October 20, 2008

Freshman switches from defense to offense to lead Raiders

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Coming into Saturday’s contest against Colgate, Cornell’s defensive focus was stopping its opponent’s vaunted rushing attack. Senior tailback Jordan Scott entered the game as the Football Championship Series’ (FCS) leading rusher, averaging 186 yards per game. Throughout the first 18 minutes of the game, it didn’t seem like the Red could handle the 2007 Walter Payton award finalist as he quickly accumulated 41 yards. So when the feared tailback hit the sidelines with a high ankle sprain with 13:29 left in the first half, it seemed that there was hope for Cornell’s run defense. But the defensive corps was even less able to halt freshman Nate Eachus, who put on a standout performance of his own.
“Once Jordan went down,” Eachus said. “I knew I had to fill in some big shoes. I was just trying to get positive yardage for the team. Like coach said, you got to put it all on the o-line shoulders. They just carried me and the team to victory.”
The freshman accumulated 241 yards on 37 carries for three touchdowns. Eachus, who had a sack and three tackles before switching to the other side of the ball, averaged 6.5 yards per run.
“Hats off to the other kid,” said Cornell head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “The other kid was great. He was fantastic. He was fantastic…”
“He just ran hard,” said Red senior safety Tim Bax. “He always finished every run and fell forward so he was gaining a couple of yards every carry. He just ran tough. “
Eachus used his 5’10’’, 195-pound frame to bully down the field multiple times. Aiding him in his running debut was the play from the offensive line, which allowed the team to gather 345 yards on the ground and allowed zero sacks.
“I think on offense,” said Colgate head coach Dick Biddle, “If I had to pick a most valuable player, it would be our offensive line really stepped up and played. … We have four starters that play a lot that physical. I think it’s our style, I think it’s the way they practice, I think they come up to the challenge. We have two tackles that are good players, they are semi-NFL prospects.”
“Guys weren’t getting off blocks,” Knowles said. “Guys were getting blocked.”
The Raiders were able to control the time of possession – over 35 minutes – thanks to the shotgun option running formation that proved to be very successful for the squad. The Red had used the same type of scheme two years ago before implementing a west-coast offensive attack.
“It looks like we weren’t prepared,” Knowles said. “I can’t tell you we weren’t prepared, but we knew about it. We practiced it. Obviously, we used to run that offense two years ago. Our coaches know all about it. But as I tell our coaches and myself: What you see out there is what you coach. Obviously we weren’t prepared, but it’s not as if we didn’t discuss it. We didn’t do a good enough job in our preparation.”
After holding teams to an average of 37 rushing yards per game in its first three contests, the Red has taken a huge step back. Combined with the yardage from the loss to Harvard over Fall Break, Cornell has given up 487 yards on the ground. Consequently, the Red lost its last two contests handily.
“We have to go back and figure out what’s going wrong,” Knowles said. “Particularly in the running game. We have to stop the run and we had been doing that up until the last two weeks. This week it was glaringly bad.”