The Red travels to West Point tonight looking to salvage a 3-3 overall record and derail Army’s sprint football championship aspirations. It will be a difficult task, as Army stands at a perfect 2-0 in league action, with only a loss to Navy in the Pride Bowl blotting an otherwise stellar 3-1 campaign.
The Black Knights are a smashmouth football team, gaining over 268 yards per game on the ground. Employing the wishbone offense, Army has compiled an impressive 4.6 yards per carry. Opposing defenses cannot focus on any single player, as the Cadets have six different players with over 100 yards rushing. Quarterback Clay Bibb leads the team with 212 yards in three games, with fellow quarterback Kevin Thomas and running backs Aaron Scheinber, Patrick Hall, Ken Marckesano, and Fabio Castro complementing the option attack.
Army’s passing attack is less than prolific, as Bibb and Thomas only connect on 41.7 percent of their attempts, but can be effective when opponents are caught off guard. Steve Duperre is the team’s primary target and has caught three touchdown passes in just three games.
Despite Army’s potent ground game and opportunistic aerial attack, Cornell’s defense is confident and excited about the matchup.
Senior captain and standout cornerback Adam Romeiser summed up the Black Knights’ offense, commenting, “They’re pretty straightforward and not very deceptive. They don’t do too many things, but what they do, they do well.”
Romeiser continued, saying about the Red’s defensive gameplan and 4-4 scheme, “We’ll need to be disciplined, and we’ll be putting nine guys in the box. We’ve only got three defensive backs, so we’ve got more hard hitters up front. The 4-4 is great for us. We’ve got great linebackers who hit hard and run all over the field making plays. We’re confident, and very excited to play.”
The Red has several reasons to be confident. One of them is senior linebacker Eric Eisenhart. He is the backbone of a steady defense that surrenders less than 20 points per contest. Eisenhart has been active all over the field, making plays from sideline to sideline, benefiting from the 4-4 defensive alignment. On the season, he has tallied 65 tackles, far surpassing last year’s total.
Head coach Terry Cullen praised the linebacker, saying, “He’s probably the best football player on the team. Our defense is designed to protect him so that he can make tackles. And he’s done that well. I don’t know how many tackles he’s averaging, but he certainly seems to make a lot of them.”
Nonetheless, if the Red’s offense continues to struggle as it has all season, it faces little chance of winning. An offensive output of 8.4 points per game has effectively put the Red out of any game in which it falls behind by more than a touchdown, and Army’s defense will offer the Red little respite. The Black Knights’ defensive unit has been dominant, surrendering only 159.8 yards per game. Opponents have rushed for a minuscule 2.4 yards per attempt against Army, and have fared no better with the pass. Army boasts a strong pass rush, with Mike Kelvington and Mike Whisenant applying most of the pressure up front. The two have accounted for seven sacks in just four games.
Despite season-long offensive inadequacies, Cornell’s offense still hopes for a final game turnaround. The Red’s players remain focused on bettering the offense, and see signs of improvement.
Junior tight end Michael Ormsby commented on the Red’s struggles, saying, “Looking at films, it always seems to be one little thing that hurts us. One missed block, one guy going the wrong way. There haven’t been any big problems. Just one small thing each play. It is just a matter of coming together as a team, as a unit. We just need to execute correctly. We’re confident that we’ll come out and play well.”
Hopefully for the Red, it can play to its potential for the first time all season. At stake is a .500 record, and the Army game provides the senior class with a chance to end its career as a winner.
Romeiser reflected on his last football game at Cornell, saying, “It’s been a good week at practice. We’ve got nothing to lose. Only something to win. For me, it’s my last hurrah, but I’m not going to be too sad. Still, I’ll enjoy every last second of the Army game. There are more important things in life and we’ll face more important challenges in life after football, but it has been a blessing to play football for 12 years and go to a great school like Cornell. It’d definitely be great to go out with a win and give next year’s team something to build on.”
Archived article by Mark Fetzko