Tomorrow, when the football team takes Memorial Field against Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., it faces the task of proving that last Saturday was not a fluke. Last Saturday, of course, following a disastrous 0-5 start, Cornell (1-5, 1-3 Ivy) finally stamped its name in the win column via a 10-7 victory at Princeton.
In what was by no means a pretty game against the Tigers, the Red did manage to solve some problems that had confounded it earlier in the season. The running game notched a modest but critical 126 yards — with 106 of them going to senior tailback Evan Simmons. And perhaps more importantly, Cornell won the turnover war, forcing three from Princeton and coughing up none itself.
“I was very pleased with the defense,” head coach Tim Pendergast said about his team’s effort against Princeton. “We controlled the football over five minutes more in time of possession.”
Like Princeton, Dartmouth (1-5, 1-3) is currently occupying a spot in what is a very crowded Ivy League basement which recently has made space for Cornell.
Last year’s game against the Green was the Red’s only convincing win of the year. In the 49-31 victory, Simmons had 137 yards on the ground and added three touchdowns.
But most likely, it will be the Red’s visit to Hanover two years ago that will be on the minds of most members of the Cornell team. Upstart Dartmouth, which had yet to win a league game on the year, surprised Cornell 20-17 and spoiled the Red’s chances at an Ivy title.
“They have score to settle,” Pendergast commented on one of his team’s goals. “I’ve heard the players talk about that.”
Dartmouth has been weakened by the loss of starting quarterback Greg Smith to injury. Smith had been the leading passer in the Ivies before he was sidelined. In his place, freshman Evan Love has done an admirable job, leading the Green to a 21-0 halftime lead at Harvard last week before the Crimson came racing back to score 31 unanswered points for its sixth win of the season.
With Smith out though, Dartmouth has become less reliant on its passing attack.
“They’re not as wide open as they were prior to the injury,” Pendergast admitted.
Filling the void has been running back Michael Gratch whose 576 yards on the ground puts him near the top of the league in rushing.
“He’s a pretty good back,” Pendergast observed. “I think that that he’s one of the three or four best backs in the league.”
Cornell counters with Simmons who, after a sluggish start, appears poised to give the Red the balanced attack it has craved all season.
“Evan fortunately came to play [against Princeton],” Pendergast said, “and obviously we hope he comes to play this weekend.”
Statistically, there’s not much dividing Cornell and Dartmouth. As a result, Pendergast thinks he knows what will swing the game one way or the other.
“As evenly matched as these two teams are athletically and statistically,” he explained, “something’s going to have to give on special teams.”
Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj