October 17, 2015

Next Man Up: Red Looks to Sophomore Running Back Josh Sweet to Step Up After Injuries

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FAIRFIELD, Conn. — For four weeks, Luke Hagy was Cornell football’s rushing attack. The senior running back amassed 376 rushing in the first four games of the season. Against Sacred Heart, it looked like the trend of feeding Hagy the ball over 15 times per game would continue. But after hitting his head on his first carry of the game, Hagy left the game and would not return.

Freshman running back Chris Walker didn’t make the trip due to a concussion of his own, so the rushing duties fell to sophomore Josh Sweet. Sweet had seen minimal play time in all four games leading up to the clash against Sacred Heart, earning 17 yards on six total carries. As a freshman last year, Sweet collected 96 yards in 7 games last year.

“I wasn’t expecting to get that much time,” Sweet said. “Luke is our guy, but he went down, and obviously, he is irreplaceable. He’s a star. He’s the best running back in the Ivy League. Tough shoes to fill, but I did my best and I’m going to look at the film to see where I can improve, where we all can improve.”

The sophomore used his hard running style to pick up 80 yards on 22 carries. There were several times in which he looked like the man he was backing up, powering past Sacred Heart defenders to a number of strong runs between the tackles, thanks to an overall positive effort from the offensive line. But at other times he lacked enough power to get past Sacred Heart defenders and was wrapped up at the line of scrimmage throughout the game.

“The offensive line blocked their tails off,” Sweet said. “They did a great job today, sometimes it didn’t show because I made the wrong cut. Sometimes when I made the right cut it was there and we made a great play, so I got to do a better job of making sure that I hit the right hole and make sure that they’re getting some of the glory as well.”

In the Red’s first drive of the second half, Sweet took the handoff at the 15-yard-line, dodged his way 14 yards before being brought down just shy of the end zone. As he was tackled, the ball became dislodged and a Sacred Heart defender scooped it up in the end zone. The Pioneers would go on to score a touchdown, putting the Red down 23 – 6.

There was some confusion as to whether or not Sweet was down or if the ball had crossed the plane, but the final decision from the refs was that the ball was stripped before Sweet’s knee hit the ground.

“It was a tough call,” Sweet said. “We were running inside zone, and I cut it back and I saw the end zone. I got caught from behind and I felt like my knee was down, but regardless I can’t let the ball slip out, I can’t even make it a call for the ref, so I got to do a better job of holding it high and tight and sometimes the ref’s call just doesn’t go your way.”

The run could have been Sweet’s second touchdown of the day; his first was a three-yard punch that came in the second quarter that brought Cornell back within four.

“I thought he did a nice job stepping in,” said head coach David Archer ‘05. “In terms of volume, he’s not used to that many carries and plays. I’m sure there are some plays that he wants back. We all had plays that we didn’t make today.”

Archer also said that if Hagy is unable to play next week against Brown, then Sweet will “pick it up.” The running back situation will be complicated especially if Walker returns. Archer has spoken highly of the freshman all year and, if both Sweet and Walker are healthy, the pair may split carries.

“I don’t know if [Walker]’s going to be ready for Brown. Tough to say. That will probably be based more on what Chris knows. He obviously has an extra burst, so finding ways to get him the football, but that’ll depend on his health.”