By SCOTT CHIUSANO
Coming off two straight losses to Yale and Colgate, the Red will host its first Ivy opponent at Schoellkopf this Saturday when it takes on Harvard at 12:30 p.m. Woes of the second half have plagued the Red in those defeats. Two weekends ago in the loss to Yale, the Bulldogs burst out of the locker room to score four consecutive touchdowns.
Last Saturday, Cornell carried a 20-17 lead into the half, but Colgate shut the Red out in the final 30 minutes, putting 24 unanswered points on the scoreboard. “As a team, we are refocusing on getting back to our fundamental five to help improve our consistency throughout the game,” said senior captain and defensive lineman Tre’ Minor. “We’re going to work hard throughout this week’s practice concentrating on starting strong and improving each quarter, each play so we can be better and stronger at the end of each game.”
The Crimson (3-0) is coming off a thrilling 41-35 triple overtime win over Holy Cross, tying the record for the longest game in Harvard’s 140-year history of football. Still unbeaten, the only other league opponent Harvard has played was Brown, defeating the Bears 41-23 on the back of four unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter.
“We are expecting Harvard as always to be a tough team,” Minor said. “They are always disciplined and they are going to be well coached. We are preparing to face a balanced offense and a good defense.”
Part of the Crimson’s balanced offense comes from junior Connor Hempel, who is a versatile, but relatively inexperienced quarterback. Harvard graduated starting quarterback and reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year Colton Chapple, and Hempel has stepped in to fill his shoes. In three games, the young signal caller has completed 55 of 81 passes for 803 yards. He has thrown seven touchdowns and only two picks. However, Hempel also has the ability to run the ball. He is second on the team in rushing yards with 69, and has one rushing touchdown.
The Crimson’s leader in the running game — as well as the hero in the overtime win over Holy Cross — is sophomore running back Paul Stanton. Stanton leads the team with five rushing touchdowns on 258 yards. His 17-yard touchdown run in the third overtime period finally gave Harvard the win last Saturday. “As usual, stopping the run is the major priority, because then we can get them to be one dimensional and a lot less complicated to defend,” Minor said.
“We’re also focusing on taking the ball away and making the ball carrier uncomfortable when he is carrying the ball,” he said.
The Red is looking to break through the seemingly impenetrable wall Harvard has built in their series rivalry. The Crimson has won 11 of the team’s last 12 meetings, and the last time Cornell defeated Harvard was in 2005, when the Crimson was undefeated and nationally ranked. Last year, Harvard won the matchup handily on its own turf, 45-13. Chapple threw for three touchdowns in the first 16 minutes of the game, and the Red was unable to climb back into contention.
In what has become a theme for the Red the past few weeks, senior quarterback Jeff Mathews will be challenging yet another conference record. He needs 172 more passing yards to become the Ivy League’s all time leader in that category in conference games. In last weekend’s loss, Mathews became the Ancient Eight’s overall career passing leader, but he remained humble after the game, interested more in his team’s success than in his own.
“Honestly, I haven’t had time to think about it yet,” Mathews said of the record. “One day I’ll look back, but it’s not [time] for that in the middle of the season.”
With two teams — Yale and Harvard — still undefeated overall, and two more teams in Princeton and Penn undefeated in conference play, Saturday would be an important win to keep the Red in the race at the top of the Ivy League. According to Minor, the two losses have not done anything to change the Red’s mentality, except to motivate them even further.
“The team is rallying around ourselves,” he said. “We are focusing more on execution and doing the things we need to do, as well as being prepared for what we are going to face.”
Oliver Kliewe / Senior PhotographerSenior wide receiver Grant Gellatly — who led the Red with 13 catches and a touchdown last weekend — will be a main target for the offense this weekend against Harvard.