October 11, 2002

Football's Next Test: Harvard

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After claiming its first win of the season last Saturday with an improbable 34-31 double-overtime victory over Towson, the Red (1-2, 0-1 Ivy) will travel to Cambridge to face Harvard tomorrow afternoon. Cornell will have a daunting task on its hands, as the defending Ivy champion Crimson (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) has won nine consecutive league games.

On the offensive side of the ball, Harvard will pose serious problems for the Red defenders. Led by senior quarterback Neil Rose and All-American wide receiver Carl Morris, Harvard’s aerial attack will give Cornell’s pass defense its sternest test to date. Morris, a first-team All-Ivy selection a season ago, already has 26 catches for 423 yards and three scores in just three games.

“They have tremendously talented players,” Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast said. “[And Carl Morris is] one of the best receivers that any of us will see at this level.”

However, with the presence of running back Nick Palazzo — who scored two touchdowns in Harvard’s 26-6 win over Cornell last season — in the Crimson backfield, the Red will not be able to solely concentrate on taking away Morris.

“If you base your entire game plan around one person, many times it will backfire. Eleven guys have to do what they have to do,” Pendergast said. “Carl Morris is a great player. Hardly anybody shuts him down. I don’t know how you stop that. But I know we can do our best. If we do our thing, he’ll have some catches, but maybe we can slow him down a little bit.”

Defensively, the Red snapped back into form last weekend, stymieing an explosive Towson offense for the first three quarters. Despite allowing 31 points, the Cornell defense was solid all game long, particularly against the run. After allowing over 400 yards rushing the week before against Yale, the Red ceded just 140 yards on the ground to Towson.

With last week’s success fresh in its mind, the Red believes that it has the ability to neutralize the powerful Crimson attack.

“They’re a very good team, very good offense,” senior linebacker Jarad Madea said. “[But] it’s more on us this week. We know that they can do a lot, but it’s more important about how we execute our stuff. As long as we can do that, we’ll be alright.”

Cornell also had plenty of bright spots on the offensive side last week. Senior running back Brian Ulbricht, starting in place of injured sophomore Marcus Blanks, rushed for a career-high 164 yards against the Tigers. For the first time this season, senior quarterback Mick Razzano looked comfortable in the pocket, connecting on 17 of his 34 passing attempts for a career-high 166 yards and a touchdown.

On the strength of its strong rushing attack, the Red was able to hold a huge advantage in time of possession against Towson. In order to keep the Harvard offense off the field, Cornell must duplicate its effort tomorrow. That will not be an easy task, however, as Harvard leads the Ivy League in average time of possession, holding onto the ball for more than 33 minutes a game.

“I think we can control the clock. I really believe we can,” Pendergast noted. “If we can do that and keep the ball out of Harvard’s hands, then we’ll have a much greater chance.”

Although the Red is facing one of the hottest teams in the nation, Pendergast is focused on his team more so than the opponent that awaits.

“To me, it’s the next game. I don’t care if they’ve won every game in the last century or no games in the last century. It’s not about what they’ve done,” he said. “I care about this team that’s here and that’s it. If we do what we have to do, then that’ll at least give us a great opportunity.

“We’re up against a very difficult opponent: ourselves. And only we can win the game. And only we can lose the game,” Pendergast added. “The most difficult opponent that we’ll face every week is ourselves. Are we going to play or not?”

Some of his players, though, admitted that they’d have an extra bounce in their steps playing against the Crimson.

“Any time it’s Harvard, we’ve got that extra incentive right there,” Madea said.

“Obviously when you hear the name Harvard, it rings the bell a little bit louder than any other word would ring,” Ulbricht concurred. “We want to win games, and last week was the first step that we took. Now that it’s the Ivy League, it’s going to mean that much more. We’ve already lost one game in the Ivy League and we need to start winning games and getting back on the right track.”

The Red will have that chance to get on the right track tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Harvard Stadium.

Archived article by Alex Ip