Special Teams Scores Lift Lions Past Big Red

By CornellBigRed.com

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Mike Roussos scored on a punt and kickoff return, the latter with 45 seconds remaining, to help Columbia retain the Empire State Bowl with a 24-21 victory in the 2018 season finale at Wien Stadium. The Lions closed the season at 6-4, while the Big Red end at 3-7.

Cornell took a lead with 58 seconds remaining on a 2-yard sneak by Dalton Banks, but Roussos took the ensuing squib kick and returned it all the way for an 87-yard score. That came on the heels of a school-record 91-yard punt return in the first quarter to bookend the Lions' win.

The Big Red climbed out of an early 10-0 hole to take leads of 14-10 and 21-17 on the strength of Banks, playing his final game in a Cornell uniform, and junior Harold Coles. Coles ran for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns and caught seven passes for 86 more in the loss. Banks threw for 285 yards and ran for the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute.

Lars Pedersen caught five passes for 54 yards and Owen Peters hauled in three for 79 yards. Mo Bradford led the Big Red with 11 tackles and had his first interception and senior captain Reis Seggebruch notched nine stops and a tackle for loss to lead the defense. Jordan Landsman had four tackles, one for a loss, an interception and a pass breakup and Jelani Taylor broke up three more passes.

Cornell dominated the stat sheet, outgaining the Lions 460-235, limited the Lions to 76 rushing yards, controlled time of possession (31:47-28:13), had more first downs (22-13) and ran more plays (87-61). The Big Red missed two field goals and turned it over once - surrendering a scoring-opening field goal - in addition to allowing the two special teams touchdowns.

First Quarter

  • A screen pass from Lenhart to Castner went for 34 yards to bring the Lions out near midfield on the opening drive.
  • The Big Red defense stiffened and forced a punt.
  • Cornell picked up a first down on a crossing route from Banks to Peters, but the drive ended moments later when the Lions' Fara'ad McCombs intercepted a Banks pass at the 39 after it was tipped forward.
  • A pass completion to Castner for 16 yards brought the Lions into the red zone with just over 10 minutes to play in the quarter.
  • Chris Alleyne got the Lions on the board when his 32-yard effort was true, putting Columbia up 3-0 with 8:51 remaining in the quarter.
  • Cornell was forced to punt after the ensuing drive was killed by a holding penalty, and despite being bottled up inside the 10, Mike Roussos went 91 yards to the end zone for the score to make it 10-0 with 5:21 remaining in the half for the longest Columbia punt return in school history.
  • An 11-play drive was stalled on a sack and the resulting 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked at the first quarter horn.

Second Quarter

  • A 33-yard run by Columbia's Ryan Young all the way to the 5 was nullified by an illegal formation penalty.
  • Three plays later Jordan Landsman got in the passing lane, tipped the ball up to himself and came down with his first career interception before returning it 17 yards to just over midfield.
  • Cornell had a successful seven-play, 44-yard drive that brought the Big Red inside the 10, but ended with a 22-yard field goal that went wide left to keep the visitors scoreless.
  • Justin Bedard broke through the line on a second-and-7 for a 9-yard sack, putting the Lions into a third-and-long situation and forcing a timeout with 6:18 to play before halftime.
  • Landsman made his second impact play of the quarter with a big pass breakup on third down to force a punt.
  • A Coles runs 6-yard run and a Banks 22-yard pass to the junior helped move the chains, then Banks found Eric Gallman for 24 more down to the 13.
  • Two plays later, Coles went in untouched from 7 yards out to get the Big Red on the board.
  • The PAT made it 10-7 Lions with 3:13 left in the half.
  • After a Columbia first down, the defensive backfield broke up three consecutive passes to force a Lions' punt.
  • The Big Red looked to have turned it over on a catch and fumble, but after a long review, the call was overturned and it was an incomplete pass.
  • Cornell got to the Lions' 40, but ran out of time and went into the break trailing by just three points.

Third Quarter

  • After a three-and-out for the Big Red, Cornell turned Columbia over on down with the highlight play a pass breakup on fourth down by Jelani Taylor.
  • The teams traded possessions with the Big Red defense continuing to get stops
  • Coles went 23 yards on a screen pass from Banks midway through the third, but the Big Red turned it over on downs after falling short on a fourth-and-4.
  • The Big Red responded with seniors Reis Seggebruch and Cyrus Nolan stopping a Columbia ballcarrier for a loss and a fourth-and-2 with just over two minutes remaining to keep the quarter scoreless.

Fourth Quarter

  • Mo Bradford picked off a pass on Columbia's first possession of the fourth, and the offense made the Lions pay.
  • Coles went the final 31 yards untouched to give the visitors their first lead wt 14-10 with 12:40 remaining.
  • Coles went over the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in his career in the process.
  • Nolan had a pair of tackles for loss on the ensuing drive, but the Lions were able to march down the field.
  • The Lions brought it inside the 10 on a Lenhart pass to Ronald Smith, then down to the 1 on the same connection.
  • Castner put Columbia back ahead on the next play with a 1-yard run, making it 17-14 with 6:46 left.
  • Cornell turned it over on downs on the next drive, with the Big Red defense forcing a three-and-out to get the visitors the ball back with 2:50 remaining.
  • Banks went over the top for a 48-yard completion to Peters on the first play to put the Big Red in business.
  • A couple of runs by Coles that gained 15 yards, a 7-yard pass to Lars Pedersen and a key third-and-4 completion to Coles set the Big Red up for Banks' 2-yard quarterback sneak with 58 seconds left.
  • The Big Red squibbed the kickoff to keep it away from Roussos, but he was able to pick it up, run up the middle after splitting a pair of defenders and go the rest of the way to show the Big Red sideline 13 seconds later.
  • Cornell got four plays to get into field goal position, but a short gainer and three incompletions ended the Big Red's season.

Notes to Know

  • Senior quarterback Dalton Banks completed his career ranked fourth in career passing yards (6,162), completions (569), attempts (950) and touchdowns (33).
  • With two touchdowns on the day, Harold Coles ended his junior season with 10. He became the first Big Red player to score double figure touchdowns in a season since Shane Savage had 12 in 2011.
  • Coles moved from 27th to 22nd on the career rushing list, ending his junior campaign with 1,233 yards.
  • Reis Seggebruch had nine tackles on the day and closed his career with 197, good for 27th all-time at Cornell.
  • Seniors Banks, DJ Woullard (CB) and Henry Stillwell (OL) closed their career with 30 consecutive starts.
  • Mo Bradford postred a career-best 11 tackles and had his first interception.
  • Jordan Landsman also had his first career interception.