FOOTBALL: Cornell beats Yale in Ivy opener
The Bulldogs lost 23–21 to Cornell in their Ivy League opener at the Yale Bowl last Saturday.
The Elis (0–2, 0–1 Ivy) lost by a game-ending field goal in the first Ivy League matchup of the season against Cornell (2–0, 1–0 Ivy) on Saturday, ending the game 23–21.
The Yale football team began the game with a strong start, finishing the first half with a 14–3 lead. Cornell, however, mounted a comeback in the third and fourth quarters of the game, with multiple scoring drives and solid defensive plays. In the face of their loss, the Bulldogs look forward to playing their next opponent, Morgan State (1–3, 0–0 Mid-Eastern Athletic), and hope to tally a win.
“The team is coming off a tough loss on Saturday, but we’re really excited about how our team responded to a loss and where we are,” head coach Tony Reno said. “I feel really good about where we’re headed. It’s a long season… I think the most important thing is to focus on ourselves and our improvement individually as players and coaches but also collectively as one.”
Under 10 minutes into the first quarter, running back Tre Peterson ’24 converted a touchdown on a 2-yard run off following a long drive — including six rushes, a pass and a Cornell penalty — to score Yale’s first touchdown of the day.
Less than four minutes later, quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 threw a 48-yard pass to wide receiver Chase Nenad ’24 on a flea flicker, or “trick play,” to increase their lead to 14–0.
“It’s tough coming off a day like that, especially against Cornell,” wide receiver Mason Tipton ’24 said. “We had to learn a lesson on Saturday [but] we turned the page and we’re focused on taking it day by day.”
Cornell kicker and punter Jackson Kennedy kicked a 34-yard field goal as 1:32 remained in the second quarter to close out the half, with Yale leading by 11 points.
Just over five minutes into the second half, Big Red quarterback Jameson Wang made a 1-yard run to secure Cornell’s first touchdown of the afternoon, completing a 70-yard drive.
“Offensively, I think when we’re in rhythm, we’re really good,” Reno said. “We didn’t play as consistently as we had, and defensively, the same thing … I think a lot of it has to be consistency, it’s not that we can’t do it, it’s just doing it consistently.”
Cornell’s defense forced Yale into a three-and-out, which was followed by another Big Red touchdown with 4:04 remaining in the quarter. Wang made a 3-yard pass to wide receiver Nicholas Laboy, who ended the game with five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown, and Jackson added the extra point.
In the fourth quarter, Cornell went on a long drive that lasted 9:16 and finished off with a 22-yard field goal by Kennedy as under six minutes remained in the contest.
“Getting back to who we are is the most important thing right now and taking it one day at a time and one game at a time,” linebacker Joseph Vaughn ’24 said. “[It’s] not being discouraged by looking too far in the future or too far in the past, but focusing on the now.”
Answering back after a quarter-and-a-half of gains by Cornell, Yale took possession of the ball and made a 75-yard drive, capped by a 30-yard pass from Grooms to Tipton in the left corner of the end zone. Securing the touchdown and extra point — completed by kicker and punter Jack Bosman ’24 — the Bulldogs reestablished their lead 21–20 with 3:14 remaining in the game.
On Cornell’s subsequent drive, however, the Big Red took advantage of the little time left in the game. They moved the ball 56 yards down the field and set Kennedy up for a game-ending 37-yard field goal, which ultimately gave Cornell the 23–21 lead they needed with no time remaining. Kennedy ended the contest 3-for-3 in field goals and averaged 59.8 yards in kickoffs.
“I think we were frustrated that we weren’t taking care of what we needed to take care of, the standard on the offense that we weren’t meeting on Saturday,” Tipton said. “We always look forward, and a big part of this week is honing in on what we can do to make sure that moments like that don’t happen again.”
The Big Red controlled the ball for 64.5 percent of the game, giving them a significant advantage against the Bulldogs. Cornell’s defense gave up only 301 total yards, and Wang completed 26 of 36 passes for 197 yards and ran 34.
The Bulldogs, however, saw strong play during the matchup despite missing core offensive players, including running back Joshua Pitsenberger ’26 and wide receiver David Pantelis ’25, who are both recovering from injuries. Grooms led the Elis with 76 yards rushing on 15 carries, in addition to passing for 129 yards and securing two touchdowns.
“I think culturally as a team that benefits us in situations like these is we have a lot of guys that are capable of leading,” Vaughn said. “Nobody’s shoulders are too heavy.”
Vaughn tallied 12 tackles with two for a loss, a forced fumble and a sack, and rookie defensive back Osize Daniyan ’27 had a forced fumble and 11 stops.
Defensive lineman Clay Patterson ’24 also made seven tackles with 2.5 for a loss and a sack.
Running back Spencer Alston ’24, a 2021 All-Ivy running back who was injured last season, made his first appearance this season and rushed for a total of 57 yards.
“We have a very good team that hasn’t hit where we need to be yet,” Reno said. “We haven’t even come close to our ceiling … We need to close the circle and focus on ourselves and not worry about any of the outside noise, and when we do that, we’ll have a chance to be really good.”
The Yale football team will host Morgan State this Saturday at noon at the Yale Bowl for the NAACP Harmony Classic.