Tonight, the Red will take Schoellkopf Field for its final game of the year against Mansfield University in a non-conference battle. Despite it being the final game of the season, and the final game for the team’s 22 seniors, the team will be more anxious to hear from Annapolis, Md., where Navy and Army are set to face off in the game that will determine if Cornell wins a CSFL championship — although Cornell will have no say in the matter.[img_assist|nid=33163|title=Still counts|desc=In a non-conference matchup with Mansfield tonight to close out Cornell’s season, senior sprint football captain Michael Brennan (10) will be one of the 22 seniors to take the field for the last time.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
If Navy wins tomorrow, it will cap of the squad’s fourth undefeated CSFL championship season in five years. The Midshipmen’s last loss came in 2006 to Cornell, and prior to that, the Midshipmen hadn’t lost since 2003. That defeat came against Army, whose biggest fans are currently right here in Ithaca.
“[Navy is] playing Army this weekend and obviously we’re hoping for them to lose,” said senior captain John Parke. “But for Army, playing Navy is different. Sure we beat Army and Navy beat us, but between those two teams, it’s the biggest rivalry in the league. If you go into Army stadium it says two things, and one is ‘Beat Navy’. For them, the success of the entire season depends on beating Navy.”
The success of Cornell’s (4-2, 3-1 CSFL) entire season now also depends on Army (2-4, 1-2) beating Navy (6-0, 3-0). If the Black Knights manage to upset the Midshipmen, Navy will finish at 3-1 in conference, putting them in a tie with Cornell atop the CSFL.
Despite holding a losing record, Army still has a shot at taking down Navy. Penn only beat Army by a touchdown. Against Cornell, Army was leading 10-6 with under a minute left. And finally, in Army’s preseason game with Navy this year, the team lost 14-7, only allowing the Midshipmen to rack up eight more yards of offense.
With Cornell’s fate in Army’s hands tonight, all the Red can do is focus on the second game of the season against Mansfield. Mansfield will officially join the CSFL next season, after playing against the CSFL’s Ivy League school’s this year to prepare.
In the first ever sprint football game in Mansfield University history, Cornell went down to Pennsylvania and came away with a 35-0 win. The story of the game was Cornell’s defense. With three sacks and 26 different players recording tackles, Cornell allowed just 14 total yards, and shut down the rushing game to the point where Mansfield actually lost 58 yards on the ground.
“They’re a little smaller in size than us,” said senior captain Zak Dentes. “I know that you must be thinking that there is the weight limit, but what they haven’t learned yet is to make weight at 172, then get up to 185 by the game. A lot of us are pushing 185 on game day, and the first time we played them, we thought, ‘Wow, a lot of these guys are actually 172.’”
Despite the dominating shutout earlier in the season, the Red players know that they haven’t been awarded the win yet.
“We need to have confidence, but we can’t overlook them,” Parke said. “They have improved tremendously since the first week, which was really early on in their season.
Since losing to Cornell, Mansfield has gone 1-1 against Penn and Princeton. The Mountaineers scored their first points of the season against the Quakers, but lost 34-12. Mansfield did manage 189 yards of total offense, 1350 percent of the yardage gained against Cornell.
Mansfield beat the Tigers last weekend to gain some momentum coming into Schollkopf tonight. It was an impressive 28-3 win that gave the program its first ever victory. After giving up a field goal early in the first quarter, the Mountaineer’s went on to score 28 unanswered points.
“They’ve improved quite a bit,” said head coach Bart Guccia. “They beat Princeton pretty good last week, and they were only down to Penn by one touchdown in the fourth quarter. They’re much improved. But our players understand that, and they’re prepared for the game because they don’t want to fall flat on their face in their last home game, on our field. So they’re taking the game very seriously, and if we play to our ability, I don’t foresee a problem. But it should be a tougher test than the first time we played.”
While Mansfield has improved since the first match up, so has Cornell. With wins against Penn and Army following a near-victory against Navy, the only thing Cornell has to look out for might be itself.
“The last three games have seemed like we’ve been dominating teams, yet letting them stay in the game, and that’s why they’ve been last-minute wins,” Parke said. “We really need to just win early and get the job done.”
If the Red is able to get the job done early and play as well as it did in the first game, the backups could get a chance to play. In the first game with the Mountaineers, Dentes threw for 74 yards before his backup, sophomore Elliot Corey, came in and threw for 105 yards, and then his backup, freshman Timothy Bruhn, came in to contribute 62 yards passing and 50 yards rushing of his own.
“We’re not going to take anything for granted, because we know they’ve improved a lot,” Dentes said. “We’re still pretty confident — we think, “Yes, they’re better, but they’re still not up to our level, yet. I’m hoping that [the starters] get a couple of touchdowns, at least. Then our backups — who have been earning it all season — will get a chance to come out there and kick some [butt].”