If the Big Red wants to turn this young season around, this weekend would be a good place to start.
Homecoming comes to the East Hill when tomorrow the Red takes on Ivy preseason co-favorites Yale in an attempt to take its first step towards a conference crown.
The graduation of a team’s starting quarterback, especially one who was second-team All-Ivy, team MVP and the 10th-most productive player offensively in Division I-AA would normally cripple a team.
Yale, however, has more than survived with its new offense; it has thrived.
Rashad Bartholomew has emerged as Yale’s primary offensive threat after Joe Walland (the aforementioned quarterback) graduated. In the past two years Bartholomew has had some of his most impressive games against the Red defense, racking up 123 yards in 1999 and 176 yards in 1998. He scored a touchdown in each of those games, both Yale victories.
Senior defensive lineman Tom Crone knows full well what Bartholomew is capable of.
“He’s obviously their best player on offense,” said Crone. “To stop him it’s just going to take 11 guys doing their job. It’s got to be a team effort.”
Against Dayton last week Bartholomew chalked up a career-best 201 yards on the ground on 23 rushes, en route to the Bulldogs’ 42-6 blowout.
“He’s a great player,” head coach Pete Mangurian said.
Cornell had a tough time stopping the run against Bucknell last week as the front line gave up 396 yards on the ground. The combination does not bode well for the Red.
“We had a lot of guys last week making small mistakes and when you get a lot of guys doing that, that’s where you get the big holes [for running backs to run through],” said Crone.
Mangurian reiterated the importance of cleaning up the small mistakes on defense.
“We have to stop the running game, but that’s about us doing what we’re supposed to do,” Mangurian said. “[Last week] we weren’t where we were supposed to be. We have to get there then we have to make the play.”
While the defense looks to slow the Bulldog rushing attack, the secondary must look out for Peter Lee, the new signal-caller for Yale. The University of Wisconsin transfer went 19-for-23 a week ago against Dayton for a total of 193 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensively, the Red will need to go at full throttle against a very experienced group. Cornell has felt a need to refocus its efforts after last week’s poor showing at Bucknell.
“We need to get back to basics,” junior quarterback Ricky Rahne said earlier this week.
Getting back to basics should mean a return to the running game that the Red abandoned in the second half of last week’s game.
Junior running back Evan Simmons is fired up about getting a chance to run at the ‘Dogs.
“I just want to break out the running game,” Simmons said. “I was expecting a lot more out of myself last week. This week [in practice], the concentration was running hard every down.”
Simmons has also noted a different sense of purpose in the team this week.
“There’s been a lot more intensity this week, there’s a sense of urgency.”
Mangurian has also seen the urgency, but knows that his team needs to display confidence as well.
“We’ve got to play well,” said Mangurian. “We have to have the confidence that if we play well and if we do the things we’re supposed to do we’ve got a chance to win the football game,” he added.
The coach also feels that his team needs to place the focus squarely on itself and not worry about what Yale is doing.
“This isn’t about Yale, this is about us. It’s about how we’re going to play, what we’re going to do, what our mindset is.”
Cornell must look inwardly on both offense and defense.
“Coming off of last week we have to be careful to do all the little things right,” said Crone.
“Our focus this week is for us to play well, it doesn’t matter who we play this week,” Mangurian noted. “I don’t care who [we play], we have to play well.”
Turning the season around this week is a big priority. If Cornell controls the ground game, that should be more than a possibility, it should be a likelihood.
Archived article by Charles Persons