MOUNT VERNON — Cornell debuted its new synthetic turf football field with an equally-sparkling performance on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Juan Flores threw for 275 yards on 21-of-27 passing, ran for 59, and had four total touchdowns as Cornell routed Midwest Conference foe Lawrence (Wis.), 45-14, in the season opener Saturday at Ash Park Field.
“We were so eager to get on the field,” Flores said. “We’ve been tired of seeing our defense so just being out there, that intensity, how we felt coming into camp, the field, everything. We just wanted to be out there and just play someone else.”
The playing surface provided a fast track for the senior Flores and his offensive mates, who dazzled with three offensive touchdowns and 199 total yards in a 28-0 first quarter.
“I think it treated us well. We started off really fast, we were so excited,” said Flores, who accounted for 167 of those first-quarter yards and the three touchdowns. “The mindset for our team has just completely changed. It’s a lot quicker, the cuts are more crisp, I love it.”
The Rams’ defense forced consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, and Flores capitalized with short touchdown drives each time. The first covered 56 yards in three plays in a blinding 35 seconds, culminating in a 23-yard Flores touchdown pass to receiver Justin Cox. Flores’ second touchdown pass of the quarter was an 18-yard strike to receiver Brit Connor. Connor had 68 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the game.
“That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re old enough, and we’re trying to create tempo,” Cornell Coach Vince Brautigam said. “We want to be faster, but we also want to execute; the first quarter I thought we did that.”
A year after yielding 539 yards and 39 points to Lawrence and its talented quarterback Luke Barthelmess in a shootout victory, Brautigam’s defense bowed up and harassed the Vikings into four turnovers, including a 22-yard pick-six by junior cornerback Myron Seabrook that put Cornell up 21-0 just seven and a half minutes into the game.
“We’re better,” Brautigam said of his defense. “We’re a year older and we understand things. This year I think our kids did a much better job.”
Cornell junior linebacker Alex Latow tallied 12 total tackles with a forced fumble and an interception.
“The whole defensive line started off really good for us,” Latow said. “They really got pressure on the quarterback which gave me the opportunity to get the interception.”
A veteran team with 18 returning starters, the rout gives the Rams (1-0) plenty of confidence heading into next week’s non-conference game at bitter rival Coe.
“This is a good boost going into that,” Flores said. “I remember every game against the team that we don’t name. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder going into the game and I think all of the guys do.”