Junior quarterback Jay Posner found himself in an unusual situation on Saturday — ten yards from the goal line with ball in hand and not a defender in sight.
Posner had caught a pass, stumbling as he turned toward the end zone. And with defenders closing fast he lunged for the score, but the referees spotted the ball just inside the one-yard-line.
“I thought this was a home game!” shouted new head coach Tim Pendergast to the crowd, a humorous gesture to add entertainment to the spring season-ending Red-White football game that pitted the Red offense against its defensive counterpart.
In sharp contrast to the last time the Red took to Schoellkopf Field in November for the Ivy League championship game, the team suited up Saturday for what Pendergast forewarned would be “bland offense and defense.”
It was the first time under Pendergast and his coaching staff that the Red ran plays with referees on the field and the sidelines, but the team did not keep time on the clock nor a score on the scoreboard. It was straight up offense versus defense.
“I didn’t want either side to win. We did what we were supposed to for the most part on both sides of the ball,” Pendergast said, following the game.
With the balance that the Red displayed on the field, Pendergast saw both sides playing competitive football.
Once players left the field for the summer, the head coach would not analyze individual performances, noting that there would still be time to correct the mistakes that he saw on the field, such as dropped balls and missed tackles or blocks.
Overall, however, he was encouraged by the outcome of the game.
“[Saturday] was a team practice,” Pendergast said. “I think different guys on both sides of the ball stepped up and did what we asked them to do.”
With a new coaching staff and the departure of several notable seniors, including wide receiver Joe Splendorio and linebacker Dan Weyandt, the Red will face numerous obstacles before returning to the Ivy League elite this fall. Coming out of a month of spring practices, many players offered reasons to believe that the Red will be successful once again.
“By the end of spring ball, I think we had a good sense of what the offense wants to accomplish. I truly believe that we will be competitive this year,” said junior offensive lineman Matt Holleran.
Holleran also noted improvements in the defense from the 2000 squad that struggled to stop the run, giving up an average of 239 yards per game on the ground. The defense let up the same amount of yards to opposing quarterbacks last year.
“It’s a more competitive type of defense [this year]. I could tell that from [the Red-White game],” Holleran said.
About 15-20 players, including Holleran, will continue their strength and conditioning training next week and will remain in Ithaca for the summer while the rest of the players return home.
Some players leaving have planned workouts with others living nearby. Sophomore wide receiver Keith Ferguson, for example, will work out with sophomore defensive back Rosco Newsom when the two are not visiting campus.
A lot of the work that takes place before players return to campus for the fall will involve coaches planning for the first season under Pendergast’s leadership. While he would not single out individual player performances after the Red-White game, Pendergast quickly applauded the group that had arranged spring practices as a newly assembled staff.
“I thought the coaches did a great job,” Pendergast said.
Players have also attributed the progress achieved in the spring to the coaching staff.
“They definitely bring a lot of knowledge and a lot of excitement and passion to the game,” said junior defensive lineman Rich Zacek.
Despite all the attention coaches and fans have focused on the Red during the spring, players themselves have one thing in common on their minds heading into the 2001 season.
“The number one goal is winning the Ivy League championship,” Ferguson said.
“That’s pretty much the only goal people are looking at, because we should have had a piece of it two years ago, and we should have had it last year,” he said.
Archived article by Matthew Hirsch