November 17, 2000

Football Hosts Penn for Ivy Title

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So it all comes down to this. Two teams, one game, one crown.

Tomorrow Cornell will host Penn on the East Hill at 1 p.m. in what may be the most anticipated football game played on this campus since 1986, the last time these two teams met for the outright Ivy title. Penn won that game 31 to 21.

Oh, how times have changed. The Ivy League is now one of the most pass-happy conferences in the nation, something that should be readily apparent in Saturday’s game. Two of the league’s most prolific passers in history will duke it out on Schoellkopf Field, when Cornell’s junior Ricky Rahne meets Penn’s junior signal caller, Gavin Hoffman.

Hoffman’s number this year have been unreal. He has completed nearly 70% of his passes for 2,884 yards in nine games. He’s thrown 22 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and has been an incredible leader for the Quakers. Hoffman busted onto the Ivy scene last year after starting for Northwestern his freshman year.

Rahne could match him throw for throw tomorrow however. Rahne completed 224 passes for 2,638 yards this season. He needs only 20 completions and 278 yards passing to pass Bill Lazor ’94 for the career marks in both of those categories.

Tomorrow will mark the last game for a number of Red seniors. Among these are co-captains Joe Splendorio and Dan Weyandt, who will both need good games if Cornell is to win.

Weyandt will need to lead the defense, as he has all year in the tackling department. The fierce competitor will be responsible for picking up short passes across the middle. He will need to be all over the field if Cornell is to hold Penn defensively.

Splendorio could be poised for a breakout game in his final contest. Last year the 6-6 senior caught five passes for 120-yards against an undersized Penn secondary. Little has changed about Splendorio or that Penn secondary, and Cornell fans should expect the wideout to be a dominant force on the field. Overall, the holder of the record for career yards receiving is pumped up to be playing in a game like this.

“This is what it’s all about, to be able to play for a championship in your final game.” Splendorio said.

With all the offense on the field, it might be easy to overlook the defense. Despite that, the secondaries and defensive lines will be crucial in determining the winner of this game.

For the defensive lines, getting pressure on the quarterbacks will be key. Forcing Rahne and Hoffman to rush will produce errant throws and possibly interceptions. Cornell will be led by another senior, Jay Bolton, who last week was voted Ivy League defensive player of the week.

In the secondaries, the cornerback will have to deal with some of the league’s most talented receivers. The Penn cornerbacks will have to deal with the size of Splendorio and senior edgar Romney. The Cornell cornerbacks will have to contend with an extremely fast set of wideouts, led by junior Rob Milanese.

Getting this point in the season has been the challenge for both of these teams. Now the Red and the Quakers will both be one game away from a league championship. With snow on the way, this could become a game for the ages, a game that sticks in the minds of the winning team’s student body like no game in recent memory. Expect Schoellkopf to be raucous and expect an exciting game.

“It’s very exciting and even more special to play at home,” said Splendorio. “You couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Archived article by Charles Persons