116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MOUNT VERNON — Cornell Coach Dan Pifer said the result hurt.
He said he saw improvement. The Rams were competitive and had a win within their reach. Knox was able to melt the last 4:42 off the clock, converting a fourth-and-1 in the final two minutes, to leave Cornell empty handed.
“I think we were the better team, but we have to show it on Saturdays,” Pifer said. “They did today and we didn’t.
“We’ll regroup. We’ve got one more and we’ll get ready for next year. Try to put it all together.”
Cornell running back Tony Gomez amassed 112 total offensive yards and rushed for three touchdowns but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Prairie Fire in a 31-27 loss Saturday afternoon in cold, windy conditions at Van Metre Field of Ash Park. Knox snapped an 18-game losing streak to the Rams that spanned at least 33 years.
“We just don’t know how to put it all together all the time,” Pifer said. “Part of being young. We have to learn from it and keep growing. We’ll be OK.”
Gomez produced his best game of the season. He rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries, adding two receptions for 22 yards. Gomez, a sophomore from Valley Christian High School in Chandler, Ariz., scored on TD runs of 15, 9 and 8 yards.
“I took advantage of our team chemistry,” Gomez said. “Everyone is coming together. We’re bonding together over these games. We face adversity. We all come together.
“It’s helped our offense, the offensive line and running backs.”
His first gave Cornell a 14-6 lead in the opening quarter, accounting for five runs and 34 yards of the eight-play, 46-yard drive.
Gomez scored twice after halftime, pulling the Rams within a score each time. He showed his power on a score in the third. He ran off right end and cut up a lane to score untouched with 2:19 remaining, giving Cornell late hope.
“We game planned this whole week to take advantage of a few less guys on the side,” Gomez said. “We had numbers advantage on the right side.
“Just trying to read the blocks and use my vision. I have to thank the offensive line and (fullback Joel) Lacy, because without those guys I wouldn’t get in there.”
Gomez missed all but three games due to injury last season and is second on the team in rushing. Pifer said Gomez continues to improve each week and does multiple tasks that don’t show up in a box score.
“He’s an unselfish player,” Pifer said. “He does a lot of the little things that nobody knows. A lot of the runs Lacy is getting is because Gomez is blocking for him or fixing somebody’s screw-up. He does a lot of things that makes us look good. He’s kind of an unsung hero.”
Gomez was quick to deflect praise. He credited Rams linemen, Lacy and wide receivers that helped create running space. He wasn’t content with the personal performance since the team didn’t secure the win.
“It is a little bittersweet, especially with one game left,” Gomez said. “I want to get back out there right away. I want a doubleheader. I want to get back out there right now.”
The Prairie Fire offense seemed to be able to convert at critical times. Knox (5-4, 4-4) was 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversions, including the late first down that aided running out the clock and a 24-yard TD pass from Kaile Williams to Tyrell Pierce for a 24-14 lead with 7:48 left in the third.
Williams completed all four of his pass attempts and led Knox with 119 of its 309 total rushing yards. He also conducted an effective short drive, including two completions that led to Preston Lade’s 33-yard field goal for a 17-14 edge as the first half expired.
Cornell’s John Smith passed for 147 yards, hitting LaQuanta Crawford for a 78-yard touchdown pass for a 7-6 lead just five minutes into the game. The Rams defense was able to recover four fumbles that led to 21 points.
The Rams move to 2-7 overall and 2-6 in the Midwest Conference. They conclude the season against Grinnell next week at home.
“We’re playing for the seniors next game,” Gomez said. “We’re going to leave it all on the line for them at this point.”