Four weeks ago, a dejected Tim Pendergast sat down in front of a dozen reporters and was forced to explain what happened to cause a 40-13 defeat to Yale during homecoming.
This Saturday he found himself in a similar position after Brown had thwarted Cornell by an almost identical margin, 49-21.
The reasons he searched for were eerily similar to the weeks before.
Poor tackling, turnovers, anemic offense in the first half coupled with defensive lapses in the second half all took their toll on the Red as they had time and time before, dropping the team to its first 0-5 start since 1985.
“I’m just hard pressed to have a lot to say right now,” Pendergast said slumped in his chair.
And it was difficult to find new words to describe the same problems.
There was junior Vinny Bates’ mishandled punt return that Brown recovered at Cornell’s 11 yard line which led to a touchdown. There was senior Evan Simmons’s fumble on the ensuing drive inside the Brown 20-yard line which Brown’s Hunter Young ran back for a TD. There was Jermaine Griffin’s 24-yard interception return 11 minutes into the third. And finally, there was the missed tackle on Brown tailback Joe Rackley that would have brought him down behind scrimmage, but instead allowed him to dash 80 yards into the end zone. That last play made the score at 49-21 with 4:46 left in regulation.
Penalties and a blocked punt also hurt Cornell severely during the course of the game.
The coach couldn’t find answers to why the practice hasn’t made perfect as the same problems keep surfacing.
“Believe me, we try to work on these things,” he assured, resolved to correct the blunders committed in the game and on the season. “We will continue to work to try to improve upon our mistakes.”
Senior quarterback Ricky Rahne appeared perplexed at the offense’s futility, especially when it got deep within Brown’s territory.
“We can keep getting down to the 20 yard line or 25 yard line and turn it over, or not convert on a fourth down,” he said. “It shouldn’t even come down to a fourth down once you get down there. We go 60 yards and then we just stop. That’s the disappointing part.”
After the first week’s loss to Yale it was apparent that the Red had much progress to make if it wanted to parallel last year’s success. The following weeks saw major improvements against Patriot League teams Colgate and then no. 8 Lehigh. Both teams defeated Cornell in 2000, and are ranked above most Ivy competition. But the Red came within three points of both teams, showing definite progress each week.
However, Cornell took a major step backwards with a 26-6 loss to Harvard. This week’s defeat amplified the problems.
Rather than narrowing the elements that need improvement, the list seems to get longer each week.
“I don’t how to define it other than a lack of focus,” Pendergast said searching for appropriated words. “We don’t have confidence. We’re not playing with any confidence right now and I think that’s a big part of it.”
Cornell must find its confidence and focus within the week in order to play a cohesive game against Princeton Oct. 27.
Despite the pessimistic cloud surrounding the football team, Pendergast is adamant that his underachieving squad has the ability to succeed: “I know we can win, and I know we’re a better team than [the way] we’re playing.”
But he must impart some of his confidence to the 96 men on his roster before they can get their first ‘W.’
Archived article by Amanda Angel