ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) _ Bill Lazor threw for three touchdowns and Cornell converted three first- quarter turnovers into 21 points as the Big Red defeated Lafayette 44-33 on Saturday.

The Big Red (2-1) scored on their first possession and then used the three mistakes by Lafayette (2-2) to build a 24-0 lead. The high-scoring Leopards, who committed five turnovers, still managed to pull within 37-33 in the fourth quarter. But Lazor, who completed 13 for 32 passes for 202 yards, secured the win on an 11-yard scoring pass to Ron Mateo with 3:20 left.

Trouble started for the Leopards the first time Cornell got the ball. Lafayette's opening drive stalled in Cornell territory, and the Big Red took over on downs at the 30. Scott Oliaro scored just four plays later on a 56- yard run.

After Cornell's Steve Haggerty recovered Chris Flood's fumble on Lafayette's second possession, the Big Red went 52 yards in six plays. Lazor capped the drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Mike Jamin.

Tailback Erik Marsh fumbled at his 34 on Lafayette's next play from scrimmage, and the Big Red capitalized again, getting Mike Cochrane's 42-yard field goal with 2:55 left in the first quarter.

Cornell upped its lead to 24-0 just one minute later when Jack Dankert intercepted Tom Kirchoff's pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.

A Cornell miscue helped Lafayette break through 3:26 into the second period. Punting from his own zone, Geoff Cochrane's kick went off the side of his foot and out of bounds at the Cornell 12. The Leopards scored in three plays when Kirchhoff hit Jamal Jordan with a 5-yard scoring pass to make it 24-7.

Cornell restored its 24-point lead with a six-play, 80-yard drive, capped by Lazor's 24-yard TD toss to Tony Villella. But Lafayette rallied to make it 31-17 at intermission. Kirchoff, who completed 27 of 42 passes for 256 yards, hit Mike Grau with a 46-yard touchdown pass and Jason McLaughlin added a 41- yard field goal with 40 seconds remaining.

Mike Cochrane hit a 40-yard field goal 1:25 into the third quarter for Cornell, but the Leopards stiffened thereafter.

McLaughlin kicked a 27-yard field goal and Chris Flood scored on runs of 1 and 5 yards sandwiched around another Cochrane field goal as the Leopards pulled within 37-33 with 6:29 left.