MOUNT VERNON – Cornell had last week's season opener in hand by the 10-minute mark of the second quarter. The Rams led 31-0 and then breathed easy in a 45-14 home win over Lawrence.
The competition cranks up a notch Saturday when the Rams (1-0) visit the nationally-ranked Coe Kohawks (1-0) in the 123rd edition of the oldest college football rivalry west of the Mississippi. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Clark Field in Cedar Rapids.
Coach Vince Brautigam knows it will take four full quarters if his Rams are to come away with their first series win since 1999. The Kohawks, ranked 22nd in the D3football.com Top 25 Poll, are the preseason favorites to win the Iowa Conference.
"There's something to be said about being the underdog. We're going to embrace the opportunity," Brautigam said. "We have the honor of playing in this game. It's a rivalry for the ages."
Cornell came out clicking on all cylinders last Saturday on the new turf at Ash Park Stadium. The Rams scored on their first four offensive possessions and accumulated 199 total yards in the first quarter. Cornell's defense opened with two three-and-outs and returned an interception for a touchdown on Lawrence's third series.
"We showed signs of maturity and were focused from the first snap. It was a total team effort, especially for the first game out," Brautigam said. "Our offense created the tempo we wanted early on. The defense played hard and ran to the ball well. Our execution overall was pretty good, but we can get better at the little things."
Quarterback Juan Flores had a sterling start to his senior season. He completed 21-of-27 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns, while running for 59 yards and another score. Over his last three games, Flores has thrown for 905 yards and 11 TDs.
While Cornell had its way against Lawrence, Coe sweated out a 23-22 road win last weekend over MWC foe Monmouth, which missed two crucial PATs in the game. Coe's defense preserved the victory with a late interception after the Fighting Scots crossed midfield.
The Kohawks ran the ball 55 times for 208 yards. Gage Mohs paced the ground attack with 99 yards and one touchdown.
"Coe is a sound football team and doesn't beat itself," Brautigam said. "They do a very good job executing on both sides of the ball. They are good up front and maintain the line of scrimmage. We have to try to match that. First and foremost, we have to stop their running game."
About the Kohawks – Coe returns nine starters from the 2012 Iowa Conference championship team that posted an undefeated regular season and finished 10-1 overall. The lone loss came at home to Elmhurst, 27-24, in the first round of the NCAA Division III Playoffs.
The Kohawks are led up front by senior offensive lineman Nathan Yelton, a first team preseason All-American by D3football.com. Coe graduated eight offensive starters and its top four tacklers from a year ago.
Coe led last week's game, 17-7 at the halftime, and 23-13 deep into the third quarter. The Kohawks converted 11-of-20 third-down chances and got three field goals from senior Wes Anderson. Sophomore quarterback Mark Atwater was 15-of-29 passing for 192 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Logan Keehner had a team-high nine tackles, all solo.
The series – This long-time rivalry began in 1891, with the Rams running away in an 82-0 romp. The Kohawks have won the last 13 meetings and own a 67-51-4 edge in the all-time series.
Coe's current streak includes a 66-63 shootout win in 2003, the highest scoring game in the series. The Kohawks have topped the 30-point mark in 10 of the last 11 meetings, while holding the Rams to 14 points or less in the last seven.
Cornell's last win over the Kohawks was in 1999, a 32-23 decision played in Cedar Rapids.
Last meeting – The Kohawks capitalized on four Cornell turnovers and negated a record-setting performance by Flores in last year's 34-14 win in Mount Vernon. Coe clung to a 14-7 lead when momentum quickly turned on a Kohawk touchdown with two seconds left in the first half. The Kohawks added two more TDs in the third quarter to take control.
Flores set single-game school marks with 30 pass completions and 57 attempts. He threw for 358 yards – the fifth-most in program history – and hit Justin Cox on scoring strikes of 20 and 10 yards. The Kohawks won the battle at the line of scrimmage, claiming a 233-20 advantage in rushing yards.
MWC honor – Cornell's Jeremy Demlow was named the MWC Defensive Performer of the Week for his role in the Lawrence win. The senior linebacker collected a career-high 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Demlow also forced a fumble that led to a third-quarter touchdown.
Pick six – Cornell's Myron Seabrook returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter of last week's win. It was the eighth career interception for the junior cornerback, who had six picks in 2011.
The Ram defense has now recorded five touchdowns on interception returns in 31 games under coach Brautigam. Geoffrey Miller has two such TDs during the span, while Seabrook, Demlow and Nick Brautigam each have one. All four players are multi-year starters on the current roster.
Quick trigger – The 28 first-quarter points last week are the most scored in the opening period by a Ram team since putting up 35 against Dubuque in 2003. Cornell totaled 41 points in the first quarter of all games last season.
Cornell's 45 total points marked the team's highest offensive output in the last 93 games.
Takeaways – Cornell's defense came away with four turnovers against Lawrence, which tied for the most in the Brautigam era. The Rams got interceptions from Seabrook and Alex Latow. Nick Brautigam and Jeffery Bollnow each recovered a fumble.
Special teams – Freshman kicker Kaleb Whiting had a solid Ram debut, converting all six PAT tries to go with a 33-yard field goal. He sent two kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Whiting recorded Cornell's first made field goal since Oct. 22, 2011. The Rams attempted only three field goals in 2012.
The Rams averaged a healthy 18.2 yards on five punt returns, which included a 39-yard return by Seabrook. Punter Kincade Kiger averaged 37.8 yards per punt, and had one downed at the Lawrence 2.