Last year’s Homecoming was wrecked by the norovirus that prevented Georgetown from making the trip to play Colgate’s football team. This year, however, Colgate’s opponent made the trip, but they probably wish they had stayed in Ithaca. Colgate racked up 561 total yards, 334 of them on the ground, on their way to a 45-23 win over the Big Red of Cornell. The win pushed Colgate’s record to 5-0 on the year.
The Raiders came out strong and didn’t look back. Despite a 43-yard kick return by Cornell’s Bryan Walters that set the Big Red up at their own 43 to start the game, the Colgate defense forced three straight incompletions from Cornell quarterback Ben Ganter to force a three-and-out. After a punt that was downed at the Colgate 8, the Raiders went on a beautiful eight play, 92-yard drive that was capped off when sophomore running back Nate Eachus, playing for the first time since week one, burned several defenders for a 34-yard touchdown run. Colgate’s defense forced another three-and-out on the ensuing Cornell possession, and the offense responded by driving 61 yards in seven plays. This time it was another sophomore running back, Jordan McCord, who finished off the drive with a five-yard rush to put Colgate up 14-0. McCord, who did a great job filling in for Eachus in past weeks, essentially split carries with Eachus in his return.
Cornell finally got on the board with a field goal to cut the lead to 14-3. It looked like Colgate would answer right back as sophomore quarterback Greg Sullivan connected with McCord for a 51-yard gain on the first play of the ensuing possession. However, Sullivan fumbled on the next play and Cornell’s Anthony Ambrosi recovered at his own 21.
However, Cornell once again went three-and-out. On the following possession the Raiders struck again. This time Eachus scored from one yard out to make the score 21-3. Cornell did score on their next possession, after a 43-yard pass from Ganter to Walters that set up a Nick Mlady run from a yard out, cutting the lead to 21-10. Colgate scored one more time before the half though, as they capped off 16 play, 68-yard drive with a 29-yard field goal from first-year Evan Colborne. In a series of unfortunate events, Colborne suffered an injury on the play after a late hit from Cornell, and first-year punter Evan Goldszak injured himself during halftime while warming up to replace Colborne, lending to what Head Coach Dick Biddle indicates will likely be two multi-week injuries. Despite the losses, the Raiders opened up the second half with a 24-10 advantage.
Colgate continued to ramp up the score on the first possession of the second frame, as they drove 84 yards in 10 plays, on a drive capped off by a 21-yard rush by McCord. First-year Andy Heagle was pressed into kicking duty and made the PAT to put the Raiders up 31-10. There was no more scoring until early in the fourth quarter when Eachus ran in from nine yards out to put the Raiders up 38-10. The lead was insurmountable and the Raiders went on to win 45-23.
You don’t have to look hard to see the reason for Colgate’s victory. They ran the ball, ran it again, and then ran it some more. The Raiders outrushed the Big Red 344-63. Eachus accounted for 129 yards and three touchdowns, McCord compiled 98 yards and two scores, while Sullivan ran for 89 yards and a TD.
“It was partly the combination of the running backs, partly having a quarterback that can run, and partly great blocking from the offensive line,” Head Coach Dick Biddle said, speaking of his team’s success on the ground. “Cornell also made an effort to make sure Pat Simonds was not going to beat them, which allowed us to take advantage on the ground. Part of the success was also great execution by our quarterback.”
Sullivan had a solid day through the air as well, passing for 217 yards. Oddly enough, Cornell quarterback Ben Ganter also tossed for 217 yards, with a touchdown and interception to boot. With senior wideout Pat Simonds doubled-teamed all day, catching just three passes for 33-yards, junior wide out Doug Rosnick stepped up as Sullivan’s main target, with four receptions for 53 yards. First-year John Schademan was also a huge component of the passing attack. He caught two passes for 52 yards, while adding 19 yards on a reverse. Named Patriot League Rookie of the Week for his efforts, Schademan’s accolade marked the fourth straight week that a Colgate player won the Rookie of the Week award.
The defense played well again last week and has improved from last season, but Coach Biddle believes that his team’s success on defense is tied to success on the other side of the ball.
“They’re playing with a lot more confidence and they are a lot more comfortable with their roles this year,” Coach Biddle said. “The offense also complements the defense. We’ve been doing a great job controlling the ball, so that the defense is out there for around 20 minutes and not 35 to 40 minutes.”
Leading the way for the defense on Saturday was senior linebacker Greg Hadley with six tackles, while sophomore safety Vinnie Nicosia had the team’s lone interception. Cornell got a big day from Brandon Lainhart who racked up 15 tackles.
Colgate travels to New Jersey tonight to battle the Princeton Tigers. The game will kickoff at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.
“It’s a great opportunity to show everyone around the country what Colgate football is about,” Hadley said. “The experience will be pretty cool and we’re all grateful for the chance to play on ESPNU, but we want to go out and win the game more than anything else.”
Despite losing their starting kicker and punter, the Raiders are still set on pushing their record to 6-0. Colgate will enter the game ranked 23rd in the FCS Sports Network Poll and 24th in the FCS Coaches Poll. They are also first in FCS with an astounding 277 rushing yards per game.
“We lead the nation in rushing yards and hope to continue to add to this total in this prime time game,” Eachus said. “I think if we play well enough, we can earn the respect from other power houses around the nation.”
While the main goal is the win, the game will be a fun adventure for the Raiders. Senior offensive tackle Ryan Gross is certainly ready.
“I’m pretty fired up!” Gross said.
Princeton is having a rough year, as the Tigers are 1-2 and coming off a 38-0 thrashing at the hands of Columbia.
Andy Heagle will take over placekicking and punting duties for Colgate.