September 23, 2005

Football Faces Yale in First Ivy League Test

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Almost a year ago, Cornell football head coach Jim Knowles ’87 won his first game on the sidelines at Schoellkopf Field in a 19-7 victory over Yale, which marked the beginning of a turnaround for the football program.

Tomorrow, Knowles and the Red (1-0) hope to add another chapter to the story by capturing their first league triumph of 2005 when they travel to New Haven, Conn., to take on the Elis (0-1) at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

After notching a dominating 24-7 win over Bucknell in its season opener, in which senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn and sophomore running back Luke Siwula combined for 253 rushing yards, while the defense stuffed the Bison attack for much of the game, the Red expects a balanced challenge from its Ancient Eight rivals.

As opposed to the run-oriented offense that Bucknell used last Saturday, Knowles expects that the Bulldogs will try to negate the influence of a powerful Cornell run defense by going to the air in the beginning of the game.

“Yale is the kind of team which tries to establish the run early and then pass the ball off that, but last year, they tried to run on us and they got nowhere, so I expect them to come out and actually try to change things up a little bit,” said senior safety Kevin Rex, who recorded 12 solo tackles last weekend. “I think they might be passing a lot earlier than normal.”

Rex and Knowles said that the team is confident in the secondary, most notably cornerbacks senior Jason Cloyd and Matt Grant, who both did not see that much action during the Bucknell game because of the nature of the Bison offense.

Yale has been forced to deal with some injuries and is coming off a season-opening 17-14 loss to San Diego last weekend. But, one player who has stepped up for the Bulldogs is freshman tailback Mike McLeod, who ran for 102 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. McLeod also led the team in receptions against San Diego with four for 38 yards, while senior quarterback Jeff Mroz threw for 181 yards and a touchdown in the loss. The Bulldogs recorded 311 yards of total offense, but just 46 in the second half of last weekend’s game.

“Yale has a history of producing good running backs and here, a true freshman comes in and does a great job,” Knowles said. “We’re going to have to blitz, we’re going to have to attack.”

The Red defense will be boosted by the anticipated return of senior linebacker and former All-Ivy selection Joel Sussman, who has battled through injuries throughout his career and last played in the fourth game of the 2004 season. Rex said that in conversations with some Yale players in the past, the Bulldogs are definitely aware of Sussman’s game-breaking ability on the field.

“Joel Sussman is the best defensive player in the Ivy League. Having him on our sidelines, the kind of person he is, the work ethic he has, it just changes our team’s mindset,” Rex said. “Every play that he plays will make such a big difference in the game.”

On the offensive side, Knowles expects that despite the team’s success in rushing the ball against Bucknell, Kuhn will go to the air more against the Elis. Kuhn threw only eight passes last weekend and Knowles said that although the passing game will play a larger role tomorrow, he is pleased with the progression of his senior signal caller.

“I think it’s been a little bit of a challenge for us to get him back into the throwing mode, but he never really saw himself as a running quarterback,” Knowles said. “That’s a vision we have for Ryan when we saw his talent and he really bought into it – last week, it worked so well.”

Serving as the first league game for both teams, Knowles acknowledges that the prospect of traveling to the Yale Bowl will be a tough proposition and said that his team will have to stay confident.

“We won one Ivy League game on the road last year and [tomorrow is] going to be a real challenge for us,” Knowles said. “It will show us how mature our program is because if you can take the same excitement and enthusiasm on the road, you’ve got a real chance.”

Yale leads the all-time series between the two teams, 39-26-2. Tomorrow’s weather in New Haven is forecasted to be partly cloudy with a high of 72-degrees.

Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor