Coming into the 2002 season, the football team (3-5, 2-2 Ivy) had plenty of question marks surrounding it. The Red entered the year with inexperienced players along the offensive line, at quarterback, at tailback, and at the outside linebacker positions. However, after eight games, those players are no longer untested entities but have become proven contributors.
Offensively, the Red has begun to consistently put points on the board. After scoring just three points in its season opener at Bucknell, the unit has steadily improved. Cornell put up 25 points in its overtime loss to Princeton two weeks ago, and tallied 21 more in its two-point win over Dartmouth last week. In its victory over the Green, the offense had arguably its best performance of the season while accumulating well over 400 total yards.
“We have some people that are getting their first cracks at their position — the O-line, Mick. The more and more reps you get, the better you get at it,” senior fullback co-captain Nate Archer said of the linemen and senior quarterback Mick Razzano. “It’s been great seeing them progress. They’re so much better than they were at the beginning of the year. They’re realizing their talents.”
Razzano’s improved play has coincided with the Red’s increased offensive efficiency. Getting the first extensive playing time of his career, he has become a steady performer. The young linemen have also done a remarkable job of protecting the signal caller and opening holes for sophomore running back Marcus Blanks. In Razzano’s 302-yard passing day last weekend, the offensive line did not allow a single sack.
“We have a dominant O-line now, and Mick Razzano is playing to his level, throwing the ball around, It’s great to see him do it,” Archer said.
The defense, which struggled early in the season and had serious bouts of inconsistency, has hit its stride as well. Cornell has employed a bend-but-don’t-break defense, allowing large chunks of yardage but limiting opponents on the scoreboard. The Red has also been opportunistic in recent weeks, forcing eight turnovers in its last three games.
The defensive line has consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Senior Pete Combe has spearheaded the group, as he is currently tied for the Ivy League lead in sacks with seven. Meanwhile, the linebackers have made plays all over the field, as the speedy sophomore duo of Brad Kitlowski and Joel Sussman, combined with the veteran senior tandem of co-captain Nate Spitler and Jarad Madea, have begun to shut down the opponents’ running game. And the defensive backs, led by senior safety Jamie Moriarty, have been steady all season long in limiting the number of long passing plays.
After eight games, the improvement of the young roster is evident.
“I look at the sheet right now, and I know we’ve made progress, both from the beginning of this season and from last year,” head coach Tim Pendergast said. “Obviously we’re running the ball a hell of a lot better, we’re playing better run defense, playing better defense overall particularly these last three weeks. Things are starting to gel.”
The Red has already assured itself of a better record than the 2001 version. However, the coaching staff is not only pleased by the increase in wins, but also the team’s overall play.
“We still have a chance to do some good things, and make more progress in the win column. But I look at a lot areas of this team and say, ‘Geez we’re really ahead of where we were,'” Pendergast said.
Archived article by Alex Ip