September 19, 2008

Football Bears Down on Bucknell

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With a 6 p.m. start time tomorrow, Cornell will be the last Ivy League team — and thus the last team in the nation — to get its football season under way. The Red will travel to Lewisberg, Penn., to take on Bucknell, a squad Cornell demolished, 38-14, last year.
With an early-season showdown with Ivy-favorite Yale looming next weekend, this will be the only tuneup Cornell gets before being thrown into the lion’s den against a team that felled the Red last year, 51-12.
Bucknell may prove more of a challenge than last year, however, when then-sophomore quarterback Marcello Trigg had just taken over the reins of Bucknell’s complicated option offense. With a year under his belt, however, Trigg has shown marked improvement and is actually the nation’s most efficient quarterback through the first few weeks of the Football Championship Series season. [img_assist|nid=31903|title=Chasing victory|desc=Senior quarterback Nathan Ford will drive the Red’s pass-happy offense at Bucknell tomorrow.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“They will run an option attack,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “They will give you a hard time because they will give you something that you won’t have to prepare for the rest of the year.”
The Bucknell approach is reflected in its statistics, with four players registering over 15 carries after two games and most of Triggs passes going for only a few yards — explaining in part his 75 completion percentage.
For nearly every touchdown the Bison have scored, though, they have given one away. The squad ranks 91st out of 116 teams in overall defense, particularly struggling to defend the pass. This is potentially good news for the Red’s pass-happy approach.
“We’re in a split offense, so we guide the ball to open up the pass and we pass to open up the run,” said junior running back Randy Barbour. “So the pass and run complement each other.”
For Barbour, the season-opening tilt will also represent the first time that he has lined up as a season-opening back. Barbour led the team with 477 yards on the ground last season, running in place of injured senior Luke Siwula. Barbour’s overall average of 3.8 yards per carry reflected the up-and-down nature of his season. After two straight weeks of not cracking 50 yards on the ground, Barbour went for 159 yards and three scores against Brown.
“As an offense, we’re more organized, so we expect to get more out of [ourselves than last year],” Barbour said.
Cornell also expects more out of itself on the road this year. Knowles is 16-5 at Schoellkopf during his tenure, but a mere 4-15 on the road. Knowles knows his team must match the intensity of opponents in order to win on the road.
“Going away is something we want to change this year,” Knowles said. “We have not had a lot of success on the road. It’s something we want to change this year. From the talent level standpoint we should be able to compete for victory. We have to be able to hang in there because their game speed will be different for us.”