April 27, 2009

Ganter Impresses In Red-White Game

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The football team took the first step to turn the page on a somewhat disappointing 2008 season that opened with a promising 3-0 start and saw the Red drop six of its final seven contests. The task of rebuilding is made that much more daunting by the challenge of filling the void left by the 33 seniors who graduate this year. Some expectations were confirmed and some surprises emerged during the last three weeks of spring football practices. These practices culminated in the annual Red-White spring football game on Saturday as the Red team shut out the White team 17-0.
Junior quarterback Ben Ganter is aware he has big shoes to fill as Nathan Ford will trade in his cleats and helmet for a cap and gown. Ganter concluded an impressive spring by completing 15-of-25 passing attempts for 194 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers. Freshman receiver Shane Savage accounted for 113 of those yards and hauled in six balls, helping his team to victory.
“Ben has made steady progress throughout the spring,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “I thought he had a great day. He was throwing it, running it and he really did it all. That was nice to see because he’s going to be our guy. The other kid who’s had a great spring is Shane Savage. He has four years left. He has been very impressive.”
The White team featured a loaded running attack with juniors Randy Barbour and Marcus Hendren in the backfield. Barbour, the team rushing leader in 2008, led all rushers with 56 yards on 13 carries.
“I think Randy is ready to go,” Knowles said. “I think he’s going to have great support from Marcus Hendren and we’re going to be able to line up in some two-back sets to take the pressure off of [Randy]. You saw a little bit of that today. Randy is starting to get the corner and he is starting to pick up that second gear that we need.”
After both offenses sputtered and traded possessions for the majority of the first half, it appeared the contest was going to be a 0-0 stalemate at the half. However, the Red team finally got on the scoreboard with only five ticks remaining in the first half as Ganter connected with Savage for a 48-yard touchdown. Savage found a seam down the middle and was able to slip behind the White team’s secondary for the score.
“They were running kind of the same coverage [as us],” Ganter said. “We thought we had a beat on what coverage they were going to run. We were right and it just worked out in our favor. Savage surprised everybody throughout practice all spring long. He played extremely well day in and day out.”
The Red team entered the break with a 7-0 advantage. Ganter continued to show outstanding pocket presence throughout the second half. He handled the blitz well, delivering strong, accurate passes to receivers and scrambled for positive yards when his protection broke down. Ganter is expected to share time with junior receiver/quarterback Stephen Liuzza next season. Liuzza did not play Saturday as he is recovering from a sprained right MCL.
“[Graduating senior] Nate [Ford] started here for three years,” Ganter said. “Me, [freshman] Adam [Currie] and [sophomore] Ty [Siam] all know that there is an open spot coming into camp and everybody is competing for it. I think [my experience] does [help] because I feel like I have a slight edge over them at the start. They push me every day and it has worked out pretty well.”
Knowles acknowledges Ganter presently holds a slight edge in the battle for the starting signal caller spot, but did not confirm his starter for next season.
“Ganter will come in No. 1,” Knowles said. “At the same time, there’s still enough room where Ty Siam and Adam Currie could jump ahead, but Ganter is going to be No. 1. Liuzza is hurt, but he is going to take a lot of snaps at quarterback, too.”
The usually deep wide receiver corps was somewhat sparse on Saturday as Liuzza, junior Bryan Walters and junior Nick Zerante did not compete. Walters was sidelined for precautionary reasons during the spring as he recovers from a knee scope procedure he underwent after the 2008 season. Zerante suffered a broken fibia in his right ankle during the spring season, but should be ready to play in the fall.
Sophomore place kicker Brad Greenway tacked on a 30-yard field goal at the 7:15 mark of the fourth quarter to stake the Red team to a 10-0 lead.
The subsequent drive by the White team was short-circuited when freshman safety Chris Murray stripped the ball loose from freshman tight end Drew McGowan with 5:21 remaining in regulation. One minute later, freshman Troy Lewis sealed the victory for the Red team, sidestepping defenders for a 14-yard score up the middle.
The Red team’s defense held the White to a mere 141 total yards. Sophomore safety Dempsey Quinn was a disruptive force for the Red team, roaming the backfield and inflicting vicious hits on several receivers.
“Nothing is set in stone, so I was just trying to use this as an opportunity to get out there and prove myself,” Quinn said. “We lost 33 seniors and things are wide open. The squad will definitely have a new look next year when we take the field.”
“To be honest, I will do anything to help the team win the game at the end of the day,” Quinn said. “On defense, we just want to get back to the basics and fundamentals and that’s just playing hard-nosed football and being as tough as we possibly can.”
Quinn and freshman defensive lineman Emile Chang led the team with nine tackles each. Chang also sacked Siam for a seven-yard loss when the White team decided to attempt a first down on 4th-and-5 from its own 42-yard line in the first quarter.
“That Emile Chang kid has a real chance,” Knowles said. “He has great size and has a lot of natural skills that you can’t teach. He and Adam Harris, another freshman who just moved to the [defensive] line, both of those guys at [defensive] end are really going to give us a lot this year [and] maybe [that’s something] that we didn’t expect.”
Cornell will keep a keen eye out for unexpected surprises as it attempts to replace a large senior class that has provided the foundation for this program the past four years. However, the Red seems up to the challenge with an infusion of promising young talent.