Amid the Cornell coaching staff’s cries of “there is no finish line!” as the team took the field, it seemed that the football squad’s scrimmage against Division III power Ithaca College was really a competitive, fierce, Ivy League game.
And in some aspects, Saturday’s scrimmage at Schoellkopf Field showed flashes of a regular-season encounter. For one, senior starting quarterback Ryan Kuhn played live, making him fair game for members of the opposing defense. For another, Saturday gave team observers the largest indication of this team’s strengths and areas to work on.
In a day where two 20-minute periods were played between the two teams to go along with other drills performed beforehand, Cornell head coach Jim Knowles ’87 cited the rush defense, which never gave up over 100 yards to any rusher in a game last year, as again being a key advantage for the Red. Often, the Bombers’ attempts to run were futile, especially against the Cornell defensive line.
“[Ithaca] couldn’t run the ball worth a lick against us,” Knowles said.
But what also became evident on Saturday was the potential potency of the Red’s running game, which earned 114 yards on just 14 carries. Sophomore Luke Siwula continued his impressive preseason and led the way – gaining 53 yards on six carries – and senior Joshua Johnston had 41 yards on four carries. Siwula also made a large impression during the drills, consistently breaking out for large gains and finding the end zone on several occasions.
“We ran the ball better than I’ve ever seen,” Knowles said. “I think that since last spring, [Siwula] has really emerged and he is going to have a breakout year.”
This is not to say that everything went as planned for the Red. In his first taste of live action this year, Kuhn had a mixed day. In the Red’s first offensive series of the scrimmage, Kuhn managed to get his team to the end zone in five plays, capped off by a four-yard touchdown reception by junior receiver Anthony Jackson.
However, Kuhn later threw three interceptions, including two into the end zone. Knowles said that Kuhn and the team as a whole both need to take better care of the ball and avoid turnovers at all costs. But Knowles remains confident that they will have all of the kinks worked out by the time they face Bucknell on Sept. 17.
“I think Ryan is tremendously talented, he runs the offense well,” Knowles said. “[But] I’m really disappointed in the way he took care of the football. He made some bad decisions and he needs to fix that.”
According to Knowles, Ithaca, ranked No. 13 in the preseason Division III USA TODAY Sports Weekly’s College Football Poll, gave the Red a great taste of live action ahead of the team’s encounter against a Bison team which will already have played two regular season games.
Indeed, the Bombers did not seem intimidated by the Red, as they scored on their first offensive play of the scrimmage – a 70-yard touchdown reception off a quick slant route. Knowles said that for his blitz-happy defense, preventing the opposing team from making a big play will be a consistent concern which they will have to continue to address.
But besides that one touchdown reception, the defense made their presence felt on Bombers’ quarterback – who was not playing live. Several players hurried the Ithaca quarterback on multiple occasions and some would have had potential sacks.
“We can watch this film and we can see that we can do pretty much what we want to do,” Knowles said. “We’re not going to have the most talented team when we walk onto the field, but we have enough talent to win.”
Other highlights on Saturday included 36- and 48-yard field goals by senior kicker A.J. Weitsman while junior defensive end Matt Darby blocked a field goal and intercepted a pass during the half-field drills. Freshman backup quarterback Nathan Ford also got a lot of snaps while players on the defense -including senior linebacker Patrick Potts, junior Jonathan Lucas and senior Matt Pollock – were constantly involved in snuffing out the Bombers’ attack.
Overall, Knowles said he was pleased with the team’s performance, but knows that the Red still has some preparation to do before it hits the field in less than two weeks.
“We made some strides today, but there’s still a long way to go,” Knowles said.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor