November 4, 2010

Football Seeks to Make it Two in a Row vs. Dartmouth

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A week after earning its first Ivy League victory under new head coach Kent Austin, the Cornell football team will be in search of its first two-game winning streak when it hosts Dartmouth tomorrow afternoon. In what is the second-longest continuous rivalry in college football –– led by Dartmouth at 52-40-1 –– the Red and Big Green will look to add another epic chapter to a storied book this weekend. Throw in a pair of 1-3 conference records and a prime opportunity for both teams to climb out of the Ivy cellar, and tensions are sure to be high come kickoff at 12:30 p.m.

Despite featuring identical records in Ivy League play, Cornell (2-5, 1-3) and Dartmouth (4-3, 1-3) are moving in opposite directions heading into tomorrow’s contest. On the heels of its first home and conference victory of the year –– a 21-19 nail-biter against Princeton –– Cornell has its sights set on its first multi-win Ivy season since 2008 –– an accomplishment it last achieved with a win against the Big Green nearly two years ago. Dartmouth, on the other hand, is making the trip to Ithaca just one week after being routed, 30-14, in its Homecoming game against Harvard.

If past history is any indication, though, the matchup between the two rivals is sure to be competitive from start to finish. Just take last season’s double-overtime thriller as an example. Leading 10-0 heading into the fourth quarter, the Red surrendered the lead and ultimately the game, 20-17. Having just been called up from the Big Green’s junior varsity squad, Dartmouth running back Greg Patton, then a freshman, accumulated a school record 243 rushing yards in the comeback victory –– something that Cornell has definitely not forgotten.

A lot has changed since 2009, yet the underlying problems in last season’s loss to the Big Green have continued to plague the Red thus far in 2010.

Heading into the weekend, Cornell is ranked last in the Ivy League in rushing defense, surrendering an average of 248.7 yards per game. Considering the Red’s struggles in the trenches and Dartmouth’s running prowess –– No. 4 in the Ivies at 159.9 rushing yards per contest –– tomorrow could figure to be a case of déjà vu for Cornell. Only this time, Patton won’t be shouldering the bulk of the load. The 2010 Big Green running attack is led by Nick Schwieger, whose 129.7 yards per game average is best in the conference.

While Dartmouth has received more of the praise this season, Cornell’s rushing offense appeared to turn the corner in last weekend’s battle with Princeton. On the legs of a healthy Grant Gellatly and versatile Nick Booker-Tandy, the Red ran for a season-high 167 yards against the Tigers. With the young offensive line progressing and the running back corps getting healthier, Cornell will look to control the ground once again tomorrow.

One player who is sure to be hoping for a more balanced run game is freshman quarterback Jeff Mathews. Against the Tigers, Mathews had arguably his best game as a starter, completing 28-of-44 pass attempts for 243 yards and two scores. The freshman duo of Mathews and Gellatly has proven to be a dynamic force for the Cornell offense and is only likely to get better with time.

If the Red is to continue its streak of good fortune against the Big Green, though, it will need to play a complete game tomorrow. As was the case in last season’s matchup with Dartmouth, Cornell struggled to close the door on Princeton last weekend. Taking a 21-6 lead into the final quarter of play, the Red surrendered 13 points to the Tigers before senior cornerback Emani Fenton played hero –– first knocking away a game-tying two-point conversion attempt and then sealing the win with an interception in the closing seconds.

While Fenton’s heroics provided an exciting finish to Cornell’s first Ivy League victory of the season, earning win No. 2 tomorrow in traditional fashion would be just fine for the Red.

Original Author: Dan Froats