Olivet football team comes up just short against Cornell, 36-35

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OLIVET, Mich. – Senior co-captain James Williams returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown, caught a 39-yard touchdown pass and returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, but the Olivet College football team came up just short against Cornell (Iowa) College, 36-35, today at the Cutler Athletic Complex in Olivet.

After stopping the Rams on their first offensive series, the Comets drove down to the Cornell 20-yard line before a fumble was recovered and returned 73 yards. Anthony Bridges put the Rams on the scoreboard with a 38-yard field goal with 7:36 left in the opening quarter.

Olivet answered with an 11-play, 58-yard scoring drive. Junior quarterback Jake Messner capped the drive with a 10-yard pass to freshman Jon Beach. Junior Blake Iobe made the PAT kick to make the score 7-3.

The Comets went ahead on Williams' 65-yard punt return with 8:10 remaining in the second stanza. Olivet's defense stopped Cornell on its next possession. The Comets responded with a 77-yard drive, with junior Edric Miller spinning his way through the defense for the final 20 yards and into the end zone. Iobe's PAT kick split the uprights at Olivet led 21-3 with 1:40 left in the half. The Rams quickly marched down the field and cut into their deficit with a touchdown to make the score 21-10 at halftime.

Nick Brautigam returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown to trim Olivet's lead to four points, 21-17. The Comets were stopped on their next drive, and Iobe's punt was downed at the Cornell 2-yard line. The Rams needed 11 plays to put them ahead for the first time, 24-21, with 3:28 left in the third quarter.

On a fourth down play, Williams hauled in his 39-yard touchdown reception from Messner, and Olivet led 28-24. Cornell regained the lead when quarterback Juan Flores scampered 44 yards for a touchdown. Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, and the Comets had a 35-30 lead with 13:55 left in the game.

The Rams grabbed the lead back on a 3-yard pass completion from Flores to Thomas Connor. The scoring drive was set-up after Cornell blocked Olivet's punt. The Comets had one more series but a pass attempt on fourth down was incomplete.

Olivet finished the game with 302 yards of offense, including 146 rushing yards. Miller led all ball carriers with 17 rushes for 69 yards. Junior Jon Martin carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards. Messner completed 12-of-19 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Williams topped the receiving corps with three catches for 69 yards.

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Cody Boughton recorded a team-leading 11 tackles. Junior A.J. Moore was next with eight tackles.

Cornell rolled up 342 yards. Flores had 11 carries for 103 yards, and was 12-of-16 passing for 123 yards. Conner caught seven passes for 78 yards. Tyler Bailey recorded 13 total tackles, including 10 solo stops.

The Comets continue their non-conference schedule next Saturday with a night game at Elmhurst (Ill.) College. Kickoff from Langhorst Field is 6 p.m. CT/7 p.m. ET.

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