The Gigantic poster was taped to the door of Cornell's locker room early in the week as a reminder of the challenge ahead: Saturday's Ivy League championship game against Penn. At the top of the poster and boldly circled in red were head shots of the Quakers' main offensive threats—quarterback Malcolm Glover and tailback Bryan Keys. Underneath were some harsh words.
DEAR CENSUS BUREAU: PLEASE ADD THESE PLAYERS TO THE LIST OF DECEASED PLAYERS OF THE WEEK. SIGNED, THE BIG RED DEFENSE. At the bottom of the poster was this motivational footnote: SPILL YOUR GUTS AND THEY WILL LOSE THEIRS!
If that wasn't enough to get Cornell rough and ready for Penn, then the 10-foot banner tacked to the wall outside the locker room surely would. It read: COLD-BLOODED GENTLEMEN.
Welcome to Ivy League football. When the title is at stake, these guys are anything but blue-blazer-and-gray-flannel-trousers scholars. Led by its swarming, hard-hitting defense, the Big Red crushed the Quakers 19-6 at Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y. The victory gave Cornell, which finished 7-2-1 overall and 6-1 in the Ivy League, the championship—or, to be precise, a share of it, with Penn—for the first time since 1971, when the Big Red was led by a senior tailback named Ed Marinaro. (Penn arrived in Ithaca with a 9-0 record, which made it the only undefeated team in Division I-AA. The Quakers have now won or shared the Ivy title six times in the past seven seasons.)
Over the years, Penn and Cornell have had a heated rivalry, but rarely, if ever, had it become as unseemly as it did two seasons ago, when Quaker defenders stood over fallen Big Red offensive players after each tackle and barked like mad dogs. That sort of rabid behavior wasn't absent from this year's knockdown-drag-out game, in which nine personal fouls were assessed—five against Penn and four against Cornell.
"Their guys were grabbing us in the pile, spitting in our faces whenever they could and mouthing off," said Big Red quarterback Aaron Sumida after the game. Added Cornell's Len Tokish, an outside linebacker, "Some of Penn's hits were cheap. They taunted us like crazy—pointing fingers and using words I can't repeat."
Big Red coach Maxie Baughan had spent the week preparing Cornell for exactly this kind of game. He had his scout units imitate the Quakers, cursing and shoving the offensive and defensive starters from one end of the practice field to the other. "We knew we weren't preparing for the Little Sisters of the Poor," said outside linebacker Mike McGrann. "Penn is a team of intimidators."
The score at the half was 3-3, and on the Quakers' first offensive series of the third quarter, it looked as if the Big Red defense went overboard in imitating Penn. Back-to-back personal fouls—for roughing the passer and a late hit—for 29 penalty yards helped set up a 37-yard go-ahead field goal by the Quakers' Rich Friedenberg. "We wanted to show if anybody did the intimidating, it was going to be us," Tokish said later. "The idea backfired."
But the Cornell defense soon regained its poise. Two series later, Penn drove 46 yards on five plays, all the way to the Big Red five. Cornell then stopped the Quakers on downs, with strong safety Brent Felitto nailing Keys at the six-inch line on fourth down.
That goal-line stand seemed to inspire the Big Red offense. On Cornell's next possession, fullback Scott Malaga, who would finish the day with 125 yards on 29 carries, ground out seven yards on two off-tackle plays. Then, on a third-down quarterback keeper that came up short of the first down, Sumida was hit by a Penn linebacker after the whistle, giving Cornell a first down at its 25.