After last Saturday’s humbling 50-23 homecoming defeat to Ivy foe Yale, Cornell football head coach Tim Pendergast acknowledged that his team had “taken a major step backward.”
Following an effort in which the defense allowed 415 rushing yards and the offense managed to sustain just one long drive, Pendergast and his staff had the Red (0-2, 0-1 Ivy) working in overdrive during practice to remedy the team’s ills.
“First of all, you have to let it go, and we’ve done that,” Pendergast said. “Secondly, we had to refocus ourselves in practice, and we had to, in my opinion, make practice tougher on our players, more demanding on our players — not as a penalty or punishment but to try to recapture their focus.”
For their part, the players have responded well to the new practice regimen.
“I believe that we’ve had two of the best practices since I’ve been here,” Pendergast said.
Pendergast’s players agreed with the assessment.
“The last two practices have been the best two practices we’ve had all year,” senior quarterback Mick Razzano said. “I feel offensively we’re practicing at more of a game speed. It’s helped us out so far.”
“I think everybody picked it up,” senior defensive lineman Kevin Rooney concurred.
The nature of Cornell’s one-sided home opener was especially shocking considering the Red’s encouraging play just the week before on the road against a tough Bucknell squad. The defense, which ceded just over 100 yards on the ground to the Bisons, gave up more yardage to Yale’s speedy tailbacks in just the first quarter. The offense, which had consistently strung together long drives in the season opener, failed to do the same in its first appearance in front of his hometown fans.
The Red, however, has taken last Saturday’s disappointment as a challenge — motivation for hard work.
“After a game like that, there are two ways you can go: You can either pack it in and say ‘We’re not that good,’ or you can say ‘Hey, that’s one game, an aberration,'” Rooney said. “We’re going to come out and show everybody what type of team we are.”
“It stinks to lose and we all hate that feeling. Nobody wants to lose,” Razzano added. “We’ve been practicing as hard as we’ve practiced, and we’ve been studying our plays more, watching more films. From A to Z we’ve been working just as hard as we can all week. Hopefully it’ll bring a win.”
In order for the Red to notch its first win, though, it must contain Towson (3-1), which has averaged 38.5 points per game, including an average of 49 points in its three victories.
Although Pendergast was cognizant of the daunting task ahead, he placed the emphasis on his team rather than the matchup with the Tigers.
“It’s not about who we’re playing next. It’s about us,” he noted. “We control two things: our effort and our attitude. Nobody, no one, can change those except the person. And if we can control our effort and give the best effort that we can and control our attitude and be in the right frame of mind, not sitting back and waiting but taking a warrior-like attitude to the game, then it’s all down to talent.”
According to his players, the Red has that attitude and is ready to take its steps back in the right direction.
“We’ve got to turn it around here,” Razzano said. “Nobody’s down in the dumps. We’re all positive, and we’re ready to play.”
Archived article by Alex Ip