September 21, 2007

Football Faces 2006 Ivy Champ Yale on Road

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Imagine trying to catch Carmen Sandiego as soon as you turn on the game. Imagine going on Jeopardy and facing Ken Jennings on your first show. The football team (1-0) will have a similar situation tomorrow afternoon when it hits the road to play its first Ivy League game of the year against No. 21 Yale (1-0), the defending league co-champion and the preseason league No. 1. Despite the early-season showdown, Cornell is trying not to place extra importance on the game.
“Especially this year, we are treating every game the same,” said senior co-captain Colin Nash. “If you put one game on a pedestal, you tend to overplay it, you tend to get overanxious and you get out of your gameplan. We try and treat every game the same. We are going to treat this just like Bucknell.”
Part of the reason Yale was ranked No. 1 in the conference is its vaunted offense and a prolific running game, led by junior Mike McLeod, a first-team All-Ivy selection last season. The running back had a stellar season in 2006, racking up 1,364 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns, a school record. McLeod’s 136.40 yards per game average last year ranked first in the Ivy League and sixth in Division I-AA. In two games against Cornell in 2005 and 2006, McLeod put up totals of 66 and 104 rushing yards, respectively. McLeod is already off to a fast start in 2007, running for 159 yards and four touchdowns in a win last week against Georgetown.
“Their main threat is obviously Mike McLeod … he’s a big part of their game; he’s a big part of ours,” Nash said. “Just like any offense, they have a lot of weapons; but McLeod is going to be the one who they try to give it to the most, so he’s going to be the one that we try to take down the most.”
Not to be outdone, Yale’s senior quarterback Matt Polhemus is also a threat both on the ground and in the air. Pohlemus started all 10 games last year for the Bulldogs and posted 1,437 yards passing. Yale’s offense does have to deal with the loss of former All-American tackle Ed McCarthy who graduated after last season.
Cornell’s new offense, unveiled last week, will face a challenge in Yale’s defense, which boasts senior Brandt Hollander, a lineman who recorded four sacks last year and was named first-team All-Ivy. Junior Bobby Abare was also named first-team All-Ivy after pulling in four interceptions and leading the squad with 46 tackles and 30 assisted tackles.
“Yale is extremely physical, big … consensus pick to win the Ivy League,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “They are tough, they are certainly as advertised, returning league champion. … You watch them on film, they look like that, very good, physical team, hard-nose team. We need to do what we do best: the quickness, moving the ball around, blitzing on defense, that sort of thing.”
Cornell (1-0) will try to keep the momentum going after a home victory last weekend over Bucknell in its first game of the year. The aforementioned offense was buoyed by a 288-yard passing day from junior Nathan Ford and three touchdowns from senior Luke Siwula. Cornell dominated the statistics on both sides of the ball, and will try to repeat it’s dominating performance.
Adding to the matchup is the fact that road games have been particularly troublesome for Cornell lately. Despite a 5-1 home record in 2006, the team lost all four of its away contests, and has not won on the road since the last game of the 2005 season, a 16-7 win over Penn.
“We are not talking about home and away, wins, losses, whatever,” Knowles said. “We’re just saying ‘hey, we’re good enough to do whatever we decide to do.’ … These guys are hungry, they’ve worked the whole time for 10 games.”
Last year, Yale was the only road team to win a game at Schoellkopf Field, as the Bulldogs topped the Red, 21-19. Despite 173 passing yards by Ford, 71 receiving yards by junior Zac Canty and three field goals from senior Peter Zell, Yale rode McLeod to the victory. The Red has not beaten the Bulldogs since 2004 and has not won at Yale since 1996.