Four turnovers inside the Cornell 50-yard line spelled doom for the Buena Vista University football team at J. Leslie Rollins Field Saturday afternoon.
Two Cornell touchdowns were set up by turnovers and two other miscues stopped promising BV drives, and the Rams took advantage, dealing the Beavers their first loss of the season, 47-45.
With the loss, BV dropped to 2-1 overall and will travel to Waverly Saturday for a matchup with Wartburg, which dealt Cornell a 56-7 loss a week and a half ago.
"You can't turn the ball over four times and expect to win any game," said BV coach Steve Osterberger Monday morning. "But we've got to work in practice this week on some of the mistakes we made Saturday and correct them."
At the same time, Osterberger said, Cornell deserves a lot of credit. The Rams were coming off one of their most lopsided losses in recent memory.
"They came in ready to play and played a good ballgame," the BV coach said.
And Cornell proved it has a tough offense to stop, even though the Beavers helped out with the turnovers. The Rams led 28-17 at the half and scored the first two touchdowns of the third quarter. They led 41-17 with 9 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third frame.
That set the stage for a stunningly quick comeback by BV.
Immediately after Cornell had taken its biggest lead, the Beavers' special teams made an impact. BV return man Chad Pearson scored on an 86-yard kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff.
After an exchange of possessions, the Beavers took over on the Cornell 46 after a poor punt against a 15-20 mph northwest wind, and overcame a 15-yard chop block penalty.
BV faced a first and 20 at it's own 23 but several plays later, quarterback Eric Wiebers hooked up with wide receiver and Laurens-Marathon sophomore Jesse Schmidt for a 10-yard scoring play. With the extra-point by Ryan Hutton, BV was suddenly within 41-31 with 14:14 left.
"We made a nice comeback and I'm proud of our guys for that," Osterberger said.
Nevertheless, the explosive Cornell offense struck right back, mounting a 10-play, 70-yard drive capped by a ten-yard scoring run by 5-foot-6, 210 pound fullback Ricky Legree. With the extra-point, the Rams had all they needed with a 47-31 lead with 9:14 left.
BV struck back to nearly tie the game on just three plays from scrimmage.
BV took over at it's own 34 after the kickoff, and Wiebers completed a 36-yard pass to Brandon Johnson to the Cornell 30. On the next play, Wiebers hit Schmidt on a touchdown pass from that point. Schmidt caught the ball near the four-yard line but broke a tackle and went into the end zone.
On Cornell's first play from scrimmage, BV defensive back Michael Lang stepped in front of a Cornell receiver running an out pattern to the sideline. Lang made the pick and ran 20-yards into the end zone. With 8:02 left - still plenty of time - the Beavers were within 47-45.
Wiebers attempted a pass into the flats in the end zone for the two-point conversion, but the pass fell short of the receiver.
After an outstanding kick against the wind and good coverage nailed Cornell at it's own 18 yard line, the Rams got one first down, but two plays later, Legree was stopped for a 1-yard loss on a third and one to force fourth down, a punt, and a golden opportunity for BV to take the lead.
The Beavers got the ball back with 4:16 left on their own 23. But the turnover bug hit again, as Wiebers was intercepted deep in Cornell territory after having moved the offense to the Ram 35.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win but just fell short," Osterberger added.
After taking over, Cornell moved to the BV 40 with a risky play - a halfback option pass. The the Rams simply ran the clock out against BV, which has used all of its timeouts.
Meanwhile, the first half wasn't exactly conventional. The Beavers, who ran the ball at will through the first two quarters, had a ten-minute edge in time of possession but still trailed 28-17 at the half.
Wiebers threw an interception on the game's opening possession to set up Cornell's first score. But the Beavers came right back, mounting a 10-play, 81-yard drive capped by Craig Rowedder's 1-yard run.
Cornell struck quickly on it's next drive, as quarterback Chris Lovely connected with all conference wideout Matt Ditch for a 74-yard scoring pass.
BV, running the ball with little trouble and piercing huge holes in the inexperienced Ram defensive line, mounted another long drive. This time, they used 8-plays to drive 77 yards on a drive capped by a 7-yard run by Rowedder.
Midway through the second quarter, BV field goal kicker Ryan Hutton connected on a 30-yarder to give the Beavers a 17-14 lead, their only lead of the game.
Cornell came back with a 9-play, 63-yard scoring drive set up by a BV fumble in Cornell territory.
With about ten seconds remaining in the half, the Rams scored again for a 28-17 halftime lead. This time, Lovely pitched to halfback Erik Pedersen on a counter play, and Pedersen hit Ditch with an option pass in the end zone with three seconds left in the half.
"That was a big play, it gave them some momentum," added Osterberger.
Rowedder had a career day for the Beavers, rushing 28 times for 163 yards. Legree led all Cornell rushers with 107 yards on 15 carries but Lovely also did some damage rushing, running for 94 yards.