October 24, 2002

Winless Bears Still Present Challenge for Red Gridders

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The last time the football team (1-4, 0-2 Ivy) had suffered two disappointing losses in a row, the team came out against a strong Towson team and eked out a 34-31 double-overtime win. Now after consecutive losses to first-place Harvard and local rival Colgate, the Red looks to break its losing streak and notch its first Ivy win this weekend.

The good news though, is that the team, for the first time this season, is facing a squad with worse luck than itself: Brown. Or is that good news?

The Bears (0-5, 0-2) have yet to win a game this season. Most recently they fell victim to Princeton, 16-14 in N.J. Fordham, Rhode Island, Harvard, and Towson all have been victorious when playing Brown this season. It is in the bottom half of the league in almost all statistical categories other than passing offense and defense. And one of the reasons why their pass defense is second in the league is because teams would rather take advantage of the worst rushing defense in the Ancient Eight.

So if the Red plays cleanly, it should be able to push over the Bears, right? Wrong. Brown is not a team to be taken lightly. With the most efficient passer in the Ivies in Kyle Slager, one of the top-two receivers in D I-AA in Chas Gessner, and a running back who broke free for 122 yards against Cornell last year in Joe Rackley, Brown has one of the most explosive offenses in the conference.

And while Brown’s scoring defense is sixth in the league, Cornell is last in that category. Head coach Tim Pendergast described the game as a match between two teams that “aren’t up the charts on the defensive side of the ball.”

Saturday’s game pits the Bears’ most prolific passing offense in the Ivy League and the third most in the country against Cornell’s league-worst passing defense (No. 108 in D I-AA).

“I know that Brown can score bunches of points. Can we? We’re going to have to find out. I think that we have the ability to,” Pendergast said.

The one matchup that bodes in Cornell’s favor is that between the Cornell running game and the Bears’ rushing defense. The trio of seniors Nate Archer and Brian Ulbricht and sophomore Marcus Blanks needs to be effective against the worst rushing defense in the league in order for the Red to be successful.

Both Pendergast and Blanks emphasized the ability of the Brown defense recently and during its league games.

“I think that you witness the fact that two of their losses have been to the leaders in our league, Harvard and Princeton, both by two points. And both of those games they played very good defense, having given up 26 points to Harvard and 16 to Princeton,” Pendergast said.

Furthermore, the Bears have been within one score in three of their five losses. On the other hand, Cornell’s closest loss was a 14-3 defeat at Bucknell. All of its other losses were by at least 27 points.

“The last two games they’ve only given up [few] points, so I don’t look at the run defense, I’m looking at it like we’re facing Harvard,” Blanks said.

Brown has 40 points in the last two games, however, that is a respectable number.

Although the Red is hoping that Brown’s bad luck carries into the weekend, this is a team that Cornell cannot ignore, a team that has played well against the two best teams in the league, and a team that beat the Red 49-21 on Schoellkopf Field last year. With those facts on the table, Pendergast believes his team will be ready for the challenge awaiting them in Providence, R.I.

“There’s no way we’re going to have to motivate our players because they are a very good 0-and-5 team,” he said, “and a team that put a tremendous licking on us last year.”

Archived article by Amanda Angel