Fast Start Powers Football Past Unbeaten Sacred Heart, 43-24


ITHACA, N.Y. – Cornell scored on every first half offensive possession and once on defense and cruised to a 43-24 victory over previously unbeaten Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon at Schoellkopf Field to pick up its first win of the season. The Big Red improved to 1-2 on the year, while the Pioneers fell to 3-1.

Playing against a defense ranked eighth nationally, Cornell ran for 263 yards and three touchdowns and was efficient through the air, hitting on 13-of-17 passes for 161 yards and two more scores. Nearly all of that offense came after the Big Red had taken a 10-0 lead just 5:08 into the game after David Jones returned an interception 48 yards for a score to energize the crowd and his own sideline. It was the first interception return for a touchdown by a Cornell player in seven years, since Rush Imhotep took it to the house from 65 yards out in a 62-41 win over Columbia in 2011.

It was the first turnover of the year caused by the Big Red defense, but not the only one on the day. Jones had another interception, giving him five over his last four games dating back to last year. His 46-yard punt return on the ensuing drive set up the offense at the Pioneers' 30, and Dalton Banks ran in from seven yards out to make it 16-0. The Big Red was never threatened from there.

Harold Coles posted his fourth career 100-yard game on the ground, rushing eight times for 121 yards, including an 85-yard scamper for a touchdown. That run ties the fifth-longest in school history, with one of those four rushes his 90-yarder last season at Yale. He is now the only player in Cornell history to have two rushes of 80 or more yards in a career. Sophomores Jake Derderian (14 rushes, 55 yards) and SK Howard (10 rushes, 42 yards, touchdown) combined for 24 carries and 97 yards. The offensive line, which opened massive holes all afternoon in controlling the line of scrimmage, also did not allow a sack on the afternoon.

Cornell's defense ignited the offense, as the Big Red allowed just 81 yards on 23 carries in the first three quarters to effectively shut down the Sacred Heart run game, which entered the weekend ranked 22nd in the country at 232.3 yards per game.

DJ Woullard made a career-high eight tackles, had a sack and forced a fumble that was recovered by Malik Leary to round up the Big Red turnover parade. Each got the wear the turnover clock, which made its debut after two games without creating one.

The Big Red offense continued to take care of the football, not committing a turnover for the third straight contest to start the season.

First Quarter

  • Holding penalty negates a 31-yard touchdown run by Harold Coles. Three plays later, Nickolas Null drills a 45-yard field goal (Cornell leads 3-0, 12:17 left).
  • Jones picks off Sacred Heart quarterback Kevin Duke's pass to the right sideline and runs 48 yards for a touchdown (Null kick, Cornell leads 10-0, 9:52 left).
  • Jones fields Sacred Heart's punt and returns it 46 yards up the left side to set up Cornell at the visitors' 23-yard line (8:22 left).
  • On third down, Banks keeps the ball on the read option and surges up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown run (kick failed, Cornell leads 16-0, 5:13 left).
  • On third-and-26 from the Cornell 37, Duke evades what appears to be a sure sack to find Jordan Meachum for a 29-yard pass and run for the first down (3:02 left).
  • The Pioneers' 10-play drive is hindered by 30 yards in penalties, resulting in Josh Freiria's 28-yard field goal (Cornell leads 16-3, 1:20 left).

Second Quarter

  • On third down, Banks drops back and finds Eric Gallman II on a deep crossing route for a 28-yard reception to the Sacred Heart 15 (13:32 left).
  • Banks steps into the pocket to avoid the rush and lobs a 12-yard pass for Oscar Boochever to haul down in tight coverage along the sidelines for the touchdown (pass failed, Cornell leads 22-3, 12:01 left).
  • Harold Coles takes an interior handoff and sprints untouched up the middle for a 85-yard touchdown (Null kick, Cornell leads 29-3, 9:49 left).
  • Duke spearheads a 75-yard scoring drive in less than 3 minutes, sparked by a 38-yard pass to Nate Balthazard two plays before a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ed Cuddahy (Freiria kick, Cornell leads 29-10, 7:10 left).
  • Banks threads a third-down pass up the middle to a leaping Tommy McIntyre among four Sacred Heart defender for a 30-yard gain (2:11 left).
  • Two plays later, SK Howard breaks through the line before winning the race to the right pylon for a 12-yard touchdown rush (Null kick, Cornell leads 36-10, 1:10 left).
  • Duke finds Charles Mack for a 43-yard reception to the Cornell 27 (:13 left).
  • Locked in man-to-man coverage on the right sideline, Jones picks off Sacred Heart's pass toward the end zone (:02 left).

Third Quarter

  • J.D. PicKell, wearing #35 to honor a friend, scored on a 43-yard catch and run from Mike Catanese to open the second half scoring after the Big Red defense forced a punt.
  • Trailing 43-10, Sacred Heart went on an impressive 12-play, 91-yard drive that ended with Kevin Duke finding Lucas Nunez from 9-yards out with 43 seconds remaining in the period.

Fourth Quarter

  • Cornell, using mostly reserves into the fourth quarter, forced a turnover and a punt on its first two defensive possessions of the final quarter.
  • Senior DJ Woullard picked a great time for his first career sack, forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Malik Leary for the Big Red's third forced turnover of the game.
  • The Pioneers got on the board for the final time when Jake Radic raced in from 12 yards with 2:58 remaining to complete a drive that saw Julian Leslie run the ball seven times for 31 yards.
  • SK Howard's tough 5-yard run on third-and-fourth on the final drive allowed the Big Red to run out the clock and celebrate its first win of the season.

Notes To Know

  • Entering the game, Sacred Heart had surrendered 34 points in its first three games and Cornell had scored just 34 in two contests - the Big Red had 36 points at halftime.
  • Senior tight end Oscar Boochever caught his first career touchdown, a 12-yard pass from Banks early in the second quarter.
  • Senior J.D. PicKell, wearing #35 to honor a friend instead of his usual #4, scored on a 43-yard pass play in the second half for his first career receiving touchdown.
  • Senior Dalton Banks threw his 26th career touchdown, matching Nathan Ford '09 for fourth all-time at Cornell.
  • Sophomore Nick Busher made his first collegiate start, taking over at left guard, and senior Jake Watkins made his first start at safety.
  • Ten different players had a reception, though no one had more than two.
  • Junior Nickolas Null continued his All-Ivy type season, averaging 42.5 yards on four punts, scoring seven total points and booting a career-long 45-yard field goal.
  • Sophomore Maxton Edgerly was credited with his first career sack, while Isaiah Hogan made his first tackle for loss.
  • The win was the Big Red's 640th all-time, the 13th-most of any FCS program.