November 2, 2005

Football Reexamines Objectives After Loss

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There’s a party going on at the top of the Ivy League’s football standings. Unfortunately for the Red, it wasn’t invited.

While Brown, Penn, Princeton and Yale will all enter their respective games this weekend with a 3-1 conference record, looking to gain an edge in the league championship race, Cornell will bring its 1-3 Ivy mark into Dartmouth with new goals in mind.

“We talked about a three-game season, and how important it was to get our senior class out of here with a winning record,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87.

The Red was forced to adjust its thinking after its 20-17 overtime loss to the Tigers this past Saturday, which put it two games behind the Ivy leaders with just three games left to play.

“There was a little bit of a mourning period, because with two [Ivy] losses, we’d still be in [the title race] because Penn lost [to Brown, 34-20 this past Saturday],” Knowles said. “So there was definitely a mourning period where we had to admit that the seniors, unless something crazy happens, aren’t going to get a championship ring.”

However, with its next two games coming against Dartmouth (2-5, 1-3 Ivy) and league cellar-dweller Columbia, Knowles believes that his team has a chance to be at .500 in league play going into its finale against Penn on Nov. 19.

When asked if it would be a letdown if the Red did not win at least two of its last three games, Knowles simply responded, “Yes.”

To accomplish that goal, the Red will need to win at least one game on the road, which has been its Achilles’ heel during Knowles’ two-year tenure, as its only win away from Ithaca in the past two seasons was last year’s 32-26 triumph over Columbia. To win that game, Cornell needed to come back from a 19-point deficit with just 9:33 to play.

Despite the fact that the Red dropped its third game in as many chances on the road at Princeton, Knowles noted that even though his team made mistakes, there were some positives to be taken from the game.

“I thought we played good, or better, I should say, on the road than previous weeks,” he said. However, he added that he wasn’t sure what the right ingredient would be to get the squad over the hump away from home in the coming weeks.

“We went to [Princeton’s] stadium before the game, [but] I don’t know how much more there is we can do [to prepare for Dartmouth]. We’ll talk to the guys about standing up to the challenge and rising up, and going out and just winning a ball game.”

One thing that might help the Red this weekend against the Green is the advantage it should have at the line of scrimmage based on each team’s statistics. Thus far this season, Cornell has rushed for a league-high 235.6 yards per game and 18 touchdowns, while Dartmouth has averaged a league-low 1.9 yards per rush in its seven games. Defensively, the Red has yielded just 121.4 yards per game on the ground to its opponents, while the Green has allowed its foes to rush for 140.9 yards per game and 12 touchdowns.

Yet, Knowles believes that the team cannot look at the numbers – it simply needs to go out and play the way it is capable of playing.

“At some point, like I said pregame at Princeton, we’ve done all the motivation we can and we’ve done all the coaching cliches,” he said. “It’s time for the players to step up and take control.”

Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Sports Editor