While the Cornell football team (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) is riding a two-game winning streak, after home wins against Harvard and Georgetown, the Red will have its hands full, as it hosts Brown (4-1, 1-1 Ivy) tomorrow at Schoellkopf Field.
Since both teams already have one Ivy League loss heading into tomorrow’s game, the loser will find its chances of winning an Ivy title severely diminished.
“This is probably going to be the biggest game to date right now,” said senior safety Jeff Hahn. “We treat every game like it’s big but this one, of course, has much higher implications because of how explosive they’ve been and how explosive we’ve been. It’s two teams on the up going at it, so it’s going to be real important for us to get off to a good start right away.”
The main concern for Cornell will be Brown’s potent offense, which is considered one of the best in the nation. The Bears have averaged 451.6 yards and 36.4 points per contest this season and have scored at least 31 points in each game this season.
To further compound matters, Brown boasts Walter Payton candidate Nick Hartigan, who leads Division I-AA in rushing yards per game with 165.4. Last week, Hartigan ran wild, compiling 245 yards on 38 carries in Brown’s 31-28 win over Princeton, in which the Bears needed a fourth quarter, 81-yard drive to put away the Tigers.
In addition, junior quarterback Joe DiGiacomo leads a strong Brown aerial attack. DiGiacomo has thrown for nine touchdowns and a 227 yards per game average, primarily hooking up with his favorite target, receiver Jarrett Schreck, who is ninth in the nation in receiving yards per game with 104.33.
Similar to its strategy against the balanced offense the Red saw against Harvard two weeks ago, Cornell will attempt to stop the run and limit the Bears’ big play potential.
“We’re not going to change anything, we’re going to get in there like in the past couple of weeks and our focus is always to stop the run first,” said senior linebacker Patrick Potts. “Guys are going to have to step up this week, especially with a great running back like [Hartigan] and get the job done.”
At the same time however, Cornell is playing extremely well, as it heads into tomorrow’s game against the Bears. The Red dominated Georgetown 57-7 in a homecoming win last week, limiting the Hoyas to just 86 yards of total offense. Under head coach Jim Knowles ’87, Cornell has made Schoellkopf Field one of the most difficult places to play in the Ivies, as the Red is 3-0 at home this season.
“Having such an important, pivotal Ivy League game, we couldn’t be coming in with more momentum than we have right now,” Knowles said. “We are on track and together as a team, and people are playing from their heart. It’s a lot of fun to be around these guys right now.”
Particularly surprising in comparison to previous years has been the impressive play of the Cornell offense. Last week against Georgetown, Cornell’s running game went to town on the Hoyas’ defense, compiling 323 yards.
“Since I’ve been here, this is the first time that our offense has looked anything close to as good as it has been looking,” said senior tailback Joshua Johnston, who ran for 88 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown against Georgetown. “I think it’s [only] getting better.”
This effort was led by senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn, who despite only playing two and a half quarters, ran for 85 yards and three touchdowns. The Red’s ground game will further be boosted with the news that sophomore tailback Luke Siwula will be in the starting lineup and get his normal share of carries after suffering an injury during the third quarter in the Red’s win over Georgetown.
Last weekend, Knowles gave game balls to the offensive linemen for their major contributions in controlling the Georgetown run defense.
“To build a great program, your young offensive linemen need vision for the future and that’s what our offensive line is creating right now with the running game,” Knowles said. “We’re still going to have to throw the ball to win, but when you run it the way we do, you can control the game.”
With Brown and Cornell seemingly very tightly matched, the difference maker could be special teams. Since returning to Schoellkopf Field against Harvard two weeks ago, the Red special teams unit has been impressive in setting the tone and preventing opposing teams from gaining good field position. In addition, senior placekicker A.J. Weitsman, this week’s Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week, is 8-of-9 on field goal attempts this year, while sophomore punter Michael Bolling has averaged 35.8 yards per punt, as 12 of his 24 punts have landed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
“The Ivy League is so close [and] special teams can swing a game,” Knowles said. “I’ve had some of our leading donors and greatest players in the history of Cornell call strictly because of the kickoff team and when you have people call about the kickoff team, that means they’re having fun watching the game and that’s all about attitude.”
Tomorrow’s game time is set for 1 p.m. The forecast is for showers with a high of around 50 degrees.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor