October 13, 2011

SPRINT FOOTBALL | Team Prepares for Battle With Army

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After an off week, the sprint football team (2-1, 2-1 CSFL) looks to resume its season against No. 1 Army (2-1, 2-0) Friday at Schoellkopf Field. The bye week gave the team the opportunity to prepare and rest up for the upcoming game.

“[We] addressed some problem areas that popped up,” said senior wide receiver and tri-captain Tim Bruhn. “We will be a little more ready than usual and we had a little more time to watch film and more time to mentally prepare as well.”

“We’re trying to get our kids healthy and … [find] ways both offensively and defensively to attack them and stop [the other teams],” said co-head coach Bart Guccia.

Even though the Red is less than half way through its season. Friday’s matchup represents an opportunity  to gain ground in the conference for the Red. Army has yet to lose in the CSFL season and is one of the favorites to win the league. Guccia has his own opinion of who the favorites are this year.

“Right now, it is Army and Navy definitely,” he said. “They’re both undefeated in the league … so for us, this is a huge game.”

The Black Knights’ offense poses a strong challenge for the Cornell defense. In its last two games against Mansfield and Princeton, the Red have scored a combined 113 points. The offense is led by quarterback Javier Sustaita, who averages 317.7 yards per game through the air, while throwing for 13 touchdowns with just three interceptions. The recipient for many of those touchdown passes has been wide receiver Cody Nyp, who earned All-CSFL first team honors last season. He has caught 23 balls for nine touchdowns and 439 yards.

“[Army] runs an Oregon-style offense with no huddle [between plays],” Guccia said. “They’ll also throw the ball quite a bit. Against Navy in the Allegiance Bowl, they threw the ball 81 times and ran over 100 plays. They look to run a fast-paced offense.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Army is much less experienced. The program graduated all 6 All-CSFL selections from last year. Its defensive unit has not been tested recently due to its two lopsided games against Mansfield and Princeton, so the Red will look to expose some weaknesses in this defense.

Although not quite as explosive as Army’s offense, the Red also has a very strong offense, led by sophomore quarterback Brendan Miller and senior wide receiver Abe Mellinger. Playing his first season at Cornell after transferring from Junianta College, Mellinger has made an immediate impact on the team with 257 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns.

“Offensively, Miller and Mellinger have been very effective when were throwing the ball,” Guccia said.

However, in order for an offense to run smoothly, it must begin with the offensive line, and their play thus far has been great.

“It really starts with the offensive line, all five of those guys,” Bruhn said. “It really begins and ends with them, as well as Miller at quarterback. Those six guys are the heart and soul of our offense.”

Defensively, the Red will look to slow down the fast-paced offense of the Black Knights.

“Our defense has a lot of young kids still and they are learning, but we are hoping that we can keep their offense in check and not turn it into a shootout,” Guccia said.

The second-ranked defensive team has been led by senior linebacker and tri-captain Tim Dooley. He leads the team with 21 tackles, while accumulating three tackles for a loss and a sack.

“The [steadiest] player has definitely been Tim Dooley,” Guccia replied when asked who has contributed to the defense the most.

Sophomore linebacker John Kelder has also had a fantastic start for the season. He has recorded 21 tackles and three tackles for a loss, while also picking off two passes and blocking a PAT. Freshman defensive back Chris Sitko has also made significant contributions of late, earning CSFL Defensive Player of the Week honors against Princeton two weeks ago. The increased contribution from freshman has not been limited to just Sitko — as the season has gone on, they have all adjusted to the league.

“With a younger team [including] a lot of freshmen, we are going to be getting better as the year goes on,” Bruhn explained. “We are getting to that point where everyone is really adjusted to the speed of the game. Hopefully our best football is still ahead of us.”

In recent history, Cornell and Army have had slow, methodical defensive showdowns with no team scoring more than 20 points in the last four games. Judging by the two offenses thus far in the season, a low scoring affair seems unlikely, but the Red will be prepared for any type of game.

“It is really hard to say [how the game will be played] until we get into the flow of the game and the chess match between the offense and defense,” Bruhn said. “It also looks like the weather may be a bit of a problem, so we are just going to have to wait and see.”

Original Author: Albert Liao