Coming into the 2002 season, there were major question marks for the football team at quarterback, running back, and along the offensive line. With inexperienced players at each of the critical positions, it was no surprise that the offense struggled to find its rhythm early in the year. However, the Cornell offense has improved weekly and seems to be finally hitting its stride.
After failing to move the ball on a consistent basis in its first two weeks against Bucknell and Yale — both losses — the Red has amassed at least 300 yards of total offense in each subsequent game. Perhaps the squad’s best performance came in its double-overtime win over Towson in its third game, in which the Red gained 428 yards, including a jaw-dropping 262 via the rushing attack.
The tailbacks, sophomore Marcus Blanks and senior Brian Ulbricht, have been the beneficiaries of the gaping holes created by senior co-captain fullback Nate Archer and the young offensive line. Blanks has 387 yards on the season, while Ulbricht has 210 of his own.
The big improvement in the offense, however, has come from senior quarterback Mick Razzano and the passing attack. After watching Ricky Rahne ’02 the past three seasons, Razzano earned the starting nod during the preseason. The Red’s signal caller has gotten better in every game, with arguably his best effort coming this past weekend in a double-overtime victory over Brown, in which he threw for a career-high 242 yards. On the season, Razzano has passed for 960 yards and four touchdowns.
“We have been throwing the ball a little better and better each game,” Razzano said. “We just have to continue to get better, score more points, and take it from there.”
However, despite his recent success, Razzano realizes that there is still quite a bit of room for improvement.
“I need to work on everything,” he said. “I need to improve in every aspect of the game.”
As the season has progressed, Razzano and his receivers, senior Keith Ferguson and junior John Kellner, have started to click. Ferguson, in particular, has exploded as of late, catching 12 balls for 154 yards and two touchdowns three weeks ago at Harvard, and then besting that performance with a 14-catch, 177-yard effort against Brown.
“Obviously the more snaps, the more games that you take, you get more comfortable,” Razzano said. “I’m sure [the receivers] kind of know where I’m going to be, and the more and more we go, the more and more comfortable we’ll be with each other.”
Ferguson sees not just the maturation of Razzano, but of the entire offense as the reason for the offense’s increasing effectiveness.
“Mickey was just starting and he was new to it, so he had to develop,” Ferguson said. “I think we’re to the point where we say, ‘This guy, we need to get him the ball.’ Throughout the season, everyone is getting better.”
While the players at skill positions have been putting up better statistics, Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast points to the steadiness of the offensive line as one of the most important factors.
“We’ve been getting better incrementally, and a lot of it is because of the guy standing behind the center and the guys up front,” Pendergast said. “It gets easier for Keith Ferguson, it gets easier for John Kellner, it gets easier for Marcus Blanks when those guys, the offensive line and quarterback are moving to get better.”
With a tough Princeton defense on its plate this weekend, followed by three more league games, the Red offense will have to continue putting up points.
“We’ve got to stay on that course and continue to get incrementally better this week,” Pendergast concluded.
Archived article by Alex Ip