October 22, 2004

Football Looks to Snap Losing Streak at Brown

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After Wednesday night’s mind-blowing ALCS finale, it appears as if dramatic comebacks still have a vital place in the world of sports. Yet, as far as storied rivalries go, the Red Sox and Yankees pale in comparison to tomorrow’s Ivy League football match-up between Cornell and the Brown Bears — the 52nd installment in a series dating back to 1895. And with the Red (1-4, 1-1 Ivy) reeling after three consecutive losses, the team hopes to conjure up a little October magic of its own and get its league championship aspirations back on track.

“These games are our playoffs,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “If we can use all of the lessons we have learned in our previous games, we will find a way to win.”

Tomorrow’s contest in Providence, R.I. will present a familiar challenge for the Red defense: finding ways to stop one of the nation’s most prolific running backs. Brown junior Nick Hartigan is currently the 32nd leading rusher in the history of the Ivy League, having compiled 2,122 career yards thus far. The bruising workhorse out of Fairfax, Va. is the nation’s ninth-best rusher (averaging 124 yards per game) and ranks third in Division 1-AA in individual scoring with an average of 12 points per game. By comparison, Cornell’s offense has scored more than 12 points in a game only twice this season.

“[Hartigan] is an all-around good back,” said sophomore defensive end Jonathan Lucas. “If we can contain him, we’ll have a shot.”

Shutting down opposing rushing stars has been the forte of the Red defense this season, and Knowles and his defensive unit do not expect a lapse against Hartigan. Already in 2004, the Red has faced three of the most vaunted tailbacks in the Northeast — Yale’s Robert Carr, Harvard’s Clifton Dawson and Colgate’s Jamaal Branch — and has held the trio to a combined average of only 65.7 yards on the ground. This year, Hartigan has posted three 100+ yard rushing performances, including a stunning 175-yard, two touchdown effort against Harvard on Sept. 25.

“I think our guys are playing with a lot of confidence against the run,” Knowles said.

Despite an exceptional running game and the league’s most dominant defense (Brown is giving up an average of only 271 yards per game), the Bears (3-2, 0-2 Ivy) are still hunting for their first league victory. Two tough losses to Ivy unbeatens Harvard and Princeton have left the Bears in a three-way tie for last in the league. Yet, a potentially lethal scoring offense combined with a tough defense make the Bears a team the second-place Red cannot hope to overlook.

“It’s our most important game of the season because it’s our next one,” said junior tailback Andre Hardaway. “We’re taking every game one at a time.”

Quarterback Joe DiGiacomo will call signals for a Brown offense currently ranked third in the Ivy League (404.8 yards per game). The sophomore made his first collegiate start this season against Albany, and has thrown for 1,035 yards and three touchdowns through five games.

DiGiacomo’s favorite target is junior Jarrett Schreck, a speedy wide-out averaging 88.6 receiving yards per game. Schreck turned in a memorable performance against the Crimson, hauling in 10 catches for 253 yards — most notably an 83-yard touchdown grab. The Montville, N.J. native averages 18.5 yards per catch and could cause some problems for a Red defense with its eyes on Hartigan. In its losses to Harvard and Colgate, Cornell traded an airtight run defense for an often-erratic pass defense.

“We need to be able to protect the pass as well as the run,” Knowles said. “We can’t have seven or eight guys on Hartigan and no one covering their wide receivers.”

The Red is also looking to achieve more consistency and effectiveness on its own side of the ball. Cornell ranks next to last in scoring offense in the Ancient Eight (15.8 points per game) and can boast only two touchdown receptions this year — fewest in the league. The Red’s rushing attack has also struggled, having scored only four touchdowns this season and averaging 101 yards per game. Brown’s ground game averages 176.8 yards per game and has posted 11 touchdowns on the year.

“Our offense has not been anywhere near up to where we want it,” Knowles said. “We have to execute better.”

Knowles acknowledged the team’s offensive woes may result in some game day adjustments.

“We expect there to be some changes,” he said.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor