Few teams have had as competitive a rivalry as Cornell and Columbia have had the past decade. Columbia has a slight 7-6 advantage over the past 13 years, and if all goes as expected, tomorrow’s game in New York City should be just as close.
The Red (3-5, 2-3 Ivy) is coming off a 21-19 win over Dartmouth last weekend, while the Lions (1-7, 0-5) suffered their seventh consecutive loss at Harvard last weekend, 28-7. Even though Cornell has two more Ivy wins than the Lions, the two teams almost parallel each other on paper.
“The gap between Columbia and Cornell is not that great in any direction. Statistically, the gap is not great. If you look at the last 13 times these teams have played, Columbia holds a 7-6 advantage, so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us,” said head coach Tim Pendergast.
In fact, aside from total points scored where the Red leads the Lions by five points, the two teams are almost identical when it comes to points allowed (30.4 for Columbia, 30.9 for Cornell), total offense (324.0 for Columbia, 318.1 for Cornell), and yards allowed (426.8 for Columbia, 423.1 for Cornell).
Columbia has been badly outplayed away from Wien Stadium, but the team will be expected to come out strong in its final home game tomorrow.
“While they’ve lost seven in a row, the thing that’s probably most difficult to figure out is that they’ve played four home games and this will be their last one. I’m sure that that will give them some added spice,” Pendergast said. “The games have been very close at home — they play well at home.”
The Lions are 1-3 at home with their only win coming in a 13-11 victory over Fordham. However, all three losses were decided by a score or less.
Last weekend, senior quarterback Mick Razzano came out passing for a career-high 302 yards against the Green. Senior receiver Keith Ferguson, who had captured the school’s career receptions record earlier in the year added the career receiving yardage record last Saturday.
Since the Columbia defense has been susceptible to the run thus far this season, Cornell may rely on its rushing game as it has in most of its games. Led by seniors Nate Archer, Brian Ulbricht, sophomore Marcus Blanks and Razzano, the Red has racked up 133.5 ground yards per game and hopes to break out against the seventh-worst run defense in the league.
“Obviously we’re still going to want to run the ball, and we’re looking to do so. Hopefully, we can put together a big game on the ground because that makes everything work better: time of possession, playaction, passes, everything,” Archer said.
This doesn’t mean that Razzano won’t be throwing the ball to Ferguson and junior wideout John Kellner, especially with the improvement in the passing game.
“We’ve had a lot of success with Ferguson and Kellner, they’ve been playing real well for us lately, and they’re going to have to respect the pass, for sure, which is going to help the running game even more,” Archer said.
Senior cornerback Vinny Bates, who sat out the past two games with broken ribs, will be back to claim his starting spot and to return kicks. He will be spelled by sophomore David Blanks, who earned a spot on this week’s Ivy League honor roll for his eight-tackle (four for a loss) performance against Dartmouth.
Columbia’s biggest offensive threat comes in the form of Travis Chmelka, who is third in the Ivy League in all-purpose yards. The receiver is also one of the league’s best kick returners. Quarterback Steve Hunsberger is averaging just under 200 yards per game.
Last year, Columbia beat Cornell 35-28 on Schoellkopf; the year before, Cornell triumphed 35-31 in NYC. The Red leads the all-time series, 56-30-3.
“Columbia always plays tough. Years when they’re not doing so well, somehow they always put together a really good game against us,” Archer finished.
Yesterday, it was announced that junior defensive lineman Kevin Rooney and sophomore tailback Marcus Blanks were named to the Verizon District-I Acadmic All-America Team. In order to be considered for the award, athletes must maintain a GPA of over 3.2 while significantly contributing to the team. They were two of nine Ivy Leaguers chosen for the honor.
Archived article by Amanda Angel