It was a game of two halves at Strong Stadium Saturday afternoon. As fans packed the stands for the annual Homecoming game, Beloit dominated the first half but ended up falling to Cornell College 28-17.
The Buccaneer defense provided an early spark stalling Cornell’s drive in their second possession of the game. Andy Berlin pinned the Rams inside their own 20 with a punt. Cornell converted on three consecutive third down opportunities taking the ball into Beloit territory when the Buc defense stiffened. Facing a fourth and one, Patrick Nicolas stood up the Ram quarterback on a keeper for no gain giving the ball back to the Buccaneer offense.
Then in the Rams next possession, Beloit’s James Miranda recovered a fumble from the Cornell quarterback at the Rams’ 11-yard line. Tyree Smith was tapped for the first run gaining a yard. Buc quarterback went to the air next finding Tyler Korous for a 10-yard strike and breaking the stalemate with less than five minutes to play in the first quarter. Berlin’s kick made it 7-0 Beloit after a two-play, 47 second drive.
Returner Caleb Wachal gave the Bucs great field position in Beloit’s first possession of the second quarter with a 20-yard punt return to the Cornell 16 putting the Buccaneers in field goal position to start the drive. After three straight incompletions, Berlin made it 10-0 Bucs with a 33-yard field goal.
Cornell responded with a six-play, 82-yard drive bolstered by a 26-yard run and a 26-yard pass play to cut the Beloit lead to 10-7.
The Buccaneers weren’t done scoring though in the first half. Two possessions later, Reyes beat his defender on a slant route and Mitchell hit him in stride in the middle of the field for a 43-yard gain down to the Cornell 32. Smith got the handoff in three of the Bucs’ next five plays taking Beloit down to the two-yard line. On the next play, Mitchell was hit as he was throwing, the ball flew up and toward the endzone, and by a stroke of good fortune, Korous was in the right place at the right time as he was in diving distance reach out to grab the loose ball for another Buccaneer TD. Berlin’s kick was good and Beloit went into the break with a 17-7 advantage.
The Rams flipped the script in the second half. Cornell put together back-to-back scoring drives in the third quarter. The first drive was bolstered by a 73-yard run that opened the drive. Cornell’s back Trevhon Porterfield was nearly upended in the backfield by a diving Buccaneer defender but he was able to find the edge and scampered up the sideline for a big gain. Fellow back Mickey Hines capped the Ram drive with a 10-yard scamper to make it 17-14.
On the Rams’ next possession, Cornell went 40 yards in nine plays to take their first lead of the game, 21-17. The drive nearly ended differently as the Ram receiver tipped the ball up and was able to regain possession just jolting inside the right pylon as the Buccaneer defenders swarmed.
The Bucs’ offense got the ball back at the end of the third quarter. Beloit drove 68-yards into the redzone when the drive stalled at the Cornell 12 and the Rams took over on downs. Cornell began to chew up time on the clock but the Bucs nearly regained possession with good field position. On third and 17 from the Beloit 38, Blayze Griffis found his receiving Blake Langhurst for a completion but Nicolas had other ideas popping the ball loose for the fumble. Cornell was able to recover and the punt bounced near the goal line with Rams surrounding it. Despite the effort, the play resulted in a touchback and the Bucs started their drive at the 20.
That drive would be cut short as Smith had the ball stripped on the first play with the Rams recovering at the Beloit 23. Penalties hampered the Buccaneer defense on the Cornell drive putting the Rams on the two-yard line. Another quarterback keeper gave Cornell the 28-17 lead and seal the win for the Rams.
Smith led the Bucs with 47 yards on 24 carries. Through the air, Mitchell was 10-for-29 with two touchdowns, one interception and 108 yards. Conley and Korous were the top targets on the day with four catches each, a combined 67 yards and Korous added the two TD grabs.
Beloit will play under the lights at Illinois College with a 7:00 p.m. kickoff scheduled in Jacksonville, Illinois Saturday, September 29.