September 24, 2004

Not Just Any Ivy League Opener: Red Hopes For Victory in 'Sellout'

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Four years ago, the Cornell football team attempted to do what many thought to be impossible — sell out Schoellkopf Field. While the team and program fell short of the goal — only 16,654 attended the Homecoming game against Yale on Sept. 23, 2000 — those in attendance certainly saw a performance worth the price of admission.

Tomorrow afternoon, as Jim Knowles ’87 returns to Schoellkopf for the first time as a head coach, Cornell will again attempt to sellout the historic Crescent.

“It’s so much easier to play when there’s that excitement and electric atmosphere,” Knowles said. “Momentum, it’s a lot of spirit, a lot of people cheering you on, it just gives you an added lift to play better.”

The Red will certainly have its work cut out, though, as it tries to stop its program record-tying losing streak at 10 games.

Yale, which finished last season tied for second place in the Ivy League standings, enters the game following a road victory over a strong Dayton team. Blue chip tailback Robert Carr was the star for the Elis, as he compiled 172 rushing yards on 72 carries, scoring two touchdowns. He also starred on special teams, returning one punt and three kickoffs for a combined 70 yards. The All-Ivy second teamer will certianly create headaches for the Red defensive corps, which rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown last season against Cornell.

The Yale offense also features fifth-year quarterback Alvin Cowan, one of the most fearsome signal-callers in I-AA football.

“They’re obviously very good players, but our responsibility is only to take care of the stuff that we have to do,” said senior strong safety Brad Kitlowski. “That’s really what we’re focused in on, our job and stuff like that.”

As for the Red, it will go into tomorrow’s game looking to improve upon its uneven performance of a week ago. While the defense was stellar, allowing the high-flying Bucknell offense only 15 points, the Red struggled a bit on the offensive end, scoring only nine points despite plenty of chances.

Special teams was also wildly inconsistent for Cornell. On one hand, senior Joel Sussman blocked two field goal attempts by the Bison. On the other hand, senior placekicker Trevor MacMeekin struggled mightily, missing both of his field goal attempts on the game, in addition to a PAT.

However, despite its apparent advantage, Yale is expecting a very tough game from the Red.

“From a defensive perspective, they play very, very well,” said Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki. “They’re a big physical team up front of both sides of the ball, and they seem to be playing very hard.”

Senior quarterback D.J. Busch, who enters the game after going 19-of-38 for 193 yards last week against Bucknell is expecting a top-notch effort from his team, though.

“The general expectation is definitely to win,” Busch said. “Ivy opener, it’s important to come away with victory, and we’ll accept nothing less.”

As the game is the Ivy opener for both teams, it will carry a little extra emotion, something that will be heightened even more by Knowles’ return to the Schoellkopf sideline.

“[The emotions] come in waves. I’m trying to not become emotional about it, because I have to focus on Yale,” Knowles said.

His primary focus remains, however, getting his team its first win of the season. “Offensively they can’t take us out of the running game. We have to keep at it and put different formations on the field to get the ball in there,” he said. “Defensively we’re going to try to generate more heat on the passer so we don’t leave our guys in the secondary out there so long.”

All the while, the Cornell Football Association will try to make Knowles feel at home the best way it knows how — by helping to pack venerable Schoellkopf Field to the brim.

Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Sports Editor