Before the thrilling comeback victory and the dominant Homecoming win, before the undefeated start and the ubiquitous confidence among the men of the program, the sustainability of football at Cornell was called into question. In satirical publications, acerbic Sun op-eds and not-so-quiet jokes around campus, Cornell football was ridiculed repeatedly.
Now, after three straight wins, including a stunning victory over Colgate on the road, that has all changed.
“Usually everyone is doubting us and not having much faith in us,” said sophomore quarterback Dalton Banks, “but now that we’re winning it’s fun. Everyone acknowledges it and gives us attention.”
There is a buzz surrounding the football team, something that had been missing in recent years.
“It’s certainly been a much more supportive campus than in the past years,” said senior co-captain Jackson Weber. “People are excited about Cornell football, people are excited about how we’re doing.”
Head coach David Archer ‘05 commented that the interest in the team has inspired the team to play even better.
“I think it’s great, a lot of support coming from campus,” Archer said. “It’s outstanding, any time you feel like you have the fans behind you and the support behind you, it just gives you an extra boost.”
With the only other undefeated Ivy team looming in the distance, the men of Cornell football — picked last in the preseason poll — again have a chance to prove everyone wrong. Saturday brings the most anticipated matchup of the young 2016 season: Cornell vs. Harvard, Underdog vs. Favorite, Undefeated vs. Undefeated.
With three wins already on the season — more than the previous two years combined — and with votes in the national poll, Cornell could very easily rest on its laurels and cruise to season’s end, content with a two-win improvement over last year.
But this season’s squad refuses to be satisfied.
“Three wins, that’s great, but that’s only three wins,” Banks said. “We got to focus on getting more. [The coaching staff] makes us treat every game like it’s a fresh start. We haven’t proven anything, we got to go out each week and prove ourselves to make sure we keep winning.”
Continuing its winning ways is a tall task for Cornell football. The Red will have to get through Harvard, the three-time defending Ivy League champion. Since 2010, the Crimson has totaled just eight losses. In comparison, Cornell lost nine times last year alone.
Archer referred to the Crimson as “the model Ivy League program.”
“There’s a long of list [of great things about Harvard],” Archer said. “They’re just so solid at every position. They have great talent, they’re very well coached.”
This past week, Harvard quarterback Joe Viviano was named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, along with Banks. Currently leading the conference in completion percentage, Viviano is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league. Archer said he hopes that the Red’s defensive line can get past Harvard’s offensive line and put pressure on Viviano.
“We need to show them some different, confusing looks to kind of get him off his spot, get him off his rhythm,” Archer said. “That’s, in my experience with Harvard, how you really try to slow them down.”
Despite the team’s underdog status, Banks is feeling confident in the team as Saturday’s clash nears.
“We’re feeling more prepared than ever,” Banks said. “Yes they’ve got a solid defense, but they’re also very vulnerable in a lot of spots and I think we’re going to take advantage and go out and play our game, execute properly and play smart and I think we’ll have a great day.”
In order to come out of this weekend with a win, lightning will have to strike twice. The Red’s victory over Colgate was the program’s first win over a ranked opponent in 66 years. The Crimson is currently slotted at No. 22 in the STATS FCS poll.
“This is the biggest challenge, we’re all looking forward to this game,” Banks said. “We’re chomping at the bit, both teams are undefeated, it’s going to be great showdown.”
The game kicks off at 1 p.m. at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass.