October 6, 2006

Football Seeks Second Upset Against Harvard

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For Cubs fans, 20-year olds and anyone who has ever received a Gap gift certificate as a holiday gift, a hackneyed expression often comes to mind — just wait until next year. For the football team, however, the inspiration for tomorrow’s game at No. 18 Harvard will come from the past, not the future.

In 2005, the Red stunned then-No. 20 Harvard, 27-13, at Schoellkopf for its first win over a ranked opponent since 1982. This year, Cornell (1-2, 0-1 Ivy) is searching for its second victory over a ranked team in as many weeks as it returns to league play at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass.
[img_assist|nid=18804|title=Coming through|desc=Junior tailback Luke Siwula (25) breaks through the Albany defense last Saturday night during the football team’s 23-21 victory over the Great Danes on Schoellkopf Field. (Eric Saftrsom / Sun Senior Photographer)|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=88]
“Two ranked opponents back-to-back is difficult,” said Cornell head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “You have to be able to really sustain a high level of play.”

The Crimson (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) is hoping to avenge last year’s upset and extend its seven-game unbeaten streak dating back to last season. Harvard returns home after a 35-33 victory over Lehigh last weekend.

“It is a very important game for us to remain in first place and remain undefeated,” said Harvard head coach Tim Murphy. “Cornell manhandled us a year ago [in Ithaca], so it is a matter of pride this time.”

Tomorrow’s contest matches both Cornell’s top rushing offense (227.7 yards per game) against Harvard’s league-best rushing defense (33.7 yards per game allowed) and Harvard’s top passing offense (263 yards per game) against the Red’s league-leading pass defense (122 yards per game allowed).

Cornell’s defense will be tested by the dual threat of All-American tailback Clifton Dawnson on the ground and junior quarterback Chris Pizzotti in the air. Dawson scored three touchdowns — his third consecutive three-touchdown performance — in the Crimson’s come-from-behind victory over Lehigh to move the senior into third place on the Ivy League’s career touchdown list with 49.

Pizzotti, who had been hampered by a knee injury he suffered early in the season, rallied Harvard from a 24-7 deficit and completed 15-of-29 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown.

“[Harvard] makes a lot of big plays with their receivers and quarterbacks,” Knowles said. “You’re not going to stop Dawson; he’s going to get his yards. We just need to try to stop them from completing the big play.”

Knowles and his squad wish to preserve the Red’s winning momentum after its late victory over then-No. 23 Albany last weekend. A breakthrough performance by running back Luke Siwula (162 yards on 32 carries) and critical contributions from Cornell’s kicking game — including three field goals by Ivy Special Teams Player of the Week junior Peter Zell — helped the Red earn its first victory of the season. Now, with a defeated ranked opponent in its wake, Cornell is hoping that last week’s result will prove to be a more accurate indicator of the team’s potential than its early struggles. A win tomorrow will even the Red’s league record at 1-1.

“Now it finally clicks,” said Knowles. “We weathered adversity, made some big special teams plays at the end [against Albany] — these are all things you look for in your ball club. To keep that up against probably the best team we will play on our schedule will be a challenge.”