One More Comeback for Hofher’s Heroes of 1990

10/19/2015 | By Jim Hanchett '53 | CFA Historian

In 1988, after nine disappointing years under coaching notables George Seifert and Bob Blackman, Maxie Baughan put together a bigger Big Red that shared Ivy honors with Penn. He left the next year, to be succeeded by Jack Fouts, a former five-year offensive line coach for Bump Elliott at Michigan, a brilliant 20 years as head coach of the Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan and five years as Maxie’s offensive line coach, including the ”88 title year. Fouts’ team won four games. Enter Jim Hofher ’79, who had been a fine passer, runner and blocker in his days as Cornell QB. He inherited highly useful talent from Maxie’s ’88 team.

Princeton and Yale were expected to challenge each other for high honors among the venerable vines of Ivy in 1990. Stay tuned.

The Tigers scored first and last in the ’90 opener in Ithaca. They blocked, and recovered a punt on the game’s first drive. Erick Hamilton ran the ball in from the Cornell 7. His fumble set up Cornell QB Chris Cochrane’s one-yard TD plunge. It was 7-6 for the first 15 minutes. Cochrane’s 17-yard TD pass to WR Mike Grant plus Cornellian John McNiff’s two-point PAT added up to a 14-7 halftime edge.for the guys in red. Matt Hepfer’s 29-yard field goal provided a 17-7 fourth quarter cushion. Tiger QB Joel Sharp unloaded a 53-yard Hail Mary to WR Joe Baker to narrow the gap as the clock ticked away in the fourth quarter. With five seconds left, Sharp found Baker again with another bomb from way out. Paul Tully shoved him out of bounds at the two and it was over. 17-14 stood up.

At Colgate the next week, McNiff returned the opening kickoff 65 yards and presently ran in a 19-yard TD but it was the Raiders’ day to ring it up, 59-24. Bucknell was a thundering Bison herd at Ithaca in the next game. Scott Oliaro tallied twice but the Bison, like the ‘Gate, scored in every quarter: Bucknell 42, Cornell 21.

McNiff just about matched the Crimson rushing total (189 yards vs. 187) and carried 67 yards for two TDs (one of them was for one yard). He was declared Ivy Back of the Week. The two TDs locked the fiercely fighting ‘Vards at 17-all in the third quarter. Hepfer’s 43-yard field goal put the Red ahead to stay with 4:15 left to play. Blitzing Red strong safety Gerry Willinger sacked Crimson QB Adam Lazarre-White with 40 seconds left. “It was a team sack,” he said. “I just happened to be the nearest to the guy with the ball.”

It was linebacker Chris Mazoue’s day to score from afar at Lafayette. His 57-yard trip with a pilfered pass gave the Red a 17-9 halftime lead. It added 21 points in the second half. One of McNiff’s two TDs for the afternoon was from 37 yards out. Final: 38-16.

No TDs for anyone when Dartmouth came to town. Hepfer kicked field goals of 41 and 35 yards, Dartmouth’s Dennis Durkin hit from 24, 28 and 19 yards. Dartmouth picked up two points when a Cornell fumble left the end zone.for a safety. The Big Red did get as far as the Big Green three but no farther. The 11-6 final came on the 50th anniversary of Cornell’s Fifth Down loss to Dartmouth in 1940 — when Cornell players voted not to accept a TD obtained on one illegal extra down. That ended an undefeated season and a number one national ranking, The Dartmouth disaster of 1990 was C.U.s sole Ivy loss of the

In a year of many long runs, Cornell’s top tackler, Mark Broderick, went the farthest of the day, 99 yards with a ball meant for a Brown receiver, deflected by DT Tim Cronin. “It was a blitz,” said Broderick, “and I man-to-man. The guy I was supposed to cover went to make a block and I saw Cronin tip the pass. It was in my hands right away. I got to the 20 and then I heard the whole crowd going nuts, and that;s when I started to realize what was happening.” It was the Big Redders’ third of four TDs that day (two for McNiff).in Cornell’s 34-7 triumph. When it was over, Hofher was given a Gatorade (or something) shower.on the sideline.

McNiff was sidelined the next weekend at Yale Bowl. Oliaro stepped in for a 69-yard TD dash on the first play of the day. Yale responded with an 82-yard kickoff return. The score was tied, 7-7, after 32 seconds, 14-14 at the end of the first quarter, and 24-all at the half. It was a four-TD day for Oliaro, who ran past Ed Marinaro’s one game rushing yardage total (281) record — with 282. Oliaro was Sports Illustrated Player of the Week of a C.U. 41. Yale 31 duel in the Bowl..

Baker Field, NY, was a dark, rainswept Mud Bowl for Columbia but McNiff was back to break loose for a splashy 95-yard TD scamper as the Big Redders rolled to a 27-point first quarter lead. One of the four first quarter TDs came when Broderick deflected a Bruce Mayhew pass into the hands of cornerback Ramon Watkins. “It hit me right in the hands,” he hold the Daily Sun’s Jeremy Schaap. “I was coming over to make a tackle and it just landed right in my hand.” and on he proceeded 20 yards for six of the 41 points Cornell accumulated in a shutout in the Lair of the Lions. It tied the Big Red with the Big Green for the Ivy lead. It was another two-TD day for Oliaro.

McNiff, fullback Tom Dutchyshyn and Cochrane ran for the three TDs needed to get by Penn 21-15 and nail down the Ivy crown to be shared with Dartmouth.

McNiff, Cronin, offensive line coach Pete Noyes’ charges tackle Jay Bloedorn, guard Chris Field and center Greg Finnegan made first team All-Ivy. Oliaro, Broderick, Tully and Willinger were second team. Honorable Mention went to Cochrane, Hepfer, DL Ardrell Mannings, corjner Don Printy and DL Rob Ryder ,

Hofher is tied (with Jack Musick) for fourth winningest Cornell football coach with 45, one behind Carl Snavely and has the most Ivy wins (33).

The team will return Far Above for Trustee/Council Weekend (of October 24 vs. Brown.)