Cornell is back on the road after its first home win to face the Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) leader Penn. With pride on the line and a chance to spoil the Quakers’ season, the Red is motivated to take down the other Ivy League squad in the league.
Cornell (2-3) has not had the smoothest ride to this point, but all of the bumps are behind them for this game.
“We can only worry about the things we can control, and for a game like this, the records go out the door,” said senior quarterback Rob Pannullo. “It’s going to be a hard-fought game for both teams.”
The Red is eager to establish itself as the dominant Ivy squad and spoil Penn’s chances at the CSFL title.
“Being the only two Ivy League teams in the CSFL, we are also playing for some pride,” said junior running back Evan Ball. “This just adds extra motivation to a game that can have large implications in the overall standings of the CSFL.”
Ball suffered a broken left forearm against Post last weekend, along with injuries to five other players. Senior running back Kevin Nathanson, who went down with an injury in week one, will fill in for Ball on Friday.
Beyond the injuries, Cornell has its work cut out against an undefeated Penn (5-0) squad, which has already defeated top teams such as Army (5-1) and Navy (5-1). The Red will need to be at the absolute top of its game.
“They are a good football team with talented players,” Ball said. “This leaves little room for error on our part if we expect to win.”
On defense, Cornell needs to make sure it does not let its guard down or the Quakers could run away with this one quickly.
“I think the biggest challenge for us will be to limit the big plays,” Pannullo said. “Penn lives on big plays, and if we can do our jobs consistently, it will be a major factor in the game.”
Specifically, co-head coach Bart Guccia highlighted the Red’s need to lock down Penn’s passing attack.
“Penn has the leading quarterback in the league, and he is very good,” Guccia said. “We definitely have to shore up our pass defense and … move the ball on offense to keep the ball out of his hands.”
Penn’s quarterback Mike McCurdy has 12 touchdowns through five games and is averaging 258 yards per contest. McCurdy and the Quakers are capable of racking up yards and the less McCurdy throws, the greater chance that Cornell can walk away with a win.
But in order to execute, Cornell will need to find a rhythm on offense against a formidable Penn defense.
“Penn is stingy on defense and can be explosive on offense, so we need to ensure we limit early points by them and get on the scoreboard early ourselves to put us in a good position to win,” Ball said.
Cornell is also focusing on creating a consistent ground attack.
“The line was able to get a good push off the ball consistently throughout the whole game [against Post] which opened up running lanes for myself and other rushers,” Ball said. “We need to continue with this and have a solid run game against Penn.”
The Red has been looking at its three games after the bye week as an entirely new season. The team has already defeated Post to be 1-0 since the bye week with the goal of finishing 3-0.
“We have one win down and a tough game [against Penn] ahead of us, but that’s what we are trying to achieve,” Guccia said.
Cornell squares off against Penn at 7 p.m. on Friday in Philadelphia.