It's hard to imagine that any team has had a more incredible collection of wins than Penn this season. Nevertheless, all five Cornell victories this season have resulted from fourth-quarter comebacks, and three ended with a one-point margin. "It's really a game of cardiac kids on both sides," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "We very much are a mirror image of each other, and [we] both have very, very good quarterbacks." The Big Red (5-4, 5-1 Ivy League) are led by junior quarterback Ricky Rahne, who needs 278 yards to break Bill Lazor's record of 5,697 career passing yards. The Big Red opened their Ivy League season in a heavily hyped game against Yale, the defending Ivy League co-champion. Going into the 2000 football season, Cornell and Yale were tied in the preseason media poll as the projected Ancient Eight victors. Yale led the seesaw battle 23-17 late in the fourth quarter until Rahne found senior wide receiver Joe Splendorio in the end zone with 2:16 left on the clock. After a successful extra point, Cornell took a 24-23 lead. Cornell's lead proved to be far from safe, however, as the Elis marched down the field and set up a 32-yard field goal attempt for placekicker Mike Murawczyk. The Big Red dodged a bullet -- their first of many this year -- as Murawczyk's kick sailed wide left, giving Cornell the victory. Cornell's next Ivy League contest featured the Big Red's greatest comeback. Trailing Harvard 28-0 at the half, Cornell scored 29 unanswered points in the second half to win the game 29-28. Rahne threw four touchdown passes, including a 44-yard strike to Tim Hermann, which improbably gave the Big Red the lead with 2:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. In the game's waning seconds, the 6'6" Splendorio blocked a 27-yard field goal attempt by Harvard kicker Robbie Wright to secure the win for Cornell. Yes, that's the same Harvard kicker who missed a 33-yard field goal at Franklin Field last weekend to give Penn a come-from-behind win of its own. Like Penn, Cornell also lost on October 21 in its third Ivy League contest. Brown amassed an Ivy League record 690 yards of offense in its 56-40 win over the Big Red. The following weekend, Cornell bounced back for its third Ivy League win of the season. Rahne threw a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Parris to give Cornell a 25-18 lead over Princeton. The Tigers' answered with a successful two-minute drill that ended in a touchdown. The game appeared to be headed to overtime, but Princeton placekicker Taylor Northrop slipped and missed the extra point. The next two Ancient Eight wins were not as close on the scoreboard, but they also featured fourth-quarter heroics. Cornell trailed Dartmouth 31-28 late in the game but found the end zone three consecutive times, en route to a 49-31 win. Last weekend, it was junior fullback Justin Dunleavy who carried the Big Red to victory. Dunleavy scored on a one-yard run with 43 seconds remaining to give Cornell a 35-31 win over Columbia and set up tomorrow's Ivy League showdown with Penn. One distinct difference between Penn and Cornell is experience in Ivy League games with title implications. Two years ago, after a 2-1 start in the league, Penn ran the table with four consecutive victories. Meanwhile, nobody on the Cornell squad has played in an Ivy game of this magnitude, but that doesn't seem to have the Big Red intimidated. The boys from Ithaca seem eager to lay it all on the line. "This is what it is all about," Splendorio said. "It's great for the seniors on both teams to play in the final game of their careers for a championship."Comments powered by Disqus
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