October 24, 2003

Troubles Inside the Compete Zone

Print More

Records aren’t just numbers, they’re labels. The football team’s 1-4 record is no exception.

Though Cornell’s record has caused some to give up on the Red, head coach Tim Pendergast feels otherwise. He knows that the losses this fall haven’t been due to a lack of talent. Instead, the losses have been about a lack of respect –especially in the last 20 yards of the field.

Senior wide receiver John Kellner is someone who knows this all too well after last weekend’s 42-20 loss to Georgetown.

“Coach Pendergast calls inside the 20 the compete zone instead of the red zone … and we didn’t compete very well,” he said. “Once you get down inside that 20, it gets compressed down and it turns into one-on-one battles, and for the most part we didn’t win those one-on-one battles last week.”

While Cornell gained 113 yards on the ground and 272 passing yards — topping Georgetown’s offensive production by nearly 100 yards — it failed to convert all of its red zone opportunities. In Pendergast’s words, the team failed to compete.

“The compete zone really means that when you’re on the offensive side of the ball, or the defensive side of the ball,” said the coach, “you’ve got to really dig down and compete on that position of the field.”

Unfortunately for the Red, that hasn’t happened thus far.

After several players spent the summer training and running skeleton plays in Ithaca, the team entered the 2003 season riding high. The euphoria continued with a win over Bucknell and it’s high-powered offense. Ivy play started the next week, however, throwing Cornell a curve.

Despite trailing Yale 7-0 at the half of week two, Cornell was unable to mount a comeback. Part of the loss could be attributed to the Red’s inability to stop Yale’s tandem of running back Robert Carr and quarterback Alvin Cowan. The other half of the loss falls to Cornell’s inability to execute in the red, or “compete” zone.

During the Ivy opener, the Red drew six whistles for 56 penalty yards to keep itself out of the final 20 yards of the field. Missed assignments also plagued the Red, as Mick Razzano took several sacks and was picked off for an interception in the compete zone.

Things appeared to improve dramatically in week three. After giving up 24 points in the first half, Cornell’s defense came out and held Colgate scoreless for the majority of the second half. A fumble recovery by junior cornerback Sean Nassoiy, followed by a field goal from sophomore A.J. Weitsman knotted the game. It appeared the contest was Cornell’s to win.

However, with 6:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Colgate marched 83 yards. Again the ghosts of the past returned, with the defense allowing Colgate into the compete zone within a matter of minutes. With no time remaining, Colgate kicker Lane Schwarzberg sent the ball through the uprights, giving the Raiders their fifth-straight win. It was Cornell’s second loss.

Despite two subsequent losses since Colgate, Pendergast maintains that the team has talent.

“I’m not backing down from the fact that we’re a good team that’s made mistakes — critical — but we are a good team,” he said.

Archived article by Matt Janiga