Coming into the season, it seemed obvious to the Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) what form the Red’s offensive attack would take. After all, the lack of experience by any of Cornell’s prospective quarterbacks surely meant that if the Red was to advance the ball downfield and get into the end-zone, it would have to do it on the back of its three-time All-CSFL tailback, senior co-captain Mike Fullowan. Yet, Fullowan has only tallied 76 yards on the ground this season while sophomore quarterback Zak Dentes — playing his first season in the league — has amassed 329 yards in the air while scoring five touchdowns in the first two games of the year.
“We really haven’t been successful at establishing a running game yet this season,” said head coach Terry Cullen. “Everyone in the league knows about Fullowan and since we have a sophomore quarterback, [Penn] and [Princeton] geared themselves up to stop the run.”
While that plan of attack has led to a dearth of running yards racked up by the Red, it has not led to success for its opponents. On the offensive side of the ball, much of the credit for the Red’s two victories can go to the play of Dentes. After getting off to a slow start in the Red’s first game against Penn, Dentes led Cornell to victory by scoring two second-half touchdowns on his way to earning Allegiance Bowl MVP honors. Dentes, for his part, can’t take all the credit for his early success.
“I’ve been getting great protection from the line, and the receivers are making catches,” Dentes said. “Also, our defense has been playing well so that really helps.”
The Red affirmed the truth of these statements in its 29-0 shut-out of Princeton last Friday; yet, it was again the play of Dentes that paced the team offensively. While the Red’s defense mauled the Tigers, Dentes outdid his performance from the previous game and threw for three touchdowns — including a sixty-six yard pass to Fullowan which saw the speedy tailback outpace the only Princeton defender between him and the end-zone. Dentes’ performance was even more impressive considering the fact that he made numerous plays while under pressure in the pocket.
“Unlike Penn, [Princeton] tried to blitz him a lot,” Cullen said. “He was able to stand in there and deliver two [of the touchdowns] while getting hit.”
Looking ahead, Dentes expects to see a change in the strategy of the opposing teams’ defense.
“When they see Fullowan line up, they’ve been loading up on the side he’s on ,expecting him to run,” Dentes said. “Now that they’re starting to notice our receivers more, I expect things to change.”
Although he hasn’t seen the film yet, Cullen suspects that the reason for the lack of success on the ground can be attributed to how teams are stacking the line against the Red.
“It seems like there are a lot of guys in the box trying to take Fullowan out of the game,” Cullen said. “After the way we’ve been passing the ball these first two games, I assume they will start playing us more straight up.”
The Red will have ample time to prepare for whatever defensive strategies will be thrown its way, as it will next take the field on October 6th against Navy.