After a heartbreaking loss to Princeton last weekend, the football team will look to rebound tomorrow when it travels to Hanover, N.H., to take on Dartmouth (2-5, 1-3 Ivy). With a logjam at the top of the Ivy standings, the Red (3-4, 1-3 Ivy) has all but fallen out of the race for the championship and must refocus itself on the remainder of its schedule.
“There was a a bit of a mourning process for all of us because [the loss] effectively eliminated the title hopes for the senior class. That’s a tough pill to swallow,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “I don’t know how many people expected us to do it this year – we’re only in the second year – but we did. … But, that lasted a short period of time. And then we really talked about how important it was for us to move on – to go to Dartmouth with a winning attitude, an upbeat attitude, and an aggressive style.”
While Cornell is only 1-3 in league games this season, its play over the past two weekends against Princeton and Brown is a testament to the improvement of the program over the last two years. The Red dropped the contests by a combined 17 points, however, it outgained both opponents on offense and had opportunities to win each game in the fourth quarter. The Tigers and the Bears are tied with Yale and Penn at the top of the Ivy standings entering this weekend.
“You look at the two games against Brown and Princeton – teams that are right up there – and we were right there with both of them,” Knowles said.
Dartmouth is tied with Cornell for sixth place, with its only conference victory coming over Columbia at home last weekend by a score of 17-6. However, the Red has been much more impressive statistically this season, as the squad ranks fourth in both scoring offense and defense. In contrast, the Green is seventh in points per game with 14.6, a significant drop-off compared to Cornell’s 26.6 average. Dartmouth also ranks second-to-last in the league in points allowed with 26.4 per contest.
Despite its reasonably disappointing showing on paper, Knowles recognizes Dartmouth as a solid defensive squad.
“They have a pretty good defense. They’ve been put into some short field situations by their offense with some turnovers,” Knowles said. “To me, the matchup between their defense and our offense will be a fairly tight matchup. What needs to happen is our defense and special teams need to deliver those short field situations to our offense to be able to create more immediate and early success.”
One area which Cornell will most certainly look to exploit is Dartmouth’s rushing defense. The Red ranks first in the league with 235.6 yards per game on the ground, including 107.9 from sophomore tailback Luke Siwula and 84.6 from senior quarterback Ryan Kuhn – third and fourth in the league respectively. The Green has allowed over 140 rushing yards per game thus far this year.
“The matchups are good in the sense that the better team that plays that day is going to win the game,” Knowles said. “It’s just time for the players and the seniors to stand up. We said that last week. We have done all the motivation. We’ve done the emails, bringing a picture of Cornell into our locker room, the music, the Grand Slam sandwiches. It almost become a, ‘Come on now, let’s stand up and go up there with an attitude that we’re going to be aggressive and win the ballgame.'”
As for the Cornell defense, it will have to contend with Dartmouth freshman quarterback Josh Cohen, who has emerged as the starter and thrown for 166.6 yards per game and five touchdowns. His favorite target has been senior Ryan Fuselier, who ranks second among Ivy League receivers with 37 receptions.
Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevans will be forced to lean even more heavily on his passing attack tomorrow, due to the injuries to many key components of the running game. With sophomore tailback Chad Baudet already out for the season, the Green will also likely be without senior Jason Bash, who was injured against the Lions last Saturday. Senior Ikechi Ogbonna and freshman Milan Williams are expected to shoulder the majority of the load tomorrow.
“I think they have been more productive in the passing game [this season],” Knowles said. “They have gotten behind in some ballgames and gone almost exclusively to the pass. If you watch the Yale game, it was a tight ballgame – I think it was 13-0 – their run was fairly hard-nosed in a two-back approach. I think they’ll see us as a team that they should try to pass on more than run on. So, I think that is where the challenges will come.”
However, the major obstacle the Red will face this weekend is overcoming the knowledge that it will not be involved in the chase for the Ivy Championship this year. Knowles still believes there is plenty to play for, beginning tomorrow in Hanover.
“You are talking about a three-game season,” Knowles said. “Your are talking about boiling it down to three games. What’s past is past. All the hard work in the weight room and in the offseason, comes down to a three-game season – are we going to have a winning season or not?”
Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor