It’s another week for Cornell football and another matchup against a fast-paced offense. The Red has played four straight offenses that primarily play no-huddle, and each time, the team has given up at least 28 points. With a matchup against Princeton looming, the defense gets yet another challenging, complicated offense to go up against.
“It’s definitely challenging going against a fast pace attack,” junior linebacker Jackson Webber said. “Your mind is racing, your body is getting tired. It comes down to just knowing your assignments and being able to focus for that five to seven seconds that a play is going to last.”
After last week’s comeback against Brown fell short, the Red (0-6, 0-3 Ivy) travels to Princeton (4-3, 1-2) still in search of its first win. Webber said the team has continued to try not to focus on the record.
“It’s frustrating, but we keep a positive mindset coming in everyday,” Webber said. “All [we] can really do is control how hard we work, and hopefully that translates to victories on the field. We’re coming in with a good mindset every day, trying to get better and get things done.”
Princeton’s offense comes in averaging over 30 points per game and has put up over 40 points per game three times this season, including a 52-point outburst against Lehigh. With an offense that occasionally will play multiple quarterbacks, Princeton can force teams into uncharacteristic errors.
“They try to create confusion with trick plays,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “They like to be very creative, so it’s unique in the league — no one else is really like them so you got to make sure you’re prepared.”
In practice this week, Archer said the offense has tried to give the defense as many formations as possible in order to properly prepare for the clash against the Tigers. Archer said he hopes that if the team can properly decipher what Princeton is going to run, then the Red should be in a good place to stop the Tigers.
“It’s a gamble on their part for sure,” Archer said about Princeton’s offense. “They can’t guarantee the look they’re going to get and so they could put out a certain formation, and we could, with a certain defense, stop the exact play they’re looking for. … But their philosophy is to run as many plays as they can, and they feel like if one of their plays doesn’t work, it’s alright, they’ll get you on the next one.”
On the offensive side of the ball, senior running back Luke Hagy has been practicing for the Red. Hagy, who left at the beginning of the Sacred Heart game two weeks ago due to a head injury, should benefit from an offensive line that really began to click last week against Brown. In Hagy’s absence, a platoon of running backs combined for 260 rushing yards.
“I saw a great performance,” Archer said when asked about the offensive line’s performance last week. “Zach Wilk, Dan Morin, Alex Emmanuels, John Foster and Dan Cunningham. I saw those guys really open up some holes. I saw them blocking downfield. I saw them pancaking the Brown kids. … You’re starting to see them come together and what they can do and what coach Istvan has been doing with them, not only as the offensive line coach but as the offensive coordinator.”
Wilk, the senior right tackle, said the offensive line is the best he’s played on since his freshman year when JC Tretter ’13, now with the Green Bay Packers, was also on the line. As a senior, Wilk admits the losses are tough, but, with four games left, he remains hopeful that his senior class can make a difference.
“Looking at the season now, we obviously can only salvage four more wins if we’re perfect,” Wilk said. “So it’s nice to know that we can help the program going forward and leave it with a little momentum going into next season.”