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There is a reinvigorated buzz and optimism around this year’s football team, especially since the team is coming off its winningest season and highest league-finish during the tenure of head coach David Archer ’05, now entering his fifth year.
“Ivy League’s a really long preseason, so everyone’s really excited to get it going,” senior running back and captain Jack Gellatly said. “All the pieces have now kind of fallen into place, and we’re just excited to get after it.”
The team has a variety of things to be excited for. For starters, it’s Archer’s first team where he hand-picked all of the recruiting classes. In addition, the team is returning many key players, such as All-Ivy first teamers — junior running back Chris Walker and senior safety Nick Gesualdi — and honorable mention junior quarterback Dalton Banks. Now, at long last, the team gets to put its self-confidence to the test when it opens the season in the program’s first-ever matchup with Delaware.
“I just see a confidence, and I see an intensity. They know they can win, let’s get to the games,” a bubbling Archer said.
The Blue Hens opened their season against in-state rival Delaware State, cruising to a 22-3 victory. Delaware put up 432 yards of total offense, 226 of which came on the ground while holding Delaware State to only 59 yards rushing and 165 passing. The team’s defense also forced five fumbles, two of which it recovered.
This past week, Delaware took a step up when it traveled to Virginia Tech, the No. 16 team in the FBS, the nation’s highest level of football. Delaware dropped the game 27-0, but held the Hokies to 303 yards of total offense and only 81 yards rushing.
While Delaware’s Danny Rocco, named head coach this past summer, has just two games under his belt, he has already established an identity for his team: one that can stop the run on defense and a ground-and-pound offense that eats up clock. In the past two games, Delaware averaged just over 38 minutes in time of possession.
“They definitely swallow the football,” Archer said of Delaware’s offense. “They just want to hold the ball, keep your offense off the field that way, run the ball, run the quarterback. Offensively, you have to be conscious of that, you have to make your possessions count.”
But Archer had a simple answer on how to take on Delaware’s strategy — stick to playing Cornell football.
“Ideally, you want to get a lead on these guys so that they have to change what they do, throw the ball a little more, play a little bit more up tempo,” Archer added. “[We’re] not looking to change anything we do, we want to get them out of what their game plan is.”
While Delaware already has two games in the books, the Red will be seeing its first game action as a result of Ivy League rules, another significant challenge.
“It’s definitely tough when your opponent’s got two games under their belt, and we’re going in with our first game,” said senior safety and captain Nick Gesualdi. “You just gotta know it’s game time, you got to get into it. We just need to start fast, start hard and keep it going.”
Archer acknowledged that the team will inevitably deal with some opening-day jitters but stated that the group has “a way different maturity level” than teams past.
“At the start of it you’re just going to have to press the poise button way more than you normally would, because that game speed we haven’t seen yet and they have,” Archer said. “[But] it’s just a night and day level where you’re not worrying about the snap count or the call or things like that, we’re really in attack mode.”
While Saturday is only game number one, the team is looking to prove that the offseason work has paid off this year, especially after last year’s season-ending 1-6 skid.
“[We] kind of fell off at the end, but we’re really excited for what we’ve got this year,” Gesualdi said. “We’re just really excited to show everyone outside of Cornell what we can do. I love our squad this year, couldn’t be happier.”
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Newark, Delaware.