Twice already this season, the football team (2-5, 1-3 Ivy) has shown the ability to bounce back from a difficult loss. Tomorrow, it will try to accomplish the feat once again, as it hosts Dartmouth (3-4, 2-2). The Red is coming off of a disappointing overtime loss to Princeton, while the Green was on the short end of its own heartbreaker last weekend, a 31-26 defeat to conference-leading Harvard.
In arguably Cornell’s toughest defeat under the guidance of head coach Tim Pendergast, the Red squandered a 15-point fourth-quarter lead to the Tigers last Saturday. With the score knotted at 25 apiece with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Cornell held the ball deep in Princeton territory. However, senior quarterback Mick Razzano had his third down pass attempt deflected and intercepted, ending the Red threat. Princeton would go on to score a touchdown on its overtime possession while stymieing the Red in its attempt to even the score.
Despite the difficult loss, Pendergast and his players have apparently moved past the disappointment.
“Every loss is tough,” said Pendergast, “but the key is just live and learn and get over it. Success in any walk of life is built upon failure first.”
Cornell will get no pity from this week’s opponent, however, as Dartmouth lost its homecoming last week despite a career day from quarterback Brian Mann, who threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns.
In order for Cornell to earn its second league victory of the season, it must find a way to stop the Dartmouth aerial show, particularly Mann. On the season, the quarterback has thrown for 11 touchdowns and an Ivy-best 2012 yards. However, Mann is by no means purely a conventional pocket passer, as his 302 rushing yards are a testament to his mobility and ability to beat defenses with both his arm and legs.
The Green also has two of the best receivers in the conference in the form of Jay Barnard and Casey Cramer. The wide outs are ranked third and fourth in the league in receptions, combining for 107 catches on the season. Cramer is third in the Ivies with 766 yards while Barnard isn’t too far behind with 639.
Dartmouth, though, certainly isn’t a one-dimensional offense. Tailback Mike Giles is one of the premier runners in the league, currently ranking third in the Ivy League with 518 yards.
While the Red’s defense will have its hands full with the Dartmouth passing attack, the Cornell offense will have the opportunity to exploit the Green’s pass defense, which is ranked last in the league, allowing over 289 yards per game. Cornell senior wide receiver Keith Ferguson, already the school’s all-time receptions leader, needs just 10 receiving yards to become the program’s career yardage leader.
Although Ferguson may not perform a Terrell Owens-esque sharpie celebration, he will be prepared with a gimmick of his own.
“If it happens when I score, I’m going to dunk the goalpost,” said Ferguson. “I’m going to do it, I swear, I’m going to dunk the goalpost.”
Ferguson and his offensive mates understand that success in the passing game will be paramount to both teams’ chances of winning. However, the Red will continue to seek balance in its gameplan.
“They’re going to attack us. They watch tape like we watch tape. We’re going to attack that [pass defense] as well,” said Ferguson. “Because they’re weak in the pass defense area doesn’t mean we’re not going to run as well. We’re still going to give [sophomore running back Marcus] Blanks the ball, and [senior quarterback] Mick [Razzano] is going to run some too. Whatever gives us the best chance to score, we’re going to do.”
Blanks and senior running back Brian Ulbricht were relatively quiet in last week’s defeat, as the Red gained just 83 yards on the ground. Blanks, however, is fourth in the Ivy League with 425 yards, while Ulbricht has given Cornell a change of pace and 210 yards.
With three games remaining on the schedule, Cornell still has a chance to finish with a winning Ivy League record. And although the team currently has just two victories — the same number that the 2001 version totaled — Pendergast and his staff remain upbeat.
“This team has made progress over the last year,” said Pendergast. “It may not and it does not show in terms of the wins at this point, but we have a third of the season to go. So there’s lots of time to up the wins in the win column.
“All of us, me included — first and foremost — have to do a better job of execution,” he concluded.
Archived article by Alex Ip