There have been glimpses of greatness, moments in which Cornell football has shown how good it can be. There was Luke Hagy’s dynamic 79-yard touchdown run against Colgate and the brick wall that was Cornell’s defense in the first half against Yale. There was James Hubbard’s acrobatic catch in the end zone that gave Cornell the lead against Bucknell and Robert Somborn’s 231 passing yards in the fourth quarter last week.
And yet the team is still 0-3. The Red has yet to put together a full 60-minute effort and, because of that, leads have been blown and comebacks have proved to be too little too late.
“We’ve got to synergize everything together. We’ve had quarters and halves where we’ve had all three phases we’re together,” said head coach David Archer ’05 about the offense, defense and special teams. “We’ve had one side of the ball have a pretty good game, but we need all three phases for all four quarters. That’s what we’re concentrating on and it’s certainly easier said than done.”
And perhaps no week more than this week will Cornell need all aspects of the roster to perform. Defending Ivy Champion Harvard (3-0) comes to town Saturday to take on the Red, looking to add to its 17-game win streak.
“I look forward to it because they’ve really set the standard in Ivy League football over the last 10-12 years or so and this year is no different,” Archer said. “They’re really complete — offense, defense, special teams. They’ve really taken it to everybody in the first half and kind of costed in the second half, so they’re a great team and a great program.”
Harvard has played three games this season and has come out on top in dominant fashion each game. So far, the Crimson has outscored opponents 139-37, both of which are best in the conference. Harvard has also accumulated almost 500 more yards of total offense.
Despite the seemingly long odds, junior quarterback Robert Somborn said he’s excited for the matchup.
“Going into Harvard, this could be one of the biggest games we’ve had in awhile,” Somborn said. “I really think that we have the opportunity to get after these guys and to show everybody and kind of shock the Ivy League and show them what’s ahead for the rest of the season, that we’re here to play and we can.”
After the Red came out against Colgate lethargic to start, Archer said that outscoring the Crimson early may be the key to the game. In its first three games, Harvard has jumped on its opponents early, twice leading by at least 30.
“You can’t let them get any huge plays to start,” Archer said. “We got to look at ways that we can get on the scoreboard and we got to make sure we take the football away, that’s something we pride ourselves on and we really haven’t done a great job of that in the first three games.”
So far this season, Cornell has forced just two turnovers. Last year, the Red took the ball away an average of almost twice a game.
A year ago, turnovers were a huge reason why the Red was able to stay with the Crimson through the first two quarters of the game. At the end of the half, Cornell held Harvard scoreless, due in large part to four turnovers forced by the Red.
Cornell ended up falling to Harvard, when the Crimson outscored the Red 24-7 in the second half. All week, Archer has tried to emphasize the importance of finishing strong and focusing on small details when the pressure goes up.
“The bigger the moment, that’s when you have to focus on the littlest of details in your execution,” Archer said. “Things that you can execute in the first and second quarter, as the game becomes bigger and the moment becomes bigger down the stretch, you can’t focus on any of that. The bigger the moment, the smaller the detail you focus on, so that’s just the technique we have to use.”
After three losses that very easily could have tilted in the Red’s favor, Somborn said the team is hungry for a win.
“You can’t even bottle all the emotions that we’ve experienced over the past three weeks,” Somborn said. “All the emotions — no matter mad, sad, any of it — has just given us more motivation to get out here and perfect what we’re doing, to get better every day, keep working, keep growing as a team and just eventually get over that hump and get the win and do what we know we can do to these other teams, and just leave it all on the field.”