October 29, 2004

Football Welcomes Tigers

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Although the University officially considers this weekend Trustee-Council Weekend, to at least one Cornellian, this weekend should really be called “Legacy Weekend.” Because to that individual — head football coach Jim Knowles ’87 — tomorrow marks the beginning of several seniors’ last chance to make a solid impact on the Cornell football program.

“We’re calling it legacy week this week,” Knowles said. “Now that you have to admit that you’re out of the Ivy League, what is it then for our seniors? Are they going to have a winning Ivy record? Something that they can go out of here and say ‘OK, we were winners at home,’ or ‘we were winners in the Ivy League,’ so that’s important.”

After last week’s devastating 21-17 loss to Brown, the Red (1-5, 1-2 Ivy) is essentially out of the running for an Ivy League title. This weekend the Red will have to put that point behind it, as Princeton comes to town at 4-2 and 2-1 in league.

The Tigers come to town on the heels of their lone league loss, a 39-14 pounding at the hands of No. 19 Harvard at home a week ago. The undefeated Crimson had no trouble moving the ball on the Princeton defense — especially on the ground, where Clifton Dawson ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Tigers’ ground attack — consisting of Jon Veach and Branden Benson — paced the Princeton offense, combining for 114 yards on 25 carries and an 11-yard score by Benson. The combo will meet a defense that hasn’t allowed a running back to rush for over 100 yards all season, including Walter Payton Award winner Jamaal Branch of Colgate.

Senior quarterback Matt Verbit led the aerial assault, going 12-for-24 for 119 yards and a touchdown. Yet his day was marred by two interceptions, as well as the Tiger offense going 0-for-13 attempting to convert on third down.

For this reason, Knowles believes that no one player will take over the game, as has happened in some of the Red’s losses.

“They shouldn’t have the one really good receiver or outstanding back. They’re just a really good team,” Knowles said. “They play hard, they’re athletic, [and] they play well together.”

Playing well together is something the Red is trying to do better so that it can snap its four-game losing skid. Despite the team’s five losses this year, none has been by more than a 10-point margin. Three of the losses have come by a combined 14 points.

Knowles believes that the Red might have an advantage this weekend, playing at home. “Although we’re only 1-1 at home, we’ve played two really good teams and we’ve played well,” he said.

The two squads the Red has battled at home have been Yale, whom the team defeated, 19-7, in week two, and No. 20 Colgate, who beat the Red by four, 10-6. Colgate also defeated the Tigers, 29-26, at Princeton Stadium.

Last week the Red dropped a 21-17 decision at Brown. Leading the way for the Red was junior quarterback Ryan Kuhn, who started in place of senior D.J. Busch, and completed 14-of-24 passes for 121 yards, and one interception. Yet what Knowles really liked about Kuhn’s play was his statistics on the ground, where he had 48 yards on 15 carries, and both of the Red’s touchdowns.

“I thought it was a good first performance from a quarterback. He made some great plays with his feet,” Knowles said.

Like the Tigers, Cornell has a solid one-two punch out of the backfield. Last week, junior Josh Johnston, coming off a two-week hiatus due to injury, rushed for 76 yards on 20 carries, while classmate Andre Hardaway chipped in with 33 yards on six carries.

Kickoff with the Tigers is at 12:05 tomorrow at Schoellkopf Field. For those not at Cornell tomorrow, the game will be televised on the YES Network.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor