October 15, 2004

Colgate Poses Big Test for Red 'D'

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Inside the football team’s temporary headquarters at the Grumann Squash Courts, there is a chart listing the defense’s goals for each game. Ever since Jim Knowles ’87 took over has head coach last January, he and his staff have stressed a strong defense as crucial to team success.

That mandate just became much tougher, as the team learned this week that senior whip Joel Sussman would be lost for the season. As the Red heads into tomorrow’s homecoming matchup against Colgate, though, it knows that it can’t let the defense’s loss get in the way of it’s game plan.

“Everybody’s got to step up,” said junior Kevin Rex, who makes the move from free safety to whip beginning tomorrow. “We’re just going to try to come together as a team, as a unit.”

Rex assumes this assignment with already stellar credentials. As the starting free safety for the first four games of the season, he has recorded a team-leading 32 tackles, 13 of which were unassisted. He also picked up an interception last week at Harvard.

As for stepping into the whip position, Rex is waiting with confident anticipation.

“I’m actually a little nervous,” he said. “It’s a lot more hitting, the linemen are coming after me now, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m just excited to help the team.”

The defense’s task tomorrow is made all the more daunting, considering that Colgate boasts a potential nationl player of the year candidate in tailback Jamaal Branch.

“Hit him low, hit him hard, he’s a big boy,” Rex said of Cornell’s approach to the All-American.

In last season’s game, Branch rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. He combines with quarterback Chris Brown to provide a very potent offensive attack, which the Red will certianly be mindful of.

“Unless you’re absolutely superior athletically, defense is all about taking something away,” Knowles said. “Against Harvard, we took away Dawson, and we did a great job of that, and then Fitzpatrick threw it. And they we tried to defend the pass, Fitzpatrick ran it. That’s what makes Colgate so challenging. You have to stop Branch. We’re always going to do that. My philosophy on defense is you have to stop the run.

“Even if you’re not as good athletically, you’re not going to do any better by dropping a bunch of people back and letting them run the ball. You have to stop the run, take your chances in the pass game, and now we’re going tohave to do some things to keep the quarterback in the pocket.”

Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Sports Editor