Coming into the season with five career sacks, senior defensive end Pete Combe was expected to be a contributor on a veteran line. He was supposed to solid, not spectacular. Then, on the Red’s first defensive play of the season, Combe stormed around right end and sacked the Bucknell quarterback for a huge loss. And Combe hasn’t stopped harassing opposing quarterbacks since. In his final season on the East Hill, the native of Spring, Texas has exploded on the scene and become one of the elite pass rushers in the Ivy League.
“We ask our folks to play behind the line of scrimmage, and he’s done it week in and week out,” Cornell head coach Tim Pendergast said. “He’s performing like an all-league performer, there’s absolutely no question about that.”
At the end of the season, Combe may very well be honored by the league. He is currently tied for second in the Ivies with eight sacks and is also second in tackles for a loss with 13. More importantly, he has consistently pressured opposing quarterbacks into errant throws.
However, despite setting a career-high in sacks, Combe’s preseason expectations remain unfulfilled.
“I expect a lot of myself and I set some really high goals this year,” Combe said. “My goal for the season was to tie or even break Cornell’s single season record at 12. it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, but I think I’ve played well. I’m happy with the play I’ve played.”
But while Combe hasn’t hit his target, he hasn’t missed by much. And although it would take an extraordinary effort, he still has one game before the curtain is closed on his collegiate career.
“My parents used to always tell me, ‘If you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll hit a star or something real high.’ I go out every week and I just try to play football, try to have fun, play hard. That’s really all my game is about,” he said.
Cornell’s game with Penn on Saturday will be the last for Combe and 15 other seniors on the squad. However, the defensive lineman has tried to remain focused on the job at hand.
“I’m really not thinking about it. I think that it’s something I’ll have to think about after Saturday afternoon. Right now, I’m just trying to play my game and go play football and that’s not something you can do if you think ‘oh that’s my last game,'” he said. “You can’t let that type of thing get into your mind. I know that there’s going to be some emotion attached to it, I know that this is my last game, but it’s something I haven’t let get to me.”
And while Combe might not make his mark on the Cornell football record books, he and his classmates have left an indelible imprint on the program.
“Pete’s grown tremendously, not only as a player but as a person. He’s always been a good person, but he’s grown even more,” Pendergast said. “There’s a level of maturity with Pete that’s just characteristic of the seniors and characteristic of the team right now.”
Archived article by Alex Ip