September 8, 2009

Football Gets First Hits In Scrimmage With Hobart

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In its final tune-up before welcoming Bucknell for its home opener on Sept. 19, Cornell outscored Hobart with three touchdowns and two field goals in a scrimmage at Schoellkopf Field Saturday afternoon. The starters played only one quarter against the Statesmen, ranked No. 17 in the nation amongst D-III programs, but scored 10 unanswered points and played lockdown defense before turning things over to the backups.
Senior quarterback Ben Ganter was efficient in limited action, completing 6-of-9 pass attempts for 85 yards. Wearing an alternate black jersey as a precautionary measure, Ganter displayed a strong arm and solid command of the offense.
“He had a great presence today,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “He took care of the football. His stats were good. … We can’t get into that trap that we got last year where we rely so much on the quarterback. We have to improve our running game, give him a lot of options and play good defense, so [Ganter] knows he doesn’t have to do it by himself.”[img_assist|nid=37871|title=Secret weapon|desc=Senior wide receiver Horatio Blackman (81), at 6-3 and 188 pounds, finished second on the team in 2008 with 14.6 yards per catch.|link=node|align=left|width=336|height=240]
After losing two of its top three receivers from a year ago, the Red still boasts a steady surplus of wide receiving threats. Ganter found senior wide receiver Stephen Liuzza with a pair of passes for 37 yards. Senior Horatio Blackman also proved to be a lethal option downfield and over the middle corralling numerous passes over defenders with his lanky frame. Senior Bryan Walters also had several key catches and looks like he might surpass Ed Marinaro ’71 and Chad Levitt ’97 this season for the most career all-purpose yards in school history.
The ground game was equally effective in the first quarter as senior tailback Randy Barbour added a 1-yard scamper into the end zone as well as several strong runs up the middle to soften the defense.
In 2008, the running attack was often ignored as Cornell took to the air with the league’s top passing offense. However, Knowles stressed the importance of reestablishing a strong running attack in 2009. The underclassmen may also play an integral role in reestablishing the running attack as freshman Ben Moody appeared worthy of Knowles’ high praise.
“I like what I’ve seen from Randy so far,” Knowles said. “I’ll have to watch the film from [Saturday]. [I liked what I saw from] Ben Moody in the second half. He seems like a really great freshman who can make some plays for us. We’re not satisfied though, we have to continue to force the issue with running game. We have a few backs, [junior] Marcus Hendren is one too, but Moody in particular brings a real change of pace. He’s got some outside speed. We have some good skill guys in our freshman class. [I like] Moody, [wide receiver Luke] Tasker and [tailback] Nick Mlady, who is out with a concussion. He’ll be back [today]. He’s another great running back who can help us in the short-yardage, goal line situations.”
On defense, Cornell shut down Hobart’s offense for much of the first half. Sophomore defensive back Rashad Campbell had an interception to set up a touchdown. Junior safety Ben Heller looked like the heir apparent to first-team All-Ivy safety Tim Bax ’09.
“I think we dominated play in the first half and we should against Hobart,” Knowles said. “Our defense is in shape. They have a freshman who will be playing, Hugh Stewart, number 90, defensive end. There’s Emile Chang, a nose guard. He’s a sophomore. We’re young, but I think Ben Heller is going to step in very nicely for Tim Bax ’09.”
In the second half, freshmen defensive backs DeMarr Moulton and Max Martinez each hauled in interceptions for touchdowns to seal the victory for the Red.
“There were no points and hardly any first downs, so that’s what you want to see,” Knowles said. “We had a couple of young corners both make picks for touchdowns which is great. I think that’s fantastic.”
One of the few questions left unanswered heading into the 2009 campaign is who will back up Ganter behind center.
“It’s really a competition right now between [Chris] Amrhein and [sophomore Adam] Currie,” Knowles said. “Amrhein has done some great things as a freshman. They’re going day-to-day to see who can back up Ganter. We can still put Liuzza at quarterback. We still have options there.”
Liuzza, who is officially listed as a wideout, occasionally lined up behind center last season in Cornell’s version of the wildcat offense. Liuzza was originally recruited as a quarterback but made the switch to wide receiver last season.
Junior kicker Brad Greenway was a perfect 2-for-2 in the field goal department, notching 41-yard and 46-yard boots.
“What you saw is just good, hard football at this point, which is what you’re looking for,” Knowles said. “I’m very pleased with execution. We were positive in the turnover ratio. Everybody was flying around. Our legs are dead. We don’t expect them to be fresh for another two weeks, so we’ve been pushing them pretty hard.”