November 17, 2011

FOOTBALL | Cornell Seeks .500 Finish After Wild Win

Print More

The 2011 football campaign will come to an end this Saturday as the Red travels to Philadelphia to face rival Penn. Coming off a huge victory against Columbia, 62-41, Cornell (4-5, 2-4 Ivy League) looks to seize the opportunity to finish the season at .500 for the first time since 2007. In the offensive explosion last Saturday, sophomore quarterback Jeff Mathews broke several single-game school records, including completions, passing yards and touchdowns. His performance earned him National Offensive Player of the Week honors, as well as Ivy League Player of the Week. Senior defensive captain and star kick returner Rashad Campbell praised the young quarterback’s standout abilities. “Matthews really embraces the offense as whole and having a quarterback that is so driven and so excited about game of football is great,” Campbell said. “He really trusts the system and has great chemistry with the wide receivers and the linemen.” Campbell further emphasized how the offense has been crucial to the Red’s success this year as opposed to in years past.“The biggest thing holding us back in past years was the amount of turnovers we committed,” Campbell said. “But this year our offense is dominant. They have the confidence and the experience that has turned them into a legitimate offense that Cornell hasn’t seen in recent years.” Senior wide receiver Shane Savage echoed Campbell’s assessment of the offense. “Offensively we are really starting to feel conformable and everything is starting to flow together,” Savage said. “We have great chemistry, which has made it so much easier for us.”Savage has personally benefited from the offensive domination this season, having a career and possibly a record-breaking year. Savage had 931 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. The school record for receiving yards in a single season is 1,042, set back in 1997. Savage tied the school record for receiving touchdowns in a single game, three, last Saturday against the Lions. He also had 199 receiving yards on just eight catches. Despite having the confidence on the offensive side of the ball, Savage remains cautious about Penn’s (5-4, 4-2 Ivy) ability on defense. “Penn’s always been known for having a great defense,” Savage said. “They are a pressure team, so they are going to blitz us a lot. We have to be able to handle the blitzes if we want to execute on offense.”On the defensive side, Campbell named a few areas to focus on on for the game against the Quakers — the most important being stopping the ground game.“Penn is very disciplined on the offensive side,” Campbell explained. “They do a lot of play action passes and simple routs that are run to perfection. They also like to establish the run and they have a quarterback who can scramble out of the pocket. Stopping the run and containing the quarterback are the two things we have to focus on defensively.”Saturday’s game is important for Campbell, not only because it will be his last at Cornell, but also because he will be playing in front of his hometown, Philadelphia, against a team that Cornell has yet to beat during his four year career. Campbell has had a great stint at Cornell as a cornerback, earning honorable mention All-Ivy honors in 2009, and as a kick returner with over 1,800 yards and two touchdowns under his belt this year.“We have had our ups and downs this season,” Campbell said. “But, if we can finish off with a win, it will separate us in our league in terms of being a team that can beat a top tier opponent like Penn. We have a chance to do something that we have not done since I have been here.”Saturday also marks the 16th edition of the Trustees’ Cup game, which started in 1995 as a way to celebrate the rivalry between Cornell and Penn. The Quakers lead the series 10-5 and have not lost in the past four straight years. When the two Ivies meet on the field Saturday it will be for the 118th time, adding another game to the record for the fifth-most played match-up in college football history. Penn leads the overall series 68-44-5.Savage, who may be eligible for a fifth year depending on the NCAA’s ruling, agreed with Campbell’s comments on the importance of Saturday’s game.“It is always about how you finish,” Savage said. “It would be great to finish on strong note entering into next season. It is a big day for the seniors to leave their lasting mark on Cornell.  We are excited for the game and a chance to end the season right.”

Original Author: Scott Eckl