Even though it is the only fourth weekend of play for the Cornell football team, tomorrow’s game against No. 20 Harvard (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) at Schoellkopf Field could potentially make or break the Red’s season. A Cornell (1-2, 0-1 Ivy) victory against the defending league champions would give the squad a huge momentum boost for the rest of the season, while a loss would severely dent any aspirations for an Ivy crown.
Not that any of these implications have affected Cornell in this week’s preparation. Coming off a 34-20 loss to Colgate last weekend on the road, the Red is looking forward to starting a three game homestand on the right foot by beating a team which just had a 13-game winning streak snapped by Lehigh.
“We’re really excited to come back to Schoellkopf,” said senior wide receiver Brian Romney. “This is where we want to be, this is where we want to establish ourselves and we’ve got a chance to prove a lot against Harvard.”
To do this, the Red will have to rectify concerns which appeared in its game against Colgate. While the team’s performance was an improvement in comparison to its 37-17 loss at Yale two weekends ago, the Red’s passing game, which generated 79 yards, can still improve.
Cornell head coach Jim Knowles ’87 said that he would like to see senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn taking more snaps as opposed to freshman Nathan Ford, who played well in the Yale game, but did not make any impact during his playing time against the Raiders.
“I want this to be Ryan Kuhn’s team, I really do,” Knowles said. “He just has to become more efficient in the passing game, but he’s got a great attitude and we know we have a guy [in Ford] we could go to if we need a change of pace.”
One bright spot on the Red offense has been the emergence of sophomore tailback Luke Siwula, who recorded his third-straight 100 yard-plus rushing performance while running for a career-best 165 yards against the Raiders. Siwula has attributed his success to the play of the offensive line, and the unit is coming together as the season progresses.
“That’s definitely what we want to see, to have one of our running backs go over 100 yards in the first three games,” said senior lineman Kevin Boothe. “We just seemed to have gelled really well, the offensive line and Luke and Ryan and [tailback] Josh [Johnston], whoever is back there running the ball.”
Although the Crimson has won nine consecutive Ivy League games going into tomorrow, the team is wary of the solid running game Cornell possesses.
“Cornell has an outstanding running game, and what makes it difficult is that it not only has a great tailback, but it has a diverse running scheme,” said Harvard head coach Tim Murphy. “They make you play a lot of assignment football because of the ability of the quarterback to run the football. It’s the most challenging running game we’ll face this year.”
On the defensive end of the ball, Cornell continues to have difficulty with containing the pass. In its last two games, the defense has given up 538 receiving yards and eight passing touchdowns. Knowles said senior cornerback Jason Cloyd will return to his spot in the starting lineup, joining a unit that Knowles hopes will make big plays against a passing game led by Crimson quarterback Liam O’Hagan, who has thrown for 650 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Harvard will offer another challenge for the Red’s defense in the form of Walter Payton Award candidate Clifton Dawson, who has earned 401 yards and four touchdowns off 86 carries in 2005. The consistently formidable Cornell run defense faltered last week, as it saw an opposing running back earn over 100 rushing yards for the first time ever in Knowles’ tenure.
“[Dawson’s] a very big threat, he’s an excellent tailback, he’s got good vision, he’s really mobile and we’re definitely going to have to stop the run,” said the Red’s senior linebacker Joel Sussman.
The key for Cornell in tomorrow’s game might be how well the defense stops Harvard on third downs. Last week, Colgate converted 13-of-22 third down opportunities and because of this, Knowles said the defense wore down as the game went on. Knowles said the team has especially been working on that aspect of the game this past week in practice.
“Defensively, that’s always been one of our strengths and as a signal caller, that’s always been one of my strengths wherever I’ve been,” Knowles said. “We’re all kind of feeling a little rattled now because we haven’t been able to [stop offenses on third down], so we just got to get back to being aggressive and changing things up more.”
Game time is at 1 p.m. The forecast is for rain with highs in the mid 50s.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor