Senior Peni Waqairatu had two long touchdown runs that book-ended Cornell’s 34-14 Midwest Conference football victory over in-state rival Grinnell in Saturday’s season finale at Rosenbloom Field.
Waqairatu rambled 47 yards to pay dirt on the game’s third play from scrimmage and then went 41 yards for the game-sealing TD with 2:59 left in regulation, giving the Rams their ninth straight series win over the Pioneers.
Cornell recorded back-to-back wins to close a 4-6 season under first-year coach Dan Pifer. The young Rams went 4-5 in MWC play.
Senior quarterback Isaak Hahn passed for 153 yards and three TDs, including a 10-yard strike to Tom Martushev that put the Rams ahead 14-0 late in the first quarter.
Hahn connected with freshman Trey Birdsong for a 31-yard scoring pass and sent the Rams into halftime ahead 20-7. Cornell stretched the margin to 27-7 early in the fourth on Frederic Tavernier’s first collegiate TD, a 17-yard pass from Hahn.
Cornell had a solid day in the run game, amassing 225 yards and averaging 5.2 per carry. Freshman Sam Yager led the attack with 99 yards on 21 handoffs. Waqairatu rushed for 93 yards on only five attempts.
Tight end Mason Davis concluded an outstanding season with three catches for 54 yards. Birdsong had 42 yards on three receptions.
Middle linebacker Colden Clark, the reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Week, had another monster game with 17 total tackles in his collegiate finale. Jonathan Buehler tallied nine stops. Sam Adams and Kale Kuhiiki each recorded 1.5 tackles for loss.
Cornell’s Thomas Horne and Shakari Yearwood both came away with key interceptions in the second quarter to keep momentum. Yearwood’s pick came in the end zone for a touchback, stopping a 10-play, 72-yard drive by Grinnell with 17 seconds left in the first half.
The Rams overcame three turnovers and outgained Grinnell in total yards, 378-319. Cornell converted 7-of-12 chances on third down and went 2-of-2 on fourth down.