November 11, 2002

Cornell Wages Attack in the Air

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Going into Saturday’s game, it seemed that the Dartmouth passing offense would be the difference between the Red (3-5, 2-3 Ivy) and the Green. After all, Dartmouth quarterback Brian Mann went into action leading the Ivy League in passing yardage, while his top two targets, Casey Cramer and Jay Barnard, had combined for 107 catches. However, to the surprise of those in attendance, it was the Cornell aerial display which provided the fireworks at Schoellkopf Field in the Red’s 21-19 win.

Dartmouth (3-5, 2-3) entered the game with statistically the Ivy League’s worst pass defense, allowing over 290 passing yards per game. Undoubtedly, this fact was not lost on the Cornell coaching staff, which stressed the passing game in practices leading up to Saturday’s contest.

“On Tuesday of last week, we made a decision to throw the ball, period. And we talked at length about how,” said Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast. “We thought we could throw it, it was proven that we could, and we did.

“We knew we were going to attempt to throw the football, and we were successful,” he continued.

The Red’s aggressive play calling, especially early in the game, surprised even the Green, which had expected a more conservative Cornell gameplan.

“We thought that they’d probably run the ball a little more than they did,” said Dartmouth head coach John Lyons. “Our run defense has been getting better, and I think they got away from their run game and really went after us throwing the ball because they had success doing it to us.”

The Red succeeded to the tune of a season-high 302 passing yards via the arm of senior quarterback Mick Razzano. On the day, the signal-caller completed 20 of his 33 pass attempts along with a touchdown.

Senior wide receiver Keith Ferguson was Razzano’s weapon of choice, reeling in 11 catches for 175 yards. With the 175 yards on Saturday, Ferguson became Cornell’s career leader in receiving yards with 2,503.

“It’s an awesome feeling. To get the ‘W’ and the record in the same day, I’m elated. I can’t say enough about it,” said Ferguson, who also captured the school-record for career receptions two weeks ago. “When you get something like that, you think about all the guys that came before you, and how good they were, and what they meant to the program.

“You look at yourself and say, ‘wow, I really accomplished something.’ I praise everyone who’s been around me — offensive line throughout the years, Razz, Ricky Rahne ’02, Joe Splendorio ’01,” he added. “Those are the guys I have to give credit to right now.”

For much of the afternoon, Ferguson abused Dartmouth’s freshman cornerback Chris Green. Dartmouth’s decision to assign a rookie to cover Ferguson with one-on-one proved fatal, as the Cornell receiver consistently burned the defender with catches along the left sideline for big chunks of yardage.

“We watched the game of the Harvard game and they did it to [receiver] Carl Morris,” said Ferguson of the single coverage. “That’s how they play, and they’re not going to change for anyone. We just took advantage. They just kept giving it to us, so we just kept picking at it.”

Junior wide receivers John Kellner and Chad Nice also made contributions, as Kellner caught three passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, while Nice made three catches for 36 yards.

The men in the trenches also drew praise for the team’s success. Against an aggressive Dartmouth defense which sent a multitude of blitzes early in the game, the offensive line protected Razzano and gave him the necessary time to pick apart the secondary.

“Sometimes those offensive linemen get overshadowed. Nobody ever knows their names, nobody ever has recognition of those people,” said Pendergast. “But it’s 11 guys. It’s a team game.”

“The offensive line played great. I had no pressure on me,” added Razzano.

On Saturday, everything clicked for the Red, from the pass protection, to the quarterback, to the receivers.

“Obviously, Mick and Keith, and the other receivers, the offensive line and everybody who was involved had tremendous games,” applauded Pendergast.

Cornell will try to duplicate the effort next weekend, as it tries to even its Ivy record at Columbia.

Archived article by Alex Ip