September 18, 2013

SPRINT FOOTBALL | Cornell Aims To Even Record

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By ALBERT LIAO

The sprint football team will take the field this Saturday afternoon in Saratoga Springs, NY, to try to make up for its first game of the season, a loss to Post (1-0 CSFL). The Red (0-1) will face Franklin Pierce (0-1), who joined the CSFL just this year.

Although the Ravens are newcomers to the league, the Red played them last year in an exhibition game, winning 26-21. Despite their obvious inexperience, the Red expects a serious challenge from the Ravens.

“Last year, we played them in an unofficial game and we got a scare from them,” said senior captain and quarterback Brendan Miller. “They were very, very athletic and incredibly disciplined for a first year team that hasn’t really had much practice together. This year, we expect them to be even better. We watched a little bit of film on them today and they have a lot of good athletes and a pretty complex defensive system which will be challenging to game-plan against… we’re looking forward to going out there and competing with a good team.”

Going into the year, the Red did not expect to have fifth-year senior wide receiver Spenser Gruenenfelder, but he was recently given the clearance to play, since he redshirted his freshman year. His veteran presence has been crucial for Cornell, especially after losing two of last year’s top wideouts, Abe Mellinger ’13 and Joseph Martin.

“[Having Gruenenfelder] definitely helps from my perspective, just knowing that there’s somebody there that has a ton of experience — it’s been our fourth year playing together now,” Miller said. “It’s definitely nice to have some experience, but it’s not to take away from the talent we have at wide receiver. Having someone experienced who can help the younger guys is definitely valuable.”

The backfield also has a new face in freshman runningback Kevin Nathanson, who had the most carries in the Red’s first game, but the team plans to rely on a runningback-by-committee, according to Miller.

“[Sophomore] Ben Herrera and [senior] Nick Perez each have their certain strengths and the good thing about it is when one needs to come out if they’re tired or injured, then the next guy can come in and have fresh legs,” Miller said. “Herrera is very, very consistent in the run game and Perez is one of our better receivers, so it’s nice to have someone come out of the backfield. Kevin [Nathanson] has a little bit of both of their best attributes; although he’s only a freshman, he’s very talented and I’m very impressed with him. I definitely think runningback is one of our strongest positions on the team and as the season goes on, we’ll see all three players on the field since they are three of our most talented players.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Red generally played well against Post but gave up a few big plays that turned the game around. One of the reasons for the defensive lapses was fatigue, since the defense was on the field for a large part of the game, Miller said.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “You’re going to let up big plays but at the same time, the offense has to be able to come up and lend them some support. They were on the field for a really long time, as [the offense] didn’t have much time of possession. I don’t think it’s necessarily anything they did wrong, it just has to be more of a complete team effort.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the Red must capitalize on its opportunities, as there were numerous times against Post when the Red was in the red zone but could not turn the opportunities into points.

“We had a lot of opportunities in the red zone off of turnovers and good drives that we weren’t able to capitalize on,” Miller said. “I don’t know how many times we were in scoring distance, but if we converted one or two of those, then the game would have been different. We’re definitely focusing on that and going through a lot more situational-type drills in practice this week; if we can correct that, then we’ll be fine.”

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