Though the football team is scheduled to play Towson tomorrow at 1 p.m., a more imposing opponent will provide the true test for the Red: itself. After a befuddling breakdown last weekend against an evenly matched Yale team, Cornell (0-2, 0-1 Ivy) will once again look to find itself tomorrow on Schoellkopf Field.
“I’d like to think we helped [Yale] shut ourselves down,” said head coach Tim Pendergast.
A week ago, Cornell witnessed a nearly inexplicable breakdown on both sides of the ball. The defense gave up over 400 yards rushing, while the offense stagnated after an impressive opening scoring drive. The 50 points the Red gave up were the most it had allowed Yale to score at Schoellkopf since 1889.
“We were just doing things uncharacteristic of what we’ve been doing all month long,” said senior defensive end Kevin Rooney of the loss.
However, tomorrow is a new day and the Towson Tigers provide a brand new challenge for the Red. Unfortunately for Cornell, that challenge is rather daunting.
Towson (3-1) is coming off two of its highest-scoring weeks in school history, having tallied 42 points last Saturday at Holy Cross and 56 the week prior against a tough Brown squad. Towson’s lone defeat came in a quirky 23-7 loss at Lafayette.
Led by current Patriot League Player of the Week, junior quarterback Jay Amer, the Tigers boast the most potent offense in the Patriot League. Towson is averaging 38.5 points and 454.5 total yards of offense per game, each mark ranking seventh in Division I-AA.
Last weekend Amer, a first year starter, completed 13 of 16 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Amer’s 147.85 passing efficiency rating puts him 13th in Division I-AA and at the head of his class in the Patriot League.
However, Towson’s scary offense does not stop at Amer and his corps of receivers. Junior tailback Matt Romeo has carried the ball 87 times for the Tigers this season and averages just under 100 yards per game. The Red will have to contain Romeo while neutralizing the dangerous Amer, in order to control the pace of tomorrow’s game. Such a task may seem a tall order for a defense which has had its weaknesses exposed of late. Thus, the Red will look to make major adjustments heading into its clash with the Tigers.
“Their passing attack is a lot stronger than Yale’s and Towson’s got a lot of speed,” said Rooney. “We’re not going to be able to have one guy out there making tackles, we’re going to have to gang tackle.”
Tackling will be a major factor as the Red looks to correct the major shortcomings of last week. Senior defensive leaders Nate Spitler, Jesse Rodriguez, and Jamie Moriarty will once again play a major role in setting the tone for the Red on the opposite side of the ball.
On a more promising note for Cornell, the Towson defense has shown some vulnerability this season, allowing just under 26 points per game. This can be credited most obviously to the Tigers’ pass defense which has allowed 284 yards per game in the air. While the pass defense struggles from down to down, it makes up for its lack of consistency by relying on the big play. The Tigers have eight interceptions on the year, including five between senior Edmund Carazo and sophomore P.D. Moore. Moore is also second in total tackles for Towson with 24. Junior linebacker Neal Regan leads the team in takedowns with 32 for the season.
Countering the Towson defense will be the increasingly enigmatic offense of Cornell. Sophomore tailback Marcus Blanks is averaging 86 yards per game, which places him in the top-50 nationally, while senior Mick Razzano has shown signs of excellence including a 10-19 performance last weekend against Yale.
However, the importance of tomorrow’s game and the logistics of the Red-Tigers match-up cannot be captured in mere numbers. The Red will, admittedly, be playing itself at least early in the contest attempting to prove and improve upon the expectations it had going into the 2002 campaign.
“We control two things: our effort and attitude — no one can change those except that person,” finished Pendergast. “But if we allow ourselves to beat ourselves, we will.”
Archived article by Scott Jones