It’s been almost a year since Cornell defeated the Navy Midshipmen in a 16-10 overtime thriller. The Red was trailing with less than three minutes left on the clock when then-sophomore quarterback Zak Dentes orchestrated an 11-play, 80-yard drive that tied the score at 10-10 which forced overtime. Although much of the Red’s current, youth-heavy roster wasn’t there to celebrate the improbable win that broke Navy’s dominant 15-game winning, they all can appreciate the magnitude of the moment, as well as what this year’s Pride Bowl will mean.
“Everyone’s been saying it’s the biggest game of the year,” said freshman Tim Kozen, “I want to see what it’s all about.”
Even the players who were at last year’s Pride Bowl struggled to put the experience into words.
“There was just this aura of excitement; the amount of energy flowing on the sidelines was just incredible,” said junior Sam Lincoln. “We always get real hyped, but especially for Army and Navy.”
While his players might be getting overly excited for the upcoming game, head coach Terry Cullen tries to treat it like any other game.
“I don’t think there’s any rivalry,” Cullen said. “It’s only special in that Navy basically never loses, so that makes it a little different.”
“My dad played sprint football and I heard lots of stories,” Lincoln said. “It’s always ‘Beat the Squids.’”
It’s true that “the Squids” have a tradition of dominance in sprint football. Not only was the team nursing a 15-game winning streak until last October, it also beat Princeton by a score of 98-0 on October 21, 2005. The Midshipmen are coming off a convincing 30-17 win over Army in which Navy rallied from a 14-0 deficit. The Midshipmen scored 30 points while allowing only three over the last three quarters.
Running back Enrique Harris ran for 160 yards and a touchdown.
“They have two of the best running backs, a fullback and a tailback, in the league,” Cullen said. “They’ve basically dominated for two years.”
The task of containing Navy’s running game will fall to the Red’s young defense. Only four of 11 starters returned this year, and two of those are injured.
“We have to be able to stop the run up the middle,” Kozen said. “They have a lot of big, strong dudes.”
On offense, the Red will try to use its experience and talent to counter the quick Midshipmen defense.
“As a service academy, they’re obviously in great shape” Cullen said. “You have to play them differently because they’re so fast and so strong. We’re going to work on going against their initial reads.”
The Red will return to action after two weekends without a game. Its last contest was a 49-26 win over Princeton on September 21. The defense came up big in that contest with a four-interception performance, two by senior Cameron Johnson. It also demonstrated excellent run defense, allowing only 24 yards to the Tigers.
“They’re a great football team but so are we,” Cullen said. “It should be a great game.”