Bucknell freshman CJ Williams rushed for 148 yards on 30 carries in just his second game, while senior quarterback Brandon Wesley completed 7 of 16 passes for 118 yards, bringing him to within 36 of Scott Auchenbach's school record for career Bucknell outgained Cornell 348-302 and held a 39:30-20:30 time of possession advantage, but the Big Red did not turn the ball over.
"If you turn the ball over six times, the scoreboard is going to look like that," said Bison head coach Joe Susan. "We have to address the ball issues. There were some guys that played their tail off the whole game and it was good to see Charles (Thompson) run well."
While Cornell (1-0) came out on top in the end, Bucknell (1-1) was the stronger team early, scoring the game's first 10 points after overcoming an interception on its first drive.
Kyle Sullivan, who also averaged 37.0 yards on three punts and caught one pass for 12 yards, put Bucknell on the board first when he returned a first-quarter punt 59 yards for a touchdown. It marked the first punt return for a touchdown by a Bison since Dante Ross 10 years and one day ago at Cornell.
After a four-play, 17-yard Cornell drive that ended with a punt, Bucknell added a 35-yard field goal off the foot of Derek Maurer, one of two in the game for the junior. A 56-yard pass from Wesley to tight end Josh Lebo helped move the Bison down the field and set up the field goal.
Bucknell held a 10-0 lead at the conclusion of the first quarter and had outscored opponents 34-7 in the first halves of games this year at that point. The Bison held a 110-53 yardage advantage on the Big Red after 15 minutes of play.
Cornell got on the board early in the second quarter when Jeff Mathews completed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Chris Lenz, one of three touchdown strikes for the All-America senior quarterback.
Bucknell answered with a 13-play, 71-yard drive that got the offense inside the five-yard line. Williams carried the ball on seven of the last eight plays on the drive and registered 25 of his 148 yards during that stretch. However, the Bison could not get in the end zone and settled for a 21-yard field goal by Maurer, who is 4-for-4 this season, to take a 13-7 lead with 5:19 to play in the first half.
Bucknell outplayed Cornell over most of the first half and it appeared as though it would take a lead into halftime. The Big Red's John Wells connected on a 38-yard field goal to narrow the Bison lead to 13-10 with 2:08 to play. However, that's when the turnovers started to hurt Bucknell as Matt DelMauro fumbled on the first play of the next drive. One play later Mathews connected with Lucas Shapiro on a 30-yard touchdown pass, giving Cornell its first lead at 17-13.
The Big Red extended the lead to 24-13 when Mathews engineered a 10-play, 72-yard drive on the first possession of the second half. He completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to a diving Luke Hagy.
A fumble by Wesley in Bucknell territory on the ensuing drive was returned 18 yards by Tre Minor to make it 31-13.
There was still time for the Bison to come back, and after a 33-yard kickoff return by Brian Regan, Wesley moved Bucknell to the Cornell five-yard line. Big plays on the drive included a 19-yard rush by Charles Thompson and a 30-yard run by Wesley. The Bison were stopped short on a third down pass completion to Josh Brake and lined up for a field goal. A fake field goal attempt was the call from the sideline, but Maurer fumbled the wet ball and Jarrod Watson-Lewis returned it 82 yards for a touchdown and make the score 38-13.
Cornell's final score came on the first play of the fourth quarter when Dustin Dillard crossed the goal line on a one-yard run. That occurred on the fourth play after a Wesley fumble that bounced between the hands of a number of players before Bobby Marani recovered it.
Bucknell's defense entered the game first nationally in rushing defense and held Cornell to just 17 yards on 21 carries. Marist and Cornell have managed to gain just 60 yards on the ground against the Bison this year.
The Bison were 9-for-17 on third downs, including 6-for-10 in the first half.
Mathews finished the game 15-for-23 for 285 yards and three touchdowns for Cornell. Shapiro had five catches for 113 yards and the touchdown.
Bucknell will return home next Saturday when it hosts Sacred Heart in a 6 p.m. Family Weekend contest at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.