Following last week’s thriller in Philadelphia, the Cornell sprint football team takes on Franklin Pierce at home in its final game of the 2016 season.
Gunning for a win to smoothen out what has been a rocky season, Cornell (2-4) is coming off a double overtime loss to CSFL Champion and Ivy League counterpart Penn (6-0). The Red fell to the Quakers, 20-27.
“[The players] feel very good about themselves; they felt like they should have won,” said co-head coach Bart Guccia. “They played well enough to win. Three plays broke our backs.”
Senior quarterback Rob Pannullo said he knows what his team is capable of after last week’s contest.
“We feel good coming into this week,” Pannullo said. “We proved last week against Penn that we’re as good as anyone in the league. We just need to play with the same consistency and passion this week.”
Pannullo has been central to the Cornell offense. The senior has 656 yards and seven touchdowns passing, in addition to 300 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
However, the Red faces a stout defense in Franklin Pierce (3-3). The Ravens are the third-ranked defense in the CSFL, notably holding opponents to 76 yards rushing per game.
“We’re expecting Franklin Pierce to come out ready to fight on Friday,” Pannullo said. “They have one of the best statistical defenses in the league, but if we continue to execute on offense and hold on to the ball, that will be a key to the game for us”
The Red, and Pannullo specifically, have seen success against Franklin Pierce in previous years. Last year, Cornell trailed the Ravens by eight at halftime but came out on top, 36-15. Pannullo led the charge in that game, rushing for 155 yards and a touchdown.
Since Franklin Pierce entered the CSFL in 2012, the Red has gone 3-1 against the Ravens.
“[Franklin Pierce] has been a pretty solid team all year,” Guccia said. “Especially defensively, they like to bring a lot of people and put pressure on the quarterback. On offense, they are the most traditional of all the teams that we play — more of a professional style of offense.”
However, despite Cornell’s past successes, Franklin Pierce is not a team to be taken lightly this year, according to Guccia.
“They have been playing consistently all year,” Guccia said. “They won last week [against Chestnut Hill] in the final play of the game. But they have played tough against everybody this season.”
Friday evening will also be the final time select members of the Red will wear a Cornell uniform. This game will be more than simply a win or loss and, according to Pannullo, the game should be emotional. Nonetheless, the seniors hope to end their careers in Ithaca with a victory.
“As seniors, it’s really weird to think Friday will be the last football game us seniors will ever play,” Pannullo said. “With that said, we all want to go out with a win, so you can bet everyone will be leaving everything they have out on the field Friday night.”
Guccia said he expects his seniors to step up in their final opportunity a.
“It’s a chance for our seniors to try and go out with a win and finish their careers at Schoellkopf at home.” Guccia said. “And it’s a chance for players to rise to the occasion as I am sure the seniors will.”
Cornell closes out its season Friday at 7 p.m on Schoellkopf Field.