October 4, 2007

Football Ready For Ivy Battle

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In the two teams’ last six meetings, the football team has failed to beat the Crimson. Fortunately for the Red, the last win over its Ivy counterpart came at Schoellkopf in 2005, when Cornell won 27-13. The Red (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) will look to repeat that home performance this Saturday at 1 p.m.
Regardless of the Crimson’s (1-2, 1-0 Ivy) recent success, senior linebacker Ryan Blessing looks to the 2005 results for motivation.
“I really think we are confident going into this game,” Blessing said. “We beat them pretty good last time they came here. We smashed them in the mouth and I think we can do it again.”
Unlike Blessing, sophomore receiver Stephen Luizza was not there for the last home victory over the Crimson. In fact, the only game that Luizza was a part of was the 33-23 loss at Harvard Stadium last year. But with the Red’s revamped offense, Luizza affirms that the results are inconsequential.
“I don’t think [Harvard’s recent success] is a factor,” Luizza said. “We discovered a whole new identity over the off-season.”
Coming off a 45-7 thumping of Georgetown last weekend, the Red will look to even its Ivy record. This comes after getting dominated by Yale two weekends ago, 51-12. With preseason favorite Yale remaining undefeated and Harvard winning its first Ivy League matchup, the game has turned into a must-win for a Red team that is hoping to contend for an Ancient Eight title.
“All Ivy League games are must-wins,” Blessing said. “Every Ivy League game can determine the championship.”
The Red will have its hands full with the Crimson, who enter this weekend contest following a heartbreaking loss. In its last contest, Crimson quarterback Chris Pizzoti fumbled the ball with 30 seconds left and Lehigh defensive lineman Paul Bode returned it for a touchdown, giving the Mountain Hawks a 20-13 win.
The contest will be the Red’s second straight Ivy League contest against a preseason top-3 team.
“I don’t think [the schedule] matters,” Blessing said. “In the Ivy League, you play the same teams every year. We had a tough game against Yale, but I think it gave us a good perspective of where we were. It’s only one loss, and it allows us to focus on how to approach the rest of season.”
The Crimson feature an explosive offensive attack that averages 440.3 total yards per game, led by an impressive receiving core.
“Their receiving core is excellent,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “All of their receivers are all over 6-2 and definitely possess a great threat.”
Last weekend, Harvard had six different receivers who caught three or more passes throughout the course of the contest. Two standouts were tight end Jason Miller, who caught six passes for 82 yards and Matt Legace, who grabbed five passes for 83 yards. In total, Pizzoti completed 27-of-48 passes for 336 yards.
In order for the Red to win, it will have to prove that its passing attack can operate on the same level as the Crimson, if not better.
“We just have to spread them out and get them to respect the pass,” Knowles said. “That will open up the running game for us.”
One player who has taken advantage of Knowles’ new spread offensive is sophomore receiver Stephen Luizza. Last week against Georgetown, Luizza caught four passes for 32 yards. In addition, the Pearl River, La., native ran for 72 yards on seven carries while lining up at running back. This weekend, Luizza might be asked again to spread his duties between both positions.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if I line up everywhere,” Luizza said.
Regardless of where Luizza plays, the Red will have to find a way to tame the Crimson’s passing attack and enforce its own game plan, all without the support of many Red fans who will be away for Fall Break.
“We always like to have a big crowd but we know it will be Fall Break,” Luizza said. “The intensity that the crowd brings, we know we just have to bring it there ourselves.”