The last time Cornell (4-0, 3-0 CSFL) finished at the top of the standings, the league was still known as the Eastern Lightweight Football League and the Red Sox Nation had just begun burning Buckner effigies. Twenty years later, the Red look to take another step towards that elusive goal as it welcomes Penn (1-2, 1-1) to Schoellkopf Field tonight. Despite having already dispatched the Quakers, 20-12, in a non-league contest earlier this year, head coach Terry Cullen doesn’t expect this to be an easy contest.
“Coming into the year, I thought [Penn] would be the best team in the league,” Cullen said. “They only graduated eight guys and have a bunch of good returning players.”
Thus far, Cullen’s prediction has not held true, although the Quakers have achieved some success, including a 50-15 victory over Princeton. In its only other game of the season, Penn came out on the losing end of a 16-7 contest against Army — a perennial league powerhouse.
“[Penn] had a bit of trouble with Army’s ground game, but everyone knows that Army can smash the ball up and down the field,” Cullen said. “They have a really good defense, and they showed it by shutting [Army] out in the second half.”
[img_assist|nid=19083|title=Tiger huge|desc=Senior running back Michael Fullowan (23) looks to shake a tackle from a Princeton defender last Friday. (Rob Ochshorn / Sun Staff)|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=66]
The Quakers enter the game with a defense second only to Cornell in the league — thus far they have yielded only 264 yards per game. While Penn has had success on the defensive side of the ball, the offense — especially on the ground — has not produced similar results. Entering the game, the Quakers better only Princeton in yards per game and average only 2.1 yards per carry on the ground. In its previous meeting with the Red, Penn managed only 38 yards on the ground on 44 tries while only attempting 25 passes. Based on the Quakers’ last two outings, Cullen expects much of the same.
“[Penn has] still been trying to run the ball so, right now, I plan on stopping it,” Cullen said. “They passed the ball well against us but not until later in the game.”
The Red, for its part, also plans on establishing a successful ground attack centered not only around senior co-captain and All-League tailback, Mike Fullowan, but also including sophomore quarterback Zak Dentes. Cullen hopes that the Red’s ability to move the ball through the air — Dentes is second in the league with 650 yards passing and five touchdowns — will generate enough respect by the opposing defense to open up the running game.
“We’ve been throwing the ball so well that I think teams will try and start taking it away,” Cullen said. “Now that [junior quarterback Brian Kennedy] is back, we can do a lot more offensively and expand Dentes’ responsibilities.”
Cornell not only boasts a potent aerial assault but also a fickle defense led by sophomore John Parke with 27 tackles and senior John Samuel with three interceptions.
The Red hopes to achieve success on both sides of the ball tonight as it takes the field in its final home contest of the season.