Following two heartbreaking losses, the Red gets a chance to redeem itself tonight in the first ever Friday night home game in the 128 years of Cornell football. After a second consecutive week in which the Red led late in the game, Cornell hopes to bring a consistent attack when Colgate comes to Ithaca tonight at 7 p.m.
“We’re really stoked to be playing Friday night under the lights,” said senior fullback Julian Gallo. “Everyone is really juiced up about that.”
Last Saturday, the Red (0-2) jumped to 26-7 lead in the first half, only to watch Yale (2-0) claw its way back to eventually win the game 33-26. The Bulldogs took advantage of a number of Cornell mistakes late in the game and scored two touchdowns in the final minute and 12 seconds.
“We weren’t able to finish, that’s really the biggest thing,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “As a coach, you try to practice situational football. You create a third down in the endzone, but it’s really hard to create a ‘hey lets win a game in the fourth quarter’ in practice. In the game is really the only time you can learn how to do that.”
After a 1-9 campaign last year, Cornell rarely found itself in that situation last season. But after two strong performances against quality teams, the Red has learned that finishing off an opponent made be the hardest part of notching a victory. Even though Archer has stressed again and again that the team is “not in the business of moral victories,” it’s clear to see that this team is far better than last year’s squad.
“Compared to last year, it’s almost night and day both on the offense and the defensive side of the ball,” Gallo said. “Everyone can feel we’re just at this tipping point with the program and we’re waiting for that momentum to get started and let the Big Red unleash on the rest of the Ivy League.”
Yet despite the progress, the team seems to regress back to last year’s losing ways down the stretch. In the fourth quarter, opponents have outscored Cornell 26-7. In the other three quarters, Cornell holds the advantage 33-26.
“There’s key moments in every game and it just seems like those five or six times when we could step up and put the game out of reach … it just falls apart in the fourth quarter,” said junior defensive lineman Mike Staples. “We know how to get off the field on third down, it’s just when we need to make it in crucial point, we can’t get it done.”
In last year’s clash against Colgate, the Red let the Raiders run all of them throughout the game, losing 27-12. Colgate rushed for 270 yards and put together a solid game from start to finish. Four different Raiders rushed for over 35 yards, including 128 yards from quarterback Jake Melville who will be starting for Colgate tonight.
But if anything can be learned from the first two games of the season, it’s that last year’s results have no impact on what will happen this year. Cornell allowed 420 yards of offense, against Bucknell last year. Against the Bison this season, the Red let up just 286. Last season, Yale put up 34 points in the first half against Cornell. In the first half of last Saturday’s game, the Bulldogs barely managed to score 13, scoring twice in the second quarter.
Colgate comes into the game with three early losses on its record. The Raiders were on the wrong end of blow-outs in the first two weeks of the season, losing to Navy (3-0) 48-10 and dropping a matchup against then-No. 12 New Hampshire (2-2). Two weeks ago, Colgate held a 14 point lead midway through the fourth quarter against Yale, but the Bulldogs scored twice in the final eight minutes of the game to complete the comeback. Last week, Colgate handily beat Holy Cross (1-2) by a score of 31-14.
“Their record doesn’t indicate how good they are,” Archer said. “Colgate is year-in and year-out a good football team. Their quarterback is their trigger man, he makes it all go. He’s a great player, very dynamic. They run a 3-4 defense, very movement based. [They] try to confuse you and blitz a lot. So it’ll be a different test than the two defenses we’ve seen so far, and a completely different offense than we’ve seen so far.”
After two disappointing defeats to start the season, the pressure is up, the lights are on and the team is ready.
“We make a game plan and watch the film but really it comes down to us and whether or not we can execute,” Gallo said. “We’re just looking to finish, because that’s been the missing part these past two games. We’ve had some pretty good starts, we’ve scored points and made plays. This game we can put it all together and focus on finishing.”