October 13, 2006

Cornell Looks for Second Win

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As the first recruiting class of head coach Jim Knowles’ ’87 tenure at the helm of the football team, the Class of 2009 was supposed to bolster the rebirth of the program. One year later, the 37 sophomores on the Red’s roster have done just that.

“That was our first recruiting class with a new staff here, and they’re extremely athletic and very committed,” Knowles said. “They’re starting to change the whole face of the program.”

More than half the class currently ranks on the Red’s two-deep, as sophomores fill 20-of-44 available spots on the depth chart. Among these second-year players, quarterback Nathan Ford and the wide receiver corps have stood out on offense, while sophomore safeties have found success patrolling the backfield for the Red.

“There’s definitely a lot of chemistry there,” Ford said. “The coaches have done a great job with game plans.”

In last weekend’s 33-23 loss to Harvard, Ford threw for a career-high 309 yards on 20 passes — 19 of which were caught by his classmates or freshmen. Sophomore wide receiver Zac Canty leads the Red with 18 receptions for 208 yards on the season, while classmate Jesse Baker has caught 13 balls for 201 yards.

“We feel like it’s a lot on our shoulders because we were the first [recruiting class] and by the time we get to be seniors we’re supposed to get this title won, so it’s a lot of responsibility,” Baker said.

Sophomores have made an impact on the defensive side of the ball as well. Cornerback Gus Krimm and safety Tim Bax rank fifth and sixth on the team with 17.5 and 16.0 tackles, respectively.

“We’re real young and it’s been showing, it’s a tough season so far,” Bax said. “But just more experience in everything is going to help every game and we’re going to continue to grow.”

Bax thinks it is just a matter of time before more of his classmates break into the regular rotation for the Red, pointing to the breakout season from the wide receivers as a sign of things to come.

“They were just waiting for their opportunity, really,” Bax said. “A couple freshmen were ready to go to begin with, they just never got their chance, but now they do and they’re taking advantage of it.”

Junior tailback Luke Siwula feels the sophomores have already started to change the Red’s on-field character.

“It’s been great, seeing last game against Harvard having the capability to drive it down the field in six plays or whatever we did, that’s a big change up from what we’ve been doing the last couple of years,” Siwula said.

Many of the second-year players will start in their first Homecoming game tomorrow.

“It’s a big opportunity for us to come out and show what we’re really made of,” Baker said. “We really want to show them that we can beat these guys because we obviously haven’t.”