It seems like ages ago already when Cornell football was the talk of the town. After jumping out to a 3-0 start – more wins than the Red had tallied the previous two years combined – Cornell (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) has since lost three straight contests.
To the team’s credit, two of the three losses were nail-biters — a 31-24 loss to Sacred Heart and last week’s double-overtime defeat against Brown — but after three consecutive losing efforts, the Red must once again turn things around before the season slips away.
This week’s opponent is a high-powered Princeton team, hungry after an overtime loss to league-leading Harvard that boasts the Ivy League’s top offense and has gotten the best of Cornell the last three years. The Red will have its work cut out, and in order to get back to its winning ways, it must use these three keys.
The Red has struggled at the start of games all season long. In four of its first six contests, Cornell has surrendered the game’s first points. The team has trailed at halftime in its last four — twice by more than two touchdowns.
Having had just two home games thus far, extensive travel may deserve some blame; it is always difficult to start fast in another team’s building after a long bus ride. This week, though, the team returns to Schoellkopf and will look to use the home crowd to its advantage.
Against a strong Princeton team, getting off to a quick start will be crucial. Especially in the midst of a losing streak, Cornell — both mentally and physically — cannot afford to once again be playing from behind. Come kickoff, all three units must be ready to go in this one, and if they can play with the Tigers in the first half, they should be in good shape for quarters three and four.
Get Dalton Back on Track
Through the first three weeks of the season, sophomore quarterback Dalton Banks was turning heads every time he threw. He had already passed for 920 yards (307 per game) and seven touchdowns, completing almost 70 percent of his passes. His standout performance earned him Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week Awards in two consecutive tries.
Since then, his production — and the team’s as a whole — has fallen off considerably. During the current losing streak, Banks is connecting on just 48 percent of his passes for an average of 192 yards averaging two interceptions per game.
Princeton’s defense is strong, but it can be vulnerable through the air, especially via the long ball. The Tiger’s passing defense ranks second-to-last in the league, and a couple of deep completions could be just what Banks needs to get back on the right track. The Tigers do have a strong front four, though, so Cornell’s offensive line will need to play its best to give its quarterback time to step up in the pocket and make these big plays.
Keep the Princeton Offense in Check
Princeton has been an offensive juggernaut through its first six games. The Tigers lead the Ivy League in points scored — averaging over 32 per game — and have accounted for over 400 yards of offense on three separate occasions.
The offensive attack is unique. Chad Kanoff and John Lovett share time at the quarterback position. Kanott is primarily a passer, and Lovett takes the brunt of plays designed for a runner, but each is a dual threat.
Additionally, the Tigers have two formidable running backs — Joe Rhattigan and Charlie Volker — who have each done damage against opposing defenses this season. All together, they are an extremely efficient, up-tempo offense as they have run more plays than anyone else in the league this season.
Cornell’s defense has been inconsistent all year. The unit leads only last-place Yale in total defense — allowing 420 yards per game — but has taken the ball away 15 times already and has kept the team in the game nearly every week.
The Red will be lucky to limit Princeton to 350 yards of offense, but if they can take the ball away as they have done in weeks past, they should limit the damage on the defensive side of the ball. For what it’s worth, Princeton leads the league in turnover-margin, so this will be no easy task either.