September 20, 2002

Filling the Position in the Middle

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In the 2002 football media guide, under the outlook for the quarterback position, no starter is named. Instead, the guide says, “the decision as to who gets the go-ahead nod may come down just days before the first game of the season.”

Unfortunately for the folks at Cornell Sports Information, the media guide must be published at least a month before the season starts. Back then, the starting quarterback could have been any one of three contestants hoping to replace the graduated Ricky Rahne ’02.

Contestant one was senior Mick Razzano, who ultimately won the battle and was officially named starter last week. Razzano is the only one of the three passers to have actually played as a quarterback for the Red. For the last three years, Razzano backed up Rahne, seeing limited action in five games over that time.

“It’s just a little advantage of being out there, playing in game experiences, obviously a lot different from the practice field, getting out there on Saturday,” said Razzano. “I haven’t played in many games, so I have limited experience. It’s helped me out a little bit.”

In those games, Razzano’s numbers aren’t bad: 10-for-16 for 137 yards.

“I think the biggest strength right now as opposed to [junior transfer] D.J. [Busch] is that he has knowledge of the offense,” said quarterbacks coach Brandon Stott. “They both have tremendous arms, they’re both really quick, they’re good athletes. [Razzano] just understands the offense better right now.”

The second contestant for the job was junior Marschall Berkes. Berkes is an outstanding athlete who missed last season after having surgery on his right shoulder — his throwing arm.

Berkes was in the running for the starter’s slot until about three weeks ago, when he broke the index finger on his right hand. The injury prevented him from being able to get a strong release on his passes, and so he had to drop out of the race.

The fans at Schoellkopf haven’t seen the last of Marschall Berkes, though. Berkes is such a gifted athlete that the coaches wanted to play him somewhere, and so he’ll be playing wide receiver and special teams this season, as well as doubling as emergency quarterback should misfortune befall Razzano and his backup.

Who is that backup? It’s the third candidate, Busch, who will be very interesting to watch as this season progresses.

Busch, who began last season as the starter for then-No. 24 Division I-A Colorado State, went through a roller coaster of success and disappointment and ultimately fell out of the coaches’ favor, seeing transfer Bradlee Van Pelt take his job.

Busch got off to a rocky start in his first game, tossing three picks in a loss against rival Colorado. In the next game, Busch didn’t throw an interception while throwing and running for scores in a win over Nevada. The wheels of Busch’s Rams career came off in the third game, though, a loss to San Diego State in which he threw another interception and lost his job for good.

The former prized recruit saw little action the rest of the season, and finished 2001 28-for-63 with 337 yards and two TDs.

In addition to the benching, another reason he left Colorado State was the departure of offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild to an NFL coaching position. Fairchild was a primary reason Busch chose to play for the Rams.

Now Busch will get another chance to show what he’s made of. Although Razzano was named the starter, head coach Tim Pendergast and Stott left no doubt that Busch will see action — probably as soon as tomorrow — and might get a chance at a starting position again.

“He will get some experience in a game, and early. Hopefully at Bucknell, if the situation presents itself, we’re going to take advantage of that,” said Stott.

It would be poetic justice if the man who lost his job to a transfer last year transferred himself and earned a starting position.

Whether Busch is starting by the end of the season or Razzano shows that he can lead the Red to the top of the Ivy League remains to be seen, but one thing is clear — both quarterbacks will play a role in anything this team accomplishes this fall.

“We need them both to win this year. I know that. The whole coaching staff knows that,” said Stott.

Meanwhile, Busch’s fresh perspective on the team summarized the expectations of whoever is calling the signals.

” I think we just need somebody who can kind of go out there and not make mistakes and let other players make big plays and we’ll be fine,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s looking to fill Ricky Rahne’s shoes; I think it’s more so we don’t want to go 2-7 again. We want to improve as a team.”

Archived article by Alex Fineman