When two of the best quarterbacks in Division I-AA meet this weekend, one thing will be on the minds of Brown coach Phil Estes and Cornell (2-3, 2-0 Ivy) coach Pete Mangurian.
Or lack thereof it.
Mangurian’s run defense comes in ranked third worst in Division I-AA, allowing over 303 yards on average on the ground.
Estes’ passing defense comes in ranked fifth worst in Division I-AA, allowing over 276 yards on average through the air.
The beneficiaries of these stats will be the offenses, both of which feature some of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Brown’s (3-2, 0-2 Ivy) passing offense enters the game ranked third in the country. The team is following the senior leader Eric Webber, a senior from Sayville, New York who has already amassed 1,533 yards on the season in five games, making him one of the top passers in the country.
“They’re a good team and they can throw it,” Mangurian says.
That quote of course, could come out of the mouth of Estes as well.
Junior Ricky Rahne has led the Red with 1,392 yard of passing this year, leading Cornell to the 12th best passing numbers per game in the country. Rahne personally holds down the 21st passing rating in the country.
Despite all the numbers seemingly being in favor of Cornell’s passing team, the team continues to insist that it must run the ball.
Junior running back Evan Simmons, who is listed as doubtful for the game, continues to tout the importance of the balanced offense.
“I think the running game has a lot to do with [the team being successful]. If we want to be Ivy League champions, a balanced attack is something we’re going to have to have,” Simmons remarked.
Junior Justin Dunleavy will be required to take on the task of running the ball should Simmons be unable to go, costing the team speed and size, but not the ability to catch a ball out of the backfield.
The Cornell defense will also have to stop two great skill players in running back Mike Malan and wide receiver Steve Campbell.
At 5-11, 230-pounds., Malan is a big bruising back who likes to run the ball up the middle of the field. He was rated one of the top 15 running backs in Division I-AA before the start of the year by The Sports Network.
“He’s a big strong runner,” Mangurian said. “Anytime someone can hammer the football up in there like he can, you have to be concerned.”
Campbell, along with Red senior co-captain Joe Splendorio, was a unanimous selection to the first team of the Ivy League at the wide receiver position. He amassed 1,107 yards receiving on 89 catches last year, and is on a similarly torrid pace this year, grabbing 56 balls for 564 yards through five games.
For the Red to win, its own skill players will have to step up and make the plays they are capable of. This will be a game of skill players making plays and the defenses doing their best to contain them.
For Cornell, the matchups will be tough. The run defense will need to rise to the occasion and stop Malan more than a few times.
“We’ve got a lot of tough assignments we’re going to have to deal with all day long on both sides of the football,” said Mangurian.
He believes, however, that his run defense is starting to improve and show its true form.
“Running defense is something we’ve started to improve on,” Mangurian stated. “I hope that we can continue to do that, and I think we will.”
But to stop Brown, Cornell will have to be sharp, sharper than it has been the past few weekends. Anything less and the Red will come home from Rhode Island with a 2-4 record.
Archived article by Charles Persons