October 2, 2007

Georgetown Shut Down By Cornell O-Line, D-Line

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After every game he broadcasts, John Madden selects an exemplary player or players to receive a spot on his “horse trailer.” Often, the veteran broadcaster selects the entire offensive or defense line for commendation. After the football team’s 45-7 thrashing against Georgetown on the road Saturday afternoon, Cornell’s men between the trenches might deserve such an honor.
The defensive line completely shut down Georgetown’s passing game, as Cornell notched five sacks and helped hold the Hoyas to only 173 yards through the air. In one particular fourth-down play, Georgetown quarterback Matt Bassuener dropped the snap, was subsequently crunched from both sides by Red blitzers and heaved the ball in desperation for an incomplete pass.
“We had a gameplan that we were going to blitz more,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87 “This wasn’t a true option team like Bucknell was. We saw some opportunities to use the blitz and they opened up. When teams open up against us, we’re going to blitz. At Yale, they wouldn’t open up. They stayed in real tight with double tight ends, and that played to their strength and not ours. When teams open up with those spread sets, we’re going to come after you.”
The men up front also rebounded in the running game. In the 51-12 loss to Yale on Sept. 22, the Bulldogs ran wild, gaining 293 yards for five touchdowns on the ground. Three different Yale players scored and four different players had at least 30 yards rushing. A week later, it was a totally different story, as Cornell’s defensive line confidently prevented a similar performance.
The Red held the Hoyas to only 115 yards on the ground on 39 attempts for a paltry 2.9 yards per carry. Cornell’s defensive line also frequently wreaked havoc in the backfield, helping cause Georgetown to lose a total of 42 yards on the ground.
Junior Lucas McCarthy had an especially notable game, as the defensive end notched 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. McCarthy’s 10 tackles matched his season total from all of last year. The junior had somewhat of a slow start this year, only recording four tackles in his first two games. But he exploded against Georgetown, pressuring the quarterback and helping to stop the run.
“We did much better today with tackling,” McCarthy said.
As a unit, the defensive line recorded three sacks, one by McCarthy and one apiece by junior Dario Arezzo and freshman Chris Ciarvella. Linemen were also responsible for making five tackles for loss.
Not to be outdone, the offensive linemen stepped up as well. A week after helping the running backs only gain 39 rushing yards, the big men up front were a force against Georgetown. The experienced line, which includes two fifth-year seniors in co-captain Brian McGuire and Ted Sonnenberg and a returning starter in junior Steve Valenta, led the way for the Cornell ground game, which gained a total of 252 yards on Saturday.
“Our bread and butter has been the run so they [the offensive line] really enjoy getting involved and picking me up and getting some yards on the ground,” said senior running back Luke Siwula. “So I think for our overall confidence as a team, if we can establish the run early it’s a good way to establish everyone’s confidence.”
The line was able to frequently win the battle line of scrimmage and open up huge holes up the middle for the Red’s backs. Siwula was the primary beneficiary of this trench victory, as he ran for 95 yards. As a result, Cornell only lost 11 yards on the ground.
The offensive line also provided relief for junior quarterback Nathan Ford, who was able to throw for 201 yards. Ford frequently had plenty of time to sit back in the pocket as Georgetown was unable to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. The Red’s line did not give up a single sack.
“There was a really good intensity coming from the offensive line,” Siwula said. “You saw it got a little gritty at times. I think that’s just attributed to the fact that we wanted to come back out there and get right back on track for the season.”