After last weekend’s disastrous 45-7 loss to Navy, the sprint football team travels tonight to winless Princeton looking to even its record at 2-2. It will be the second meeting between the two teams, with the Red winning the first contest, 22-12.
If the Red is to repeat its success against the Tigers, the defense will need to sustain its strong early-season performance. After allowing only 29 points in its first two games, the Red gave up 45 to a powerful Navy squad last Friday. While Navy amassed over 400 yards of offense versus the Red, head coach Terry Cullen was fairly satisfied with the Red’s defensive effort.
Instead, Cullen attributed Navy’s scoring prowess to an anemic, turnover-prone Red offense saying, “The 45 points that Navy scored was more a reflection of our inept offense that turned the ball over repeatedly with interceptions.”
Against the winless Tigers, the Red will need to contain talented Dennis Bakke, who threw for 188 yards while running for a touchdown in the teams’ first matchup. Princeton’s other primary offensive weapon is Rikki Racela, a skillful rusher who tallied 79 yards on the ground against the Red. Despite these two standout players, Princeton has managed to score only an average of nine points a game.
Leading the Red’s defensive effort will be linebacker Eric Eisenhart. The senior continued to be the bulwark of the defensive unit last weekend, leading the team with nine tackles and a fumble recovery. In only three games, he has 44 tackles, already eclipsing last season’s total. Unfortunately, the Red’s defense will be missing a key contributor, as junior linebacker James LaRocca is out for the remainder of the season.
While the defense did surrender 45 points last week, the Red’s lackluster 1-2 start can be attributed to a struggling offense that has yet to establish a running attack.
Cullen assessed the team’s offensive difficulties, saying, “Our main offensive problem has been the lack of an ability to run the football. Our passing game is okay, but the lack of a running game has been a killer. It’s been very frustrating, but we continue to work on it. We feel the offense will come around, and when it does we will be a good football team.”
Though Princeton is certainly not the same caliber team as perennial juggernaut Navy, the Red’s offense will be hard pressed to improve its output. Further complicating matters is the fact that freshman backup quarterback Alec Macaulay will be unavailable after injuring his throwing hand against Navy. Hopefully, the Red will not be forced to rely on the pass like last weekend, when Cornell quarterbacks threw six interceptions.
Envisioning a hard-fought battle between two hungry football teams, Cullen commented, “I expect a low-scoring, close game. Princeton returned their entire team from last year [and] is playing very well. Their defense against the run has been outstanding. They have struggled with the kicking game though, and that was probably the difference in our first game with them.”
Tonight’s game presents Cornell with a chance to even its record, and if the offense, defense, and special teams play to the level of their abilities, the Red should return from New Jersey 2-2, 1-1 in the league play. However, if the offense remains impotent and continues to turn the ball over, Princeton may escape with its first win in two seasons. Game time is 7 p.m.
Archived article by Mark Fetzko