After an eye-opening 24-7 win over Bucknell last weekend, in which the Cornell football team (1-1, 0-1 Ivy) amassed 293 rushing yards, there were questions raised as to whether the offensive attack had a second dimension.
Against Bucknell, senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn only attempted eight passes – many of which were designed shovel passes to his running backs. He was given very few opportunities to make plays through the air – primarily because there was no need to. The Bison could not contain the running combination of Kuhn and sophomore tailback Luke Siwula, as the two powered the Red to the 17-point victory.
During the first drive against Yale on Saturday, it seemed as if it was going to be the same story for the Cornell offense. The Red ran three consecutive running plays out of the gate – each one producing over 10 yards – including gains of 12 and 16 yards by Siwula.
At that point, it looked as if the Red rushing attack was going to be difficult to stop all afternoon. However, after the first few snaps, the Yale defense caught on to Cornell gameplan.
“I’ve said it – I used be a defensive coach and we played Army when they ran the wishbone, and it didn’t matter what you simulated in practice and how much you worked on it. That first drive, I think they drove for a touchdown every time we played them,” said Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki. “It’s just that the speed of the game is so different than what you can simulate in practice. We can’t simulate that offense – we don’t run it. – That first drive we were on our heels a little bit, just trying to figure it all out. – But after one series, I thought we really had it.”
Yale’s defense made some nice adjustments and limited Cornell to just three points for the first 2 1/2 quarters. The defensive front held Kuhn to only 23 yards rushing on 16 carries, as it had the advantage of facing the Red offense directly after its rushing showcase against Bucknell.
Siedlecki and his staff worked tirelessly during the past week, studying the film of Cornell’s game against the Bison, while attempting to simulate their opponent’s schemes during practice.
The result was a very well prepared Yale defensive unit that protected against the ground game and covered the underneath routes in obvious passing situations. Kuhn was unable to establish any sort of stability through the air in order to keep the defense honest. While he primarily ran the ball against the Bison, Kuhn was called upon to throw 23 times – but only completed nine balls. The play-calling adjustments during the game put the senior out of his comfort zone, as he threw three first half interceptions.
In the third quarter, Knowles inserted freshman quarterback Nathan Ford to try to change the pace of the offense. Ford made an immediate impact – leading the team down the field for two touchdowns and 112 yards through the air on 10-of-17 passing.
“We need to find a way to back the guys off. We just don’t have the speed. Ryan – we took him out of the game and put Nathan in because we weren’t throwing the ball well enough and Yale was just really sitting there on top of him,” Knowles said. “If you can’t run it, it’s because they are doing things differently, and then the pass is going to be off. [Kuhn] wasn’t doing a good enough job passing the ball. I think Ford came in and did a good job. So, we are going to have to work out that combination – making sure that we get to the right pass plays and being able to make them work.”
Ford made a very good impression on the coaching staff and, according to Knowles, may see more playing time in the coming weeks.
“He played fantastic,” Knowles said. “You’re seeing a player who threw for 7,000 yards in high school – He throws the ball well, he’s accurate, he’s cool under pressure. He can run it well enough. I think there is going to be some balance between him and Ryan – one’s more of a runner, one’s more of a passer. I don’t know what is going to happen. We are going to watch the film and make a decision on which way we want to go.”
Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor