April 27, 2001

Spring Is in the Air And So Is Football

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Two months after the conclusion of the 2000 Ivy League football season, the Red learned that it would start anew in 2001 under the leadership of Tim Pendergast, who left Hamilton College to become the head coach at Cornell.

Now with three weeks of spring practice complete, the team will play its annual Red-White exhibition game tomorrow to conclude the semester’s training.

The Red has had 12 practices since April 7, but along with the usual NCAA regulations, the team has been limited by the number of players on the field.

Of the 69 players on the roster, two are not in school this semester and three play spring sports. Then, with the usual bumps and hits that leave some players below full strength, the coaching staff has had to be careful when constructing its practices.

“Because of the lack of depth, we haven’t been able to do many of the things that we have wanted to do,” Pendergast said.

Still, the team has been holding meetings and utilizing walk-throughs in practices to install new schemes into the offensive and defensive systems. During the process, several players have switched positions as well.

“It’s tough learning a new system, but it is coming along,” said junior defensive lineman Bryan Sacco. “We just feel it is going to be a lot better than last season.”

Among the changes, the coaches have moved sophomore linebacker Pete Combe to defensive end and junior defensive back Cory Ziskind to outside linebacker.

“I think that our team has really done well in adjusting to and learning the new offensive and defensive schemes,” said junior quarterback Ricky Rahne.

In spring practice, Pendergast has emphasized his intense preparation for the moment. So, while the Sept. 15th start of next season or the Nov. 17th rematch with Pennsylvania may be in the backs of every player’s mind, the coach is focusing on the present.

“The most important game you will ever play is the next one, [and] the next important play we will take will be the first one,” Pendergast said.

Pendergast and his staff will witness that first play tomorrow during the Red-White game at Schoellkopf Field. Practice begins at 1 p.m., and the first snap is scheduled for approximately 1:40 p.m.

“[Tomorrow] we are going to let loose,” said junior running back Evan Simmons. “It’s going to be putting everything together for the first time.”

Despite the excitement generating among the players, who have just three opportunities for full contact practice during the spring, Pendergast warned against expecting many highlights from the scrimmage tomorrow.

“I think you will see a bland offense and defense,” he said, adding that anybody in the stands could be scouting for another team.

Come fall semester when the season opens however, the coaching staff will expect progress, especially on defense.

During the 2000 season the Red gave up 334 points and allowed an average of 478 yards of total offense per game. The team finished with a 5-2 record, good for second place in the league behind Ivy champ Penn. Many of Cornell’s five wins came from fourth quarter comebacks led by the offense.

Those facts leave the defense as the major area of the Red’s game that needs to be addressed, and in 2001, Pendergast has promised that changes are in store.

“We will be a more aggressive, attacking defense than the previous philosophy had been,” Pendergast concluded.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch