The football team will enter the second half of its 2002 campaign tomorrow at Brown with the feeling that it’s now or never. The Red is currently 1-4 overall and 0-2 in Ivy League play and will have its best opportunity for a conference victory yet, as it faces the winless Bears (0-5, 0-2 Ivy) at 1 p.m.
Cornell is coming off a tough loss to Colgate last week, in which the Red allowed over 500 yards of total offense in the game and 28 points before halftime. While the defense has struggled all season, creating a 196-89 scoring margin in favor of its opponents, the offense has shown signs of life in each successive game.
In particular, the play of sophomore tailback Marcus Blanks and senior quarterback Mick Razzano has progressed into a potentially potent one-two attack for the Red. Blanks, who came into the season with nearly no collegiate experience at the position he now owns, has 307 yards on the ground this season and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Razzano has also quieted all rumors of a quarterback controversy in the Cornell program by amassing a 98.24 efficiency rating and just under 150 yards passing yards per game in his first five starts
“I definitely take pride in the running game. I think the O-line has worked really hard to open up and make holes,” said Blanks.
The Red running game has been able to flourish despite injuries to starting junior trenchmen John Megaro and Jason Stadnik. The Red will once again have to go without the veteran pair tomorrow.
“Naturally when the No. 1 guy goes down you kind of cringe a little bit, but the guys that are backing them up are now as good,” said Blanks of the situation.
Regardless of its offensive prowess, the Red will have to tighten its play on defense in order to be successful tomorrow against a tough Brown offense.
Though it has dropped the first five games of its season, Brown has only been outscored by a total of 35 points. The Bears’ two Ivy losses were both by a margin of two points and came at the hands of the league’s top two squads, Harvard and Princeton.
Thus, tomorrow’s match-up should be an exciting expression of each team’s desperation to finally put together a victory.
“We’re resilient, and we know we haven’t put together a game since Towson,” said head coach Tim Pendergast.
On offense, Brown boasts arguably the league’s single finest talent in wide receiver Chas Gessner. Gessner is a Payton Award Candidate (top player in Div 1-AA) and was a first team All-America selection last year. His statistics speak for themselves: 56 catches (including a record-tying 24 catch performance at Rhode Island), 617 total yards, 11 yards per reception, seven touchdowns and a 123.4 yard average per game.
“When you have a talent like Gessner to go to, you don’t have to be a great quarterback,” said Pendergast.
On defense, the Bears have had struggles similar to those that Cornell has suffered in 2002. Brown gives up 32 points and 439 yards of total offense on average per game. Brown has also given up over 1200 total yards on the ground while compensating with a less than enviable 300 rushing yards of its own.
With the Bears deficiencies coming where Cornell has excelled, tomorrow’s contest has provided a rallying point for Pendergast’s players.
“I don’t see guys hanging their heads, I don’t see bad attitudes,” said Pendergast of his team’s mentality heading into tomorrow, “I honest-to-goodness see great character.”
Tomorrow will be Brown’s first home game in over a month, which may give the Bears a slight edge in the area of tangibles. However, a key phrase in the Cornell locker room this entire week has been “sense of urgency.”
“There definitely is [a sense of urgency], especially with the seniors,” finished Blanks. “They know it’s their last shot and they want to make the most of it.”
Archived article by Scott Jones