, mostly on bad snaps, but the Big Red recovered all five miscues. Additionally, Cornell had kicking problems all night. The Big Red bobbled a snap and hold on an extra point and failed to convert, missed a 32-yard field goal and missed another extra point, giving the Bison life near the end.
A 29-yard field goal by Sean Cobelli, his fourth of the year, with 5:14 to play brought the Bison to within 15-10 in the fourth quarter and gave Bucknell a chance to win the game on its final possession.
Byers had three tackles, including a shared sack with Samuel Oyekoya, on Cornell's next drive, forcing the Big Red to punt from deep in its own territory after just three plays. A six-yard Kyle Sullivan punt return gave Bucknell the ball near midfield with 3:20 to play.
Brandon Wesley started the drive with three straight screen passes to Victor Walker and Jake Flaherty to get the Bison to the 28-yard line. Tyler Smith converted a 4th-and-1 to keep the drive alive, but a six-yard run by Wesley, three incomplete passes and a false start halted the drive and clinched the game for Cornell, which has won six straight in the series.
Bucknell took the early 7-0 lead as a Charles Thompson 63-yard run on his only carry of the game got the Bison to the 2-yard line. Two plays later Jeremiah Young punched it in for his first touchdown of the season.
Cornell scored the next 15 points as Mathews snuck in for a TD to cap a 10-play, 61-yard drive early in the second quarter. The Big Red then failed to convert the extra point. Boomer Olsen concluded the next drive with a 28-yard field goal after 16 plays. A Mathews pass to Kurt Ondash, who led Cornell with 118 receiving yards, was nearly intercepted by Joseph Francis near the goal line just a few plays before the field goal.
The Big Red's final points came on the first play of the fourth quarter when Silas Nacita scored on a 24-yard run. Olsen missed the ensuing extra point, leaving the door open for the Bison.
Wesley, who moved into a tied for third place with Bob Gibbon on Bucknell's career completions list (365), was 19-for-29 for 135 yards on the night. His favorite target was Walker, who caught a career-high eight passes for 57 yards.
Bucknell's leading rusher was Thompson thanks to his 63-yard run, but the game saw the return of Smith, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury. The senior co-captain rushed 12 times for 44 yards.
"Tyler brings so much to the team," said Susan. "It's great to have him back. Having options like him, Jeremiah and Charles makes us a better team."
Bucknell finished the game with 286 yards of total offense, including 151 on the ground and 135 through the air. Cornell was much less balanced, posting 299 through the air and just 62 on the ground. The Bison entered the game in the top 10 nationally in rushing defense.
For a second straight week, penalties hurt Bucknell, which was flagged six times for 75 yards.
The Bison, who have yielded an average of just 14.3 points per game this season, will open a three-game road trip next Saturday at Patriot League foe Holy Cross. The Crusaders are 0-4 this season and coming off a 52-3 loss to Harvard.