October 10, 2007

Navy Avenges Loss to Sprinters

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UNION, N.J. (Oct. 7) — The Red collided with the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy this weekend in Pride Bowl XXIX held at Kean Alumni Stadium, in what was labeled “The Ultimate Rematch” by Project Pride, Inc.
In last year’s matchup held at Schoellkopf Field, the Red snapped Navy’s 15-game winning streak and took the CSFL title from the defending champs. This year it was the Midshipmen’s turn, snapping Cornell’s eight-game winning streak and placing themselves atop the standings at 3-0 (1-0 CSFL) with a 35-14 victory.
Cornell, now 2-1 (0-1 in CSFL), and Navy exchanged possessions for the majority of the first quarter before last year’s Pride Bowl MVP, Navy senior running back Richard Engel, broke through the Red defense and ran 65-yards for a touchdown. Engel would end the game with 67 yards on nine carries, slowed by a Red defense that played well but gave up big plays sporadically.
The only other score of the half was on a 55-yard scamper from Navy’s leading rusher on the day, sophomore Nate Stewart, who ended the game with 96 yards.
“The two big runs were mostly just a matter of over-pursuing and missing tackles,” said junior linebacker John Parke, who led the Red defense with 13 tackles. “After looking at films, both plays should have been stopped for short or no gains. We saw those same plays several times throughout the game and stopped them more often than not.”
Navy scored again to open the second half on a one-yard run from Navy junior quarterback D.J. Green, the Midshipmen’s only score from inside the red-zone. On Navy’s second possession of the half, the Midshipmen again scored from their own territory with a 59-yard catch and run from junior wide receiver Nash Bagby, making the score 28-0.
“The [59-yard] TD pass was a variation of the WR screen they ran a couple of times during the game,” Parke said. “They faked the WR screen and sent the flanker deep. Both our d-backs came up for the screen and let the flanker slip the coverage.”
The Midshipmen got their last score on the second play of the fourth quarter, going ahead 35-0 on a 22-yard run from sophomore Steve Benson. Cornell’s defense held the Midshipmen to just one touchdown in only three trips to the red zone.
“As a team I felt we played pretty well,” said head coach Terry Cullen. “We play a high risk, gambling defense and it has worked for three years. Those [big plays] happen if you play the way we play. You just have to take your hat off to Navy.”
While big plays hurt the Red on defense, penalties, injuries and inconsistent play saw the Red come up just short on the offensive side of the ball.
“We knew little mistakes would hurt us,” said junior Brandon Stoller. “We were able to move the football, we would get a first down, another first down; then a 10-yard loss.”
Up against Navy’s intimidating defense, the Red didn’t make it to the Midshipmen red zone until the fourth quarter.
“We kept killing ourselves with penalties,” said junior running back Matt Malleo. “We were close, a lot of fourth-and-inches. We need some work to get that extra yard.”
Injuries added to the struggles on the offensive side of the ball. On the first drive of the game for the Red, starting senior running back Glenn Palmer and junior quarterback Zak Dentes were both hurt. Palmer sat for the remainder of the game, while Dentes tried to play the rest of the half, completing nine of 20 pass attempts with one interception.
During half time, the trainers determined Dentes could not play the second half due to the injury to his throwing hand.
Senior captain Jason Remillard, last year’s CSFL MVP, was also watching from the sidelines, having torn his ACL in the first game of the season against Penn.
“[Remillard], last year’s MVP, is our best player and it’s definitely disappointing to lose him,” Malleo said. “But bottom line, you have to play with the guys who can suit up.”
Amidst the struggle for the Red to execute on offense, freshman punter John Mackintosh delivered another strong game, punting 10 times to help set up the Red defense and push back Navy’s starting field position. His 356 total yards on the day were enough to earn Mackintosh his second CSFL Special Teams Player of the Week Award.
“Despite a few breakdowns on both sides of the ball, we did play well against a Navy team that is very skilled,” Mackintosh said. “I am out there to do my job, punting is a part of the game. It can be seen as an opportunity for our defense to get out there and make plays.”
With Dentes and Palmer out, freshman quarterback Elliot Corey and Stoller filled in the backfield for the second half, igniting an offense that was held scoreless for the first three quarters of play and faced a 35-0 deficit early in the fourth quarter.
“During the week I got some reps with the first team,” Corey said. “Navy is a big game, obviously you have to be ready to play.”
Corey completed seven of eleven attempts for 71 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown strike to Stoller.
“I can’t say enough good things about the [Corey],” Stoller said. “He’s a playmaker, and very calm under pressure.”
Cornell’s first score came with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter, when Stoller ran the ball in from the two-yard line on Cornell’s first trip to the red-zone. The crowd erupted as the public address announcer said, “Cornell is on the board.” Stoller added the second score seven minutes later on a fourth-and-goal play from the seven-yard line, staying in bounds at the back of the end zone to receive Corey’s pass.
“In the fourth quarter, things started to click.” Stoller said. “We settled down. We don’t usually have two weeks to think about a game, and we were high strung. We had too much time to hype up our opponents in our minds.”
The Red will only have two more days to think about Princeton before taking them on at Schoellkopf Field this Friday. The Red topped the Tigers in their previous matchup this season, winning 49-26 on the road.
“There are no more bye weeks,” Malleo said. “We need to get things organized, come out and play hard. We have a pretty good team. There’s no reason we shouldn’t win the rest of our games.”