When head coach Jim Knowles ’87 took the reigns of the Cornell football program, he set goals – baby steps which collectively would make the Red a respectable Division I-AA squad after a dismal 1-9 season in 2003.
One of the most important goals, which Knowles reiterated time and time again last season, was to make Schoellkopf Field a tough place for the Red’s opponents to play in.
That mission was accomplished last season, as the team, which was 4-6 overall, went 3-2 at home, with the two losses coming by a combined 10 points. The first was a hard-fought 10-6 loss to Colgate, while the second was a 20-14 loss to Penn in which the Red had a chance to win on the game’s final play.
With a three-game homestand on the horizon for the Red, Knowles knows that the next stretch of games could determine whether or not this season is a successful one.
“You hate to boil anything down to these games being reflected as the whole season,” Knowles said. “But, [the homestand] is really important. It’s important because we are struggling a little bit right now and it’s important because we take a lot of pride in how we play at home.”
Thus far this season, the Red’s success on the Schoellkopf turf has continued, as it dominated Bucknell 24-7 in its season-opener.
Yet, the Red could not duplicate that performance in its past two road contests – a 37-17 loss to Yale and a 34-20 defeat at Colgate. Dealing with the Red’s difficulties away from home, according to Knowles, is the next step in the turnaround for the program.
“I think it’s a growth process to put the whole package together,” he said. “Coming from where we were, which was just flat on bottom, we said, ‘Hey, the first thing we’ve got to do is play well at home,’ and that’s really important. We just haven’t been able to take the next step on the road yet.”
Despite the fact that Knowles acknowledged that the team has played poorly in its last two contents, the Red is going into this three-game stretch with confidence because of the stellar performance against the Bison.
“We’ve had a couple games that didn’t work out the way we wanted to, but what we still have this season is that the last game at home was a great one,” he said.
That last game displayed what the Red can do when it is hitting on all cylinders on both sides of the ball, as the offense ran for 293 yards, while the defense gave up under 200 yards of total offense.
The same effort will most likely be needed against Harvard, as the 2004 Ivy League champions will enter Saturday’s game riding a four-game winning streak over Cornell and a nine-game streak over Ivy foes.
Yet, Knowles believes that his team, which fought to the bitter end against Colgate and Penn last season despite being the underdog in both contents, will give one of its best performances of the season against the Crimson.
“I know that our guys will be fired up and I know they’ll play their best game of the year, I do,” he said. “I just think with our home-field advantage and what we’ve started here and the way we talk about it and with the renovation of Schoellkopf and just the fact that people feel better around campus about Cornell football, I just expect us to play our absolute best over the next three games.”
Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Sports Editor