To read a full recap of the loss to Delaware, click here.
NEWARK, Del. — Saturday’s game against Delaware was over before it started. Well, maybe one play after it started.
To open a 41-14 loss in the Mid-Atlantic, junior running back Chris Walker coughed up the ball on the first play of Cornell football’s 2017 season, eliminating any momentum that might have come with getting the team’s high-powered offense on the field first.
Mistakes like these are to be expected in the team’s first game of the season, especially given the quality of opponent lined up to quite literally deliver the first physical blows of 2017. But with no game experience heading into a date with a perennially tough Delaware team, those mistakes piled up fast.
Following the Walker fumble, the Red turned the ball over four more times in the first half. Junior quarterback Dalton Banks threw three interceptions to go along with one from Walker on a trick play toward the end of the opening quarter.
Cornell was lost.
“Our game speed that we are used to is an intrasquad scrimmage. Theirs is Virginia Tech,” explained head coach David Archer ’05, alluding to Delaware’s second game of the season against the then-No. 18 team in the stronger FBS division.
“These guys don’t play in the Ivy League,” Archer added. “I want to win every game, no question, but it’s not a league game, and there are certainly a lot of positive things to show.”
“They were big,” said senior linebacker and captain Kurt Frimel. “Probably one of the bigger opponents we’ll ever face, and we held our own. We even beat them at times.”
Archer was quick to take much of the blame on himself and off his guys on the field, mainly because a preseason scrimmage against Columbia fell through and there was no backup to follow. So, a matchup against a full-scholarship school like Delaware was the first taste of game action.
“Like I told the team, this one is on my shoulder,” he said. “When Columbia canceled in early July and we had no one to scrimmage, that’s what it looked like in the first half. … I’m just disappointed in myself for not having that preparation for these guys.”
Delaware, in a way, was Cornell’s Virginia Tech game — a road contest against a school with much more flexibility in recruiting and developing a program.
But perhaps the nature of the matchup is what keeps the team buzzing with confidence after the one-sided loss. Knowing the strength and ability of your opponent and not seeing any black marks on the Ivy record could very well end up being the tune-up game Cornell needs with Yale — who torched Lehigh 56-28 Saturday — next on the docket.
After all, Archer said postgame that he felt more confident an hour following the season-opening loss to Delaware this year than he did after the opening win against Bucknell last season.
And minutes after the final whistle, Banks had already forgotten about it, displaying a maturity born with a year of starting in the rearview mirror.
“I look at it as a complete fluke,” he said. “That’s not who this offense is, it’s the complete opposite identity of what we’ve been building all preseason, what we’ve been practicing all spring. We are so much better than that.
“I’m still completely certain we are going to be one of the better teams in the league this year.”