November 3, 2006

Red Looks to Continue Dominant Play at Home

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Coming off its biggest win of the season against No. 15 Princeton, the football team will look to start its first winning streak of the season when Dartmouth arrives at Schoellkopf Field tomorrow.

The Red (3-4, 1-3 Ivy) has posted a 3-1 record at home, including a pair of wins over ranked opponents.

“It’s definitely a game where the onus in on us to control the energy,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “It’s not going to be like Princeton, where the other team brings a No. 15 ranking. Our challenge as a team in order to mature is to play our game — to put together two games back-to-back to show some consistency. We won three big games this year and if we play like that every week, we’ll be just fine.”

Dartmouth (1-6, 1-3) enters the contest fresh off a 28-0 defeat at the hands of Harvard. The Green’s only victory of the season came two weeks ago against Ivy League foe Columbia, who remains winless in league play.

[img_assist|nid=19553|title=fb|desc=Junior tailback Luke Siwula (25) finds a hole in the Princeton defense during the Red’s 14-7 win last weekend on Schoellkopf Field.|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=100]
On offense, Dartmouth is led by senior Mike Fritz, the top rushing quarterback in the Ancient Eight. At 47.6 running yards per game, Fritz ranks seventh in the league overall, despite only 66 attempts.

“We need to keep him in the pocket and not let him rip off any long runs,” Knowles said.

In contrast, Fritz ranks eighth in the league in passing yards, dead last in terms of starters. However, Green senior wideout Ryan Fuselier is first in the conference with 39 receptions, compiling 451 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s a big strong kid. He’s their go-to guy,” Knowles said. “He’s certainly a guy we need to point to as someone to stop.”

As for the tailbacks, Hudson Smythe paces the Green with 231 yards rushing, a far cry from the Red’s leader, junior Luke Siwula, who ranks fourth in the league with 673 yards on the ground. It all adds up to the worst scoring offense in the Ancient Eight, as the Green have posted only 12.3 points per game.

“Defensively, we’ve got to come after them early, be aggressive, and not give them a chance to gain any momentum,” Knowles said.

The Red’s defense put forth an inspired effort one week ago against the Tigers, allowing only seven points all game. Much of its success was derived from its aggressive play calling, as Knowles has opened up the reins on the Cornell blitzing packages.

“We felt that we wanted to give more help to our corners early in the season,” Knowles said. “We’ve had a couple injuries up front and we ended up realizing our corners can do this. We can leave them out there a little bit and go after the quarterback and that’s what we’ve been doing more and more.”

As for the Dartmouth defense, it has been porous in its attempt to stop the run, allowing opponents to rack up 26.6 points per game — last in the league in terms of scoring. The Green also ranks last in yards allowed at a whopping 378.1 per game, 170.9 of which come on the ground. Siwula and the Red rushing attack could be in for a big afternoon, which should allow Cornell to control the time of possession.

“We are going to have to be balanced on offense, because I think they will do everything they possibly can to stop the run and force us to throw,” Knowles said.

The Red will be seeking its fourth straight win at home, after losing its opener to Yale, the squad currently atop the league standings. Knowles will also look to improve his career record against Dartmouth to a perfect 4-0.

“I don’t think there’s anything to [being 3-0 against the Green],” Knowles said. “They’ve been on our schedule at a good time in the season. We get better as the year goes along, at least we have, and that’s a good sign.”

It appears as if the Red will once again finish the season stronger than it began, as it will play two of its final three games at Schoellkopf Stadium. With such a young squad, it can only be expected that Cornell will mature throughout the year, peaking when it counts most.

“We’re playing a lot of young guys, but it’s Game 8 now,” Knowles said. “If you started the season young, you shouldn’t be young by now. You need to have figured out what kind of energy, what kind of level of play it takes to win a football game in this league. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing; you’ve got to bring it. It’s real important from a coaching standpoint too, for us to validate that we’re doing the right thing and bringing these guys along. Putting two games together back-to-back [and] playing with the same energy and emotion two weeks in a row will do that.”