After doing something it hasn’t done in four years last week, the football team (1-0) will look to accomplish something it hasn’t done in three years tomorrow. With a 21-19 win over Bucknell last Saturday, the Red won its first season opener since 1999. Tomorrow, the Red will look to topple Yale for the first time since 2000. Cornell believes that one historic victory may lead to the other.
“I think we have a lot more confidence,” said head coach Tim Pendergast comparing tomorrow’s match-up with last year’s 50-23 route by the Bulldogs. “Stepping into a game for the first time in a number of years with an unblemished mark gives a little bit of confidence, a little bit of a boost to the players, and to the coaches.”
A boost may be exactly what the Red needs, as it faces one of the Ivy League’s most formidable contenders. Yale began its season last Saturday in much the same fashion as it ended its 2002 campaign. The high-powered Bulldog offense outmatched the visiting Towson Tigers, routing its overmatched Patriot League rival, 62-28.
A name many Cornell fans may recognize led the charge, as usual, for Yale. Junior tailback Robert Carr began his campaign to defend his league rushing title with a 120-yard day on just 21 attempts. Carr’s name may ring a bell because of his record-breaking performance a year ago against the Red — a school-best 235 yards on 28 carries.
Cornell realizes that stopping Carr will be a key component in improving upon last season’s defeat.
“Last year, they really did have a lot of running yards against us [415 total], so that’s going to be really important,” said junior defensive tackle Mike McGinty. “We know the defensive line is going to have to have a good game for us to be successful.”
Unfortunately for the Red, Yale’s weapons do not end with Carr’s elusive running capabilities. Senior quarterback Alvin Cowan was 16-of-25 last week and threw for 289 yards including two tosses for touchdowns and an additional tally on the ground. Cowan was knocked out of last year’s game with the Red in the first quarter by then-sophomore linebacker Brad Kitlowski and could be seeking a little revenge in 2003. Cowan, whether driven by rage or not, still presents the Red with yet another offensive juggernaut.
“Alvin Cowan is really a top-notch quarterback,” said Pendergast. “After the day Cowan had [last week], even though [Harvard quarterback Ryan] Fitzpatrick put up better numbers, Cowan just leads that offense in a tremendous way. He’s accurate, makes tremendous decisions, they don’t put him in a lot of tough situations.”
Regardless of Yale’s many tools on offense, this year’s Cornell defense seems much more poised heading into tomorrow’s contest than it did a year ago. Last week, the Red held a potent Bucknell offense to 390 total yards, and stifled the Bison on almost every opportunity they had in the red zone. McGinty’s 11-tackle effort, along with a solid cohesiveness up the middle of the defense, was key in the Red’s ability to keep the Bison out of its endzone. More of the same will be needed tomorrow.
“They’ll pound it at you, or they’ll take it outside,” said McGinty, comparing Yale’s rushing mentality with Bucknell’s. “It’s going to be a good challenge for the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs.”
The defense will receive more help on the other side of the ball than it has had in the last two seasons. That’s if last Saturday’s performance is any indication of things to come.
Senior quarterback Mick Razzano threw for 216 yards, going 17-30 in the winning effort, while sophomore Josh Johnston emerged as the Red’s tailback of the moment thanks to a 78-yard, 18-carry afternoon.
“As long as we get the run game going on the ground, we know Mick will take care of his part back there,” said senior center John Megaro, whose linemates played a major role in last week’s victory.
Cornell’s major goal will simply be to overcome Yale’s recent dominance of the Red by playing a more complete game.
“I have to credit Yale as I say that those two games we played against them, we haven’t played good football. I think those are two games, that in the two years I’ve been here, I can honestly say those were our two worst played games of football,” said Pendergast, whose team has been outscored 90-36 in those losing efforts.
Of course, any streak is bound to come to an end and Cornell feels good about its chances, especially after its exceptional showing last week.
“The biggest thing about the win against Bucknell is now it’s not coming really close to a win but getting a loss. Now we’ve already won. It’s not where we’re almost there as a good team. We know we’re a good team,” said Megaro.
Maybe a good enough team to change history.
Archived article by Scott Jones