Despite coming off the most successful campaign under head coach David Archer ’05, Cornell football has been selected to finish last in the Ivy League preseason poll for the third straight year.
Cornell garnered 36 points off votes from select media members — just two shy of seventh place Columbia and 16 points higher than the team’s 2016 total (20). Reigning co-champion Princeton and Harvard were selected as title favorites with 120 points each.
The Red is coming off a 4-6 season, which included a 3-0 start to the year followed by a five-game losing skid and split decisions in the final two matchups. Two of Cornell’s four wins were against Ivy rivals — a 27-13 homecoming win over Yale and 42-40 decision on the road against Columbia.
Preseason polls are not everything, though, as Cornell tied with Columbia for a sixth-place finish last year after being selected to finish last.
Archer says another last place preseason selection can help motivate the team to once again defy the destiny foreseen by voters.
“After that vote it’s meaningless as soon as the ball goes in the air,” he said in a league-wide preseason teleconference Tuesday. “It is something that will motivate a lot of guys on our team to go out and prove people wrong. We will certainly use that to our advantage.
“I think I have a group of guys that know winning is well within their grasp and they want to take it.”
While the team has increased its preseason stock since before the 2016 season, the blossoming of quarterback Dalton Banks and running back Chris Walker — both entering their junior years — was not enough to propel the team out of the basement. The duo helped give Cornell the fourth-highest scoring offense in the Ivy League last year, while the defense lagged behind at No. 7.
Cornell has also lost several key players to graduation. Most notably, Jackson Weber at linebacker; Ben Rogers and Marshall Deutz at receiver; Matt Sullivan at tight end; and Chris Fraser at punter have all departed from the program.
Archer acknowledged the gaps the graduates leave, adding that other positions are also up for grabs in preseason camp.
“There are holes certainly to fill due to graduation and some positions that are going to really need to be shored up at training camp,” Archer said. “But [we’re] just excited to get going and take another step with this program that we are building in Ithaca.”
Cornell will, however, be aided by the return of two-time captain Miles Norris for his final year of eligibility after sitting out the 2016 year due to a preseason injury, along with rising senior safety Nick Gesualdi — a unanimous All-Ivy first-team selection and third-team Associated Press FCS All-American last season — among others.
Rounding out the rest of the media poll is reigning co-champion Penn in third with five first-place votes, Yale in fourth, Dartmouth in fifth, Brown in sixth with a single first-place vote and Columbia in seventh.
Cornell’s season kicks off Sept. 16 on the road in the program’s first matchup with Delaware.
News Around the League
Yale head coach Tony Reno announced that rising sophomore Kurt Rawlings will start at quarterback for the Bulldogs. Rawlings had five touchdowns and two interceptions in four games last season.
Offensive weapon John Lovett of Princeton will miss part of the 2017 season due to injury, head coach Bob Surace announced Tuesday. Surace said Lovett played with an injury throughout last season, but underwent a successful surgery ahead of the upcoming year.
Lovett is a reigning All-American and Bushnell Cup recipient, which goes to a player voted on by coaches as displaying “outstanding qualities of leadership, competitive spirit, contribution to the team, and accomplishments on the field.” He accounted for seven touchdowns in Princeton’s 56-7 win over Cornell last season.
Ivy Rules Changes
Early in the coach’s teleconference Tuesday, Jim Maconaghy, coordinator of football officials, laid out a few rules changes the league will adopt in the 2017 season.
First, no defensive player who runs forward from beyond the neutral zone may leap or hurdle in an obvious attempt to block a field goal try.
Second, illegal horse-collar tackles will extend beyond just grabbing the shoulder pads and include takedowns by back of the jersey around the nameplate area.
And third, if a coach enters the field of play to protest a call, his team can be assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Any additional infractions will result in the coach being ejected from the contest.