A loss to a bitter league rival would certainly have caused a distraction for most teams in preparing for the upcoming slew of games, but Cornell football refuses to be deterred.
Even though Harvard came into the game with one of the most storied college football programs in history, Red head coach David Archer ’05 and his squad entered the contest with the confidence to win its fourth straight game. After all, the team had already knocked off Bucknell, Yale and Colgate — three teams that got the best of Cornell during the 2015 season.
“The biggest thing is that we were disappointed,” Archer said. “We all thought we were going to win the game, but we didn’t make enough plays to do it and that starts with me. I take all the responsibility and I think we just have to get over than and be ready to play [Sacred Heart].”
The loss was especially stinging because the team knew that if it played its game, it could have knocked off the team atop Ivy League standings.
“The loss is rough, but it happens here and there,” said sophomore quarterback Dalton Banks. “We take pride in [hanging with Harvard], but we also that we should have been in that game and should have come out on top. We didn’t play even close to our best and we know we can still go out there and clean some stuff up and play better.”
Starting slow has been a reoccurring problem for the team, with the Red conceding 58 points in the first half, compared to 38 in the second.
With Sacred Heart coming off two weeks of rest and practice without a game, a slow start could once again plague the team in this weekend’s contest; players and coaches know coming out guns blazing needs to be a main focus going into this weekend.
“Every game we want to go out and start strong,” Banks said. “Sometimes you get behind early, which is unfortunate, but we are trying to start out strong every game, get ahead and keep it rolling.”
The Pioneers feature a high-power offense that put up over 30 points in every game but two this season, and has a defense that has allowed more than two touchdowns only once: a 45-20 loss at Wagner.
In five games this season, Sacred Heart’s RJ Noel has thrown eight touchdowns and 1018 yards. But where the Pioneers cannot win in the air, they can certainly take advantage on the ground. In the team’s biggest win of the season — a 42-14 win over Valparaiso — four different players found the endzone on the rush, including Noel.
Going up against Cornell’s much-improved defense — which was ranked third in the Ivy League last year — Archer remains confident in his defense’s capabilities to stop the Sacred Heart offensive threats.
“So far defense has really played well,” he said. “I have confidence in [defensive coordinator Jared] Backus and those guys. Offensively they have a really good quarterback who can throw the ball well. It’ll end up being a good challenge.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Red has struggled to find the same crisp method of attack it had in the first two games against Bucknell and Yale. Banks has thrown six interceptions in the past two games, but does not let this performance bother him moving forward.
“Most of them were on my part,” he said. “I either overthrew my man, made a bad read, or tried to force a play. Sometimes the outcome doesn’t always go your way but we’re going to try and make it work as well as we can.”
Archer attributes some of these recent struggles to Banks’ young age, but also takes some of the blame upon himself and says he hopes to iron out the difficulties in upcoming games.
“A couple of them are some calls I wish I could have had back, I didn’t really help him out,” Archer said. “I think that he is young, really football-smart, but a couple of them sailed on him a bit.”
Despite these problems, Banks says he knows that he cannot allow past mistakes to hamper his play or mindset when he takes a snap.
“We are throwing the ball a lot so it’s something that happens, but I can’t be scared or play worried,” he said. “I just have to keep throwing the ball and keep trying to make plays.”
With only Sacred Heart standing in the way of the Red’s second half full of Ivy League play, the team is one is eager to get going, compete, and prove the doubters wrong.
“We know that we can hang with these guys and know that we are a great football team that has a shot at the Ivy League title,” Banks said. “We still have the confidence for sure and carry it into this week with Sacred Heart and continue it into our Ivy run with five straight [upcoming] Ivy games.”