Jim Knowles ’87 passed his first big test since becoming the Roger J. Weiss ’61 head coach of football: playing tough against Bucknell last weekend. Now the former Red defensive lineman finds himself entering the biggest challenge of his innaugural season, as Cornell prepares to take on Yale tomorrow afternoon in the season’s home opener.
A loss would sully the season, disappoint the thousands of fans likely to attend Schoellkopf Sellout II, and officially give Cornell the worst streak in school history — 11 straight losses. A win, on the other hand, would signifiy a true change of tides — and make Knowles a hero.
But earning the victory will not come easily — Yale has a potent offense and stingy, physical defense — and the Red will have to adjust its gameplan accordingly if it hopes to best the Bulldogs.
“Offensively, we can’t let them take us out of the running game,” Knowles said. “We have to keep at it and put different formations out there to keep the ball moving on the ground.”
Quarterback D.J. Busch, who threw for 193 yards against the Bison, will look to build on his impressive performance.
“We’ll make a couple of adjustments,” he said. “We did a lot of things well, and we’ll try to build on them. We’ll make a few adjustments. Now we just have to put more points on the board.”
Defensively, Cornell forced two turnovers last week to keep the Bison at bay, but two big plays blew the game open in the fourth quarter.
Entering tomorrow’s contest, Knowles knows the key to his team’s success is preventing that from happening again.
“We’re going to try to generate more heat on the quarterback, so we don’t leave our guys in the secondary hanging out there so long,” he said.
Ironically, the Bulldogs’ offensive playbook, effective as it is, may actually benefit the Red’s D.
“We’re kind of going back to the stuff we worked on most in camp. We basically had to design a whole new defense for Bucknell, because they run the wing-T,” senior co-captain and strong safety Brad Kitlowski said. “Yale runs a much more traditional offense.”
While both offensive and defensive unit have adjusted their schemes to anticipate Yale’s counterpart, one element of Cornell’s gameplan remains uncertain: special teams.
Last Saturday, senior Joel Sussman blocked two Bucknell kicks — plays which earned him Ivy League special teams Player of the Week — but the Red also missed two field goals and one extra point. With those misques went vital points which may have helped Cornell win the game. Tomorrow, anything less than perfection in Cornell’s kicking game could result in a sour outcome.
“Special teams-wise, aside from missing kicks, we were solid,” Knowles said. “As for our kicker, that’ll be a game-time decision. It’s a bit of a worrisome area right now.”
If the Red can capitalize consistently on its field goal and PAT attempts, the rest of the team can be assured that it will seize all chances to put points on the board.
Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor