Ivy League football teams opt out of any form of postseason play, and luckily for Cornell, Delaware is not in the Ivy League. So other than a certain degree of embarrassment in Saturday’s 41-14 loss at the hands of the Blue Hens, the game really didn’t mean very much.
After another week of preparation, Cornell gets a second chance to get off on the right foot Saturday afternoon at Yale, and this one counts. The Red knocked off Yale last season during homecoming, and another statement victory over the Bulldogs — this time at the historic Yale Bowl — would go a long way. With over 300 yards passing and four touchdowns, Yale’s new quarterback, Kurt Rawlings, is one of many standing in the way of a confident and hungry Cornell team.
Here are three keys to victory for the Red at Yale.
Pressure Yale’s Quarterback
In just his fourth collegiate start, Rawlings torched Lehigh this past weekend, an impressive feat at the hands of last year’s Patriot League Champions. The Bulldogs won the game 56-28, and Rawlings earned Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors after completing 20 of 26 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns.
“When they came here last year they had some real question marks at quarterback, and obviously now they’ve found him with Rawlings,” said head coach David Archer ’05.
Only a sophomore, Rawlings looked poised in the pocket and found open receivers all day long. If Cornell wants to beat Yale, it must start by keeping Rawlings in check. The best way to accomplish this is to pressure him — forcing quick decisions and ultimately, mistakes.
Cornell’s defensive line was one of the bright spots that emerged in Delaware, and the group should have an even easier time against Yale’s front five — a smaller, less physical unit than that of Delaware. Yale’s pass-first offense should allow the Red to get in Rawlings’s face and put him on his back every so often. If sophomores Jordan Landsman and William Baker keep up the good work at defensive end and get in the opposing quarterback’s head, Cornell should be in position to limit his, and Yale offense’s, production.
Limiting mistakes is always important, but it is especially so this coming week after the debacle that was the first half last Saturday. The Red turned the ball over five times in the first two quarters and buried itself before the first 30 minutes were in the books. Junior running back Chris Walker fumbled on the opening play and threw an interception (on a failed trick play), and fellow junior quarterback Dalton Banks threw three picks in the half.
Archer put most of those mistakes on himself — first game jitters, lack of preparation, etcetera — but if Cornell makes those mistakes in the opening portion of this weekend’s game, it will once again be over before halftime.
“We’ve got to take care of the football,” Archer said.
Sure, some takeaways would be nice, but the Red should first focus on protecting the football and not giving the game away.
Slow the Game Down
Anytime you play against an explosive offense, it’s tempting to try and keep up with the opposing team’s pace, especially when trailing early. Unlike Delaware, Yale plays very quickly, and they amass a ton of yards — 566 yards of total offense last Saturday, to be exact. They scored 56 points to Lehigh’s 28 and still lost the time of possession battle.
If Yale comes out of the gate with an early score or two, Archer likely will turn to Banks to get the Red back in the game, abandoning the ground attack. But this would only help Yale. Cornell’s offense has plenty of potential, but until it proves that ability on the field, it remains prone to three-and-outs that will put an already-tired defense right back out on the field. The Red should focus either on establishing the run or loading up on screens and short passes to keep the chains moving and the clock running too. Banks and Walker need to protect the ball better this time around, but if they do, they should be able to lead this offense on some scoring drives.
It may not be the sexiest way to play, but slowing the game down on offense should slow Rawlings down too and limit his ability to find a constant rhythm, giving the Red its best shot at the W.