The Cornell sprint football team battles Pennsylvania tonight at 7 p.m. on Schoellkopf Field. It will be the last home game for 16 seniors, including six key starters on one of the stingiest defenses in the league.
“This has been our best defense in ten years,” head coach Terry Cullen noted. “We have a very aggressive group of guys consisting of a veteran secondary and very good linebackers.”
Between them, the linebackers and defensive backs have 23 seasons of experience, but more importantly, 17 forced turnovers. Time and again, the defense has attributed its success not only to a streamlined regiment offseason workout, but also a simple confidence, bordering on expectation, in giving the offense the momentum and the ball with great field position on every drive.
The offense has been coming into its own of late, finally surpassing the defense in touchdown production. The quarterbacking situation has been shaky at best, but junior Ryan Dwyer has started all four games while senior tri–captain Andrew Goodman and freshman Michael Antonecchia have been subbing in. Coach Cullen seems to have settled on this three–man rotation for the Penn game.
While Antonecchia has been injured much of the season, Goodman has spent quality time running the offense, throwing two touchdown passes to the future of the squad, freshman tight end Michael Ormsby.
Unfortunately for the Red, Ormsby will miss tonight’s game with a concussion. However, another surprise freshman will be returning from a concussion of his own: Henry Kim. Kim has played multiple roles for the Big Red offense, perhaps most successfully, and impressively, as the punter (averaging almost 40 yards per kick). Kim, Ormsby and Antonecchia are among five freshmen that have truly impressed Cullen, the other two being field goal kicker Evan Andrews and defensive back Dean Coccaro. Andrews has already made two more field goals than all of last year combined, including a clutch 26–yarder in overtime to win the game against Princeton.
“These guys are really starting to play well,” Cullen praised. “It’s very encouraging.”
Cornell will need a top–notch performance from all sides of the ball tonight, as the Quakers bring a flashy 3–0 record to Ithaca, including a stunning 28–27 defeat of Navy in overtime last weekend. They will not, however, be sporting their number one quarterback as senior John Kernan broke his jaw in that game.
“The second–string quarterback is not bad,” junior defensive lineman Miky Kuo said. “He is more of a running quarterback than a throwing quarterback, and we’ve been preparing for that.”
It was not Kernan who beat the Red in their battle earlier in the season, however. In its first game against the Red, Penn used a strong rushing attack and suffocating defense to pull off a 20–0 victory. Cornell was held to -21 yards rushing.
“We will try to learn a few things from that game and adjust accordingly,” Cullen said with a smile. “We certainly didn’t have much success running the ball.”
But the defense played up to form, holding Penn to its lowest point total of the season. And with Penn being forced to start a freshman quarterback, ‘upset’ is on lips of every player.
“We’re fired up and well prepared. We can definitely beat them,” Miky Kuo boldly stated.
It will take more than just defense to win. The offensive burden will lie squarely on the shoulders of the quarterbacks, who must find ways to thread the Quaker secondary.
“Penn is a very basic team as opposed to Army. What they do is not that complex, but they are very fundamentally sound,” Cullen commented.
With a little heart and a big crowd, an upset is certainly not out of the question.
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin