Big Red Buries Bison 38-14
Photo Gallery (Photos by Patrick Shanahan)
ITHACA, N.Y. – Senior running back Luke Siwula became the sixth running back in Cornell history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing and reached the end zone a career-best three times to propel the Big Red to a season-opening 38-14romp of Bucknell in front of 10,118 fans at Schoellkopf Field on Saturday evening. The Big Red extended its home win streak to six games and improved to 36-11 all-time against the program’s oldest active rival, while Bucknell dropped to 1-2 on the season.

Siwula scored on runs of 2, 3 and 1 yards while finishing the afternoon with 81 yards on 21 carries. The native of Cortland, N.Y., ended the evening with 2,066, just 90 yards behind Cornell Hall of Famer Gary Wood ’64 for fifth place.

While Siwula churned out the hard yards, it was Cornell’s aerial attack that left the fans in attendance buzzing. Using three, four and sometimes five receiver sets, junior quarterback Nathan Ford tossed for 288 yards while completing 31-of-45 passes, both marks career highs. He also ran for two short touchdowns as all five Big Red scores came on the ground. Ford hit 10 different receivers as 12 different players caught passes total. The top target was last year’s backup quarterback, sophomore Stephen Liuzza. The Slidell, La., native hauled in seven passes for 84 yards, both game highs. The Big Red spread the ball around on offense, with 12 different receivers catching a pass. Tight end Alex Spooner caught a career-best five passes for 43 yards, while five others had at least two catches.

Senior place-kicker Peter Zell connected on a 27-yard field goal and banged home all five extra-point kicks after opening the game at midfield as the special teams captain for the coin toss.

While the offense was hitting on all cylinders, the defense was also stout against a Bucknell offense that runs the feared spread option attack. Cornell was up to the task, allowing only 152 yards on the ground on 43 carries and limiting the Bison quarterbacks to 8-of-21 passing for just 88 yards, including 35 yards on an inconsequential touchdown with 1:45 remaining in the contest. Juniors Tim Bax and Anthony Sabo each had a team-best nine tackles, with Bax adding a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Graham Rihn added five tackles, including two for a loss and a sack in the victory. Luke McCarthy and Gus Krimm each added 1.5 tackles for loss and co-captain Colin Nash recovered a fumble and broke up a pass to open his senior campaign.

Bucknell (1-2) was led by A.J. Kizekai’s 50 yards on nine rushes. The national leader in all-purpose yards added 160 all-purpose yards, well below his season average of 255.5 yards per game. Quarterback Marcello Trigg carried the ball 15 times for 37 yards, but completed only 6-of-16 passing attempts for 53 yards. Jason Davis had a game-high 11 tackles and Ahkiel White posted nine tackles and an interception in the loss.

The Big Red fell just shy of matching a school record for first downs in a game (31), moving the chains 29 times in piling up 453 yards of total offense. Cornell also held significant advantages in time of possession (33:55-26:05) and total plays (89-64). Cornell scored 6-of-7 times when reaching the red zone, with the lone exception being a field goal that missed after hitting the uprights.

On the second play from scrimmage, Bucknell’s Trigg scampered 22 yards to get the ball in Cornell territory and followed that with a complete pass to Daniel Zvara to put the call on the Big Red 32-yard line. The Cornell defense responded, however, forcing two short runs before Rihn sacked Trigg for a 4-yard loss. On fourth-and-9, the Bison gambled and attempted a pass, but the ball was well short and the Big Red took over on downs.

The Cornell offense looked strong from the get-go as Ford completed an 8-yard pass to Liuzza, and a 5-yard rush by Siwula got the Big Red to its 44-yard line. Ford kept the sticks moving, completing an 8-yard pas to Alex Spooner, before rushing 7 yards on a broken play to take the ball just over midfield. Just as the offense began to sputter, a pass interference call on the Bison put the ball deep in Bucknell territory and the Big Red capitalized with a 21-yard pass from Ford to Kilcoyne to put the ball on the Bucknell 3-yard line. Siwula punched it in with a run up the middle and Zell added the extra point to put the Big Red up 7-0 with just under seven minutes to play in the opening stanza.

Not to be undone by the offense, the Cornell defense forced a three-and-out and Bison were forced to punt. Taking over on its own 39-yard line, the Big Red offense loss five yards on its first play due to a holding penalty, but a 16-yard screen pass to Siwula moved the ball to the Bucknell 47-yard line. A hard-fought 3-yard carry by Siwula set up a third-and-4 and Ford hit Tommy Bleymaier for the first down. Ford continued to look sharp, hitting Liuzza for a 13-yard gain to move the ball to the Bucknell 20, and a perfectly timed draw play saw Shane Kilcoyne scamper 19-yards to put the ball on the doorstep. A quarterback keeper and the extra point by Zell put the Big Red up 14-0 with 2:45 to play in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Kizekai posted a 28-yard return to bring the ball to the Bucknell 41-yard line and kept the ball on the ground to get into Cornell territory for the first time early in the first quarter. On third-and-8 at the Cornell 23-yard line, a 15-yard pass interference call put the Bison deep into the red zone, but a false start backed Bucknell to the Cornell 13-yard line. Trigg dropped back to pass and heavy pressure by the Cornell defensive line nearly caused a sack, but Trigg eluded the would-be tacklers and took the ball to the Cornell 3-yard line. On the next play, Corin Erby took the ball up the middle to put the Bison on the board with 12:36 to go before the half. Will Carney added the extra-point.

Randy Barbour returned the kickoff 13 yards to take the ball to the Cornell 30-yard line before a 13-yard rush by Kilcoyne, followed by a 9-yard rush by Liuzza, brought the ball near midfield. From there, Ford took over, hitting Vredenburgh for 15 yards, Kilcoyne for 5 yards and Liuzza for 13 yards to move the ball to the Bucknell 28-yard line. A 10-yard rush by Siwula put the Big Red in scoring range, but a dropped pass in the end zone and a holding call on the following play wiped out a Kilcoyne rush negated what looked like two Cornell touchdowns. After a failed third-down conversion, Zell came on to convert a 27-yard field goal to cap a 12-play, 61-yard drive, to put the Big Red up, 17-7, at the 9:04 mark of the second quarter.

On Bucknell’s next possession, Erby rushed the ball to the Bucknell 42-yard line, but a swarm of Big Red defenders met him and Rihn forced a fumble, which Gus Krimm recovered to give the ball back to Cornell. After three quick plays gained only five yards, the Big Red decided to go for it on fourth-and-5, but an incomplete pass turned the ball back over to Bucknell on its 37-yard line.

A 13-yard run by Kizekai moved the ball to the 50-yard line and an 11-yard reception by Josh Lovett gave the Bison a third-down conversion while moving the ball into Cornell territory. After another Bucknell first down, the Big Red defense stuffed two-straight rushes and forced an incomplete pass to bring up fourth down. Bucknell decided to attempt the 46-yard field goal attempt and Carney’s attempt went wide right to give the Big Red the ball at its 30-yard line. The Cornell offense wasted little time, using just four plays to move the ball past midfield, before Ford connected with Liuzza on a 28-yard reception to take the ball down to the Bucknell 20-yard line. From there, however, the offense stalled and a 38-yard field goal attempt by Zell missed the mark as he hit the left goal post with 52 seconds left in the half.

With the Bison trying to move the ball before the intermission, the Cornell defense locked down and a sack for a loss of seven yards by Krimm put the ball back on the Bison 36 for a third-and-nine. Trigg found Cale Cadman all alone well pass the first down marker, but a perfectly timed hit by Anthony Sabo knocked the ball loose and Bucknell was forced to punt with six seconds left.

Cornell opened the third quarter with a crisp offensive drive, taking the ball 57 yards with just eight plays, capped by a three-yard run by Siwula and an extra point by Zell, to put the Big Red up, 24-7, at the 11:48 mark.

Bucknell’s Nolan Applegate took the kickoff and streaked 18 yards up-field, where he was met by Chris Costello who forced a fumble. Cornell’s Doug Lempa recovered the ball to give possession back to the Big Red on the Bucknell 34-yard line.

After an incomplete pass, Ford rolled out of the pocket under pressure and hit Zac Canty on the run for a 21-yard gain to move the ball deep into Bison territory. Two rushes by Siwula, sandwiched around a rush by Ford, moved the ball to the Bucknell four-yard line and faced with a fourth-and-one, Ford lowered his shoulder and got the first down. The Big Red kept the ball on the ground and after moving the ball to the goal line, Ford used a quarterback sneak and Zell converted the PAT to put Cornell up, 31-7.

The Bison’s next drive was marred with mistakes right from the beginning as Kizekai muffed the kickoff and had to fall on the ball right at the Bucknell 19-yard line. After a six-yard rush by Kevin Mullen, Rashod Bumpers carried the ball four yards, where Cornell’s Tim Bax forced a fumble and recovered the ball to give the ball back to the Big Red. Cornell was unable to capitalize, however, as a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage was picked off by Ahkiel White for the Big Red’s first turnover of the evening.

The Cornell defense went back to work and did a solid job of holding the Bison, forcing another Bucknell punt with just under four minutes to play in the quarter. The Big Red picked up two first downs before being forced to punt for the first time of the game at the 1:30 mark.

Two incomplete passes, followed by a short six-yard completion, forced a Bison punt and Bryan Walters returned the ball 16 yards to Bucknell 46-yard line. Siwula used two rushes to carry the ball 10 yards and a completed pass to Walters for 12 yards put the ball on the Bucknell 24-yard line. A pass in the flat to Liuzza looked like it would be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but he managed to power ahead for six yards, and a four-yard completion by Bleymaier gave Cornell another first down at the Bison 18-yard line. A costly holding penalty pushed the Big Red back, but a 19-yard completion to Spooner put the ball on the goal on the goal line. On the very next play, Siwula drove up the middle for his third touchdown of the night and Zell converted to put Cornell up, 38-7, with 12:03 to play.

Bucknell got an outstanding return by Kizekai on the kickoff, taking the ball out to the Bison’s 34-yard line, before a 12-yard rush brought the ball near midfield. Three short-gain rushes led to a fourth-and-four at the Cornell 47-yard line and the Bucknell was forced to punt.

Sophomore #Ben Ganter #saw his first varsity action on the next series and despite a four-yard completion to Matt Kenney on his first attempt, the Bison forced a three-and-out.

Despite a booming punt by Nick Maxwell, Applegate managed to return the ball to the Bucknell 49-yard line and the Bison showed signs of life with a seven-yard rush by Josh Lee. The drive was short-lived, however, and Bucknell was forced to punt. The punt was outstanding, as Phil Azarik put the ball out of bounds at the five-yard line. Three straight rushes for 12 yards by Randy Barbour brought the Big Red out of the shadow if its own end zone, but Maxwell was forced to punt again.

After an illegal procedure penalty, the Bison took over on the Cornell 46-yard line, and managed to capitalize on the outstanding field position. Bucknell used five plays, capped by a 35-yard toss from Terrance Wilson to Josh Lee, to make it 38-14 with 1:45 to play. The Big Red recovered the onsides kick and ran out the final 1:30 of the contest.

Cornell returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 22, when it visits Ivy foe Yale. The Big Red heads to New Haven, Conn., for a 12:30 p.m. kick.