MONMOUTH, Ill. – Quarterback Juan Flores sprinted 16 yards for the winning score with 40 seconds left, capping a whale of a comeback in Cornell's 23-20 Midwest Conference football victory over Monmouth on a soggy Saturday afternoon at Zorn Stadium.
The Rams (2-1 overall, 2-0 MWC) rallied from a 20-3 third-quarter deficit behind their senior signal-caller, who marched the team on long touchdown drives of 75, 87 and 80 yards in the second half. Flores finished with 333 yards of total offense, including 102 on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.
"This win was a total team effort," Cornell head coach Vince Brautigam said. "We didn't make any adjustments at halftime. I just challenged our offensive line and quarterback. They came out in the second half and responded."
The Rams gained 294 of their 438 total yards after intermission.
"We controlled the tempo in the second half. It all started up front," Brautigam said. "We faced adversity and overcame it."
Trailing 20-16 with less than four minutes to go, Cornell's defense gave the team a shot at the end with a key goal-line stand. The Fighting Scots (1-2, 1-1 MWC) had 1st-and-goal at the Cornell 1-yard line, but came away empty.
Cornell bottled up MWC-leading rusher Trey Yocum for a loss of one yard on first down, and then stopped him for no gain on second. The Rams moved Monmouth back two more yards on a third-down rush by the quarterback. The Fighting Scots then had a 20-yard field goal miss wide right.
The Rams regained possession with 2:28 left and 80 yards to go. Flores quickly moved the chains and had the Rams at the Monmouth 16 on a big 26-yard reception by sophomore Brit Connor. Following an incomplete pass, Flores found a seam on a quarterback draw, veered to his left and squirted into the end zone to give the Rams their first lead of the game.
Freshman Kaleb Whiting booted the extra point to finish off an impressive road win. The Rams beat the Fighting Scots for the eighth time in the last nine meetings.
Whiting drilled a 49-yard field midway through the first quarter that pulled the Rams even at 3-3. Monmouth struck for two touchdowns in the second quarter and led 17-3 at the break. The Fighting Scots pushed the margin to 20-3 on a field goal with 13:01 remaining in the third.
The Rams then began to make things interesting as Preston Ritchie's 4-yard touchdown run capped a 14-play drive with 7:47 to go in the third period. Cornell missed the PAT kick, leaving the score at 20-9.
Later in the quarter, Cornell was back on the march for what wound up to be a 20-play, 87-yard scoring drive that chewed up 7:28 of clock. On 4th-and-goal at the Monmouth 1, Flores sneaked into the end zone and brought the Rams to within 20-16 with 10:03 remaining.
Flores finished 24-of-37 passing for 235 yards, although was picked off three times. He carried the ball 21 times for 102 yards. Sophomore Ethan Thompson added 78 yards on 20 rushes.
Sophomore wideout Ben Knake caught nine passes for 106 yards, both game-highs. Justin Cox had six catches for 61 yards, and Connor four for 47.
Yocum finished with 192 yards on 35 carries to lead Monmouth.
Senior linebacker Geoffrey Miller led the Ram defense with a game-high 15 tackles, including 11 solo stops. Nick Brautigam was in on 10 tackles. Myron Seabrook collected an interception for Cornell, which recorded eight tackles for loss.
The Rams welcome the Beloit Buccaneers (1-3, 1-2 MWC) for a 2 p.m. Homecoming kickoff next Saturday, Oct. 5, at Ash Park Stadium.