October 20, 2005

Football Will Be Challenged by Brown's Offense

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With last Saturday’s 57-7 pounding of Georgetown, the football team (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) has now surpassed the .500 plateau for the first time since 2000, when the squad was 5-4 entering the final game of the season. Currently in the midst of a two game-winning streak – after back-to-back home victories against Harvard and the Hoyas – the Red enters Saturday’s game against Brown at Schoellkopf Field riding a wave of confidence and momentum.

“Our mindset is extremely positive, loose, spirited. But at the same time, very protective of what we have developed over the past couple weeks and going back to the first week of the season,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “We’re feeling like we are on a streak – that’s two in a row, but it’s three in a row at home. We talk about when you’re experiencing this kind of run, you have to be protective of it. It’s not a time to relax because it can easily slip through your fingers.”

The Red will be challenged immediately this weekend, as its opponent looks to be one of the elite teams in the Ivy League. Through five games this season, the Bears have posted a 4-1 record, including a 1-1 mark in conference play. However, their record alone does not tell the whole story. In the team’s only loss this season, Brown scored 35 points, losing a double-overtime heartbreaker to Harvard by a field goal.

The Bears’ offense may be as potent as any unit the Red will face this season. In five games, Brown has scored 182 points – an average of over 36 a game. While league-leading rusher Nick Hartigan will be a focal point for Cornell’s defense, the passing game may be even more difficult to shut down.

“Brown will throw it deep. They are a team that – whether it is covered or not – will just rear back and throw it and say ‘our guy is going to go up and try to beat your guy’. That’s a philosophy that you have to understand as a defense and be prepared for because they are going to take their shots,” Knowles said.

Brown will feature quarterback Joe DiGiacomo – who is second in the league in passing yards per game with 227 – and his favorite target, wide receiver Jarret Schreck – who leads the conference with over 100 receiving yards per contest this season. That tandem will challenge a Red secondary that has improved its play of late.

“We couldn’t be at a better point. A couple of weeks ago, we were struggling with the big plays. Now, coming into a game like this, we feel like we have it under control. Our guys have a lot of confidence,” Knowles said.

Cornell will rotate its coverage personnel in-and-out of the game to try to keep DiGiacomo out of his comfort zone. According to Knowles, the Red will also keep its play-calling on defense as unpredictable as possible.

“We have started to mix up [our schemes] more,” Knowles said. “That’s us as coaches recognizing the capabilities of our team and making sure that just because we have a blitz first mentality, we don’t force a square peg in a round hole – we still need to work with our personnel and sit back in coverage sometimes. We’re becoming more balanced – kind of an evolution of our defensive system. Also, our guys are learning how to read routes better and break on the ball better.”

Cornell’s rotation in its secondary will include seniors Jason Cloyd and Jeff Hahn, junior Matt Grant, sophomores Michael Boyd and Jared Ison, and freshman Tim Bax. The only mainstay on the unit will be senior Kevin Rex, who according to Knowles, will be in the game on every snap.

“We are going to have to make them look out for Rex and try to be offensive on defense – bring him up to stop the run, then bring him back to help with the pass. It becomes kind of a chess match,” Knowles said.

Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor