After suffering its first home loss of the season last Saturday against Brown, the football team will travel to Princeton tomorrow in an attempt to capture its first victory away from Schoellkopf Field. The Red (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) will need to end its road woes this weekend if it wants to remain a legitimate contender for the Ivy League crown. Cornell is two games behind first-place Penn, and one behind the Tigers (4-2, 2-1 Ivy) entering Saturday’s slate of matchups.
“We have two [Ivy League losses],” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “That means some things really have to happen for us to be in it. But historically, it can happen – the league is that close. It’s up to us to keep the mentality that we are still in it, in order for us to play the best game we possibly can.”
So far this season, the Red has played two contests on the road, against Yale and Colgate, and was outscored by a combined 34 points.
Both sides of the ball have been less effective away from Schoellkopf, but the defense has been particularly bad away from home, as it is allowing over 35 points per game on the road opposed to at home, where the unit allows just a shade over 12 points per contest.
This week, the Red will have to contend with Princeton quarterback Jeff Terrell, who is fifth in the Ivy League in passing yards per game with 166.2. The Tigers’ ground attack consists of Rob Toresco and Cleo Kirkland, who have compiled just under 100 yards per game combined. However, Terrell also has terrific mobility, and is a threat to run on any given play, as he leads the team with four rushing touchdowns.
“Their quarterback is a scrambler. He doesn’t run a lot, but he just stays alive and finds guys open,” Knowles said. “We need to mix them up. We have really pulled back on our blitz [in recent weeks]. – When you have an offense like [ours], you just have to prevent the big play. Our defense needs to keep it in front and inside and make them try to go the distance because our offense is going to control the ball.”
Speaking of the Cornell offense, the Red has been clicking of late, averaging 28.2 points per game on the season, including 81 over the past two weeks. It will be going up against the second-ranked scoring defense in the league, as the Tigers have only allowed 18.7 points per contest.
“They have a good defense,” Knowles said. “Our offense, when it executes, is so hard to defend, which is why we put it in. I know that from a defensive perspective. [We need] to keep the running game going and expand the passing game [against Princeton].”
That Tigers’ defense also only allows its opponents to convert on 30.7 percent of third downs, meaning it will be critical for the Red to utilize its running game to put itself in manageable late-down situations.
However, Cornell lost some depth at the tailback position this week, as senior Josh Johnston quit the team on Wednesday. Sophomore Luke Siwula, who has shouldered the majority of the load thus far this season, will be relied upon even more against the Tigers. Freshman Shane Kilcoyne has seen the most action of any runner other than Siwula up to this point in the season with 11 carries.
In addition to the ground attack, Cornell will have to limit its mistakes through the air in order to remain competitive in a difficult road environment.
“We would like to get a hold of the momentum on the road [early on in the game],” Knowles said. “If you turn the ball over you can’t [do that]. If you give up big plays you can’t [do that]. It’s hard to keep hold of the momentum because you are always fighting back. If we are forcing turnovers and making big plays on offense, it gives us a chance to make a run for 60 minutes.”
While the Red will have to win its last four games to remain in contention for first place, the team remains completely focused on Princeton.
“Right now, it’s out of our hands with the Ivy League championship race,” said senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn. “We’re just going to go out and take it one game at a time. We’re playing a really good opponent this weekend and that’s all that’s on our minds right now.”
Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor