What a difference a year makes.
Last season, the Red went into its annual matchup with Colgate almost shockingly at 2-0, coming off a statement victory over Yale on homecoming. This season, the team is still looking for win number one, after two blowout losses on the road at Delaware and Yale.
It is still early, yes, but if the Red wants a shot at a respectable season, now is the time to start winning some football games. And what better way than coming home for the first of four consecutive contests at Schoellkopf Field. So here’s what Cornell must do to top Colgate Saturday afternoon.
Stop the Run
Cornell has given up an average of 284 rushing yards per game. That just won’t cut it — not even close. The Red appeared to have some answers in the first half at Yale, but a miserable second half display — in which it yielded nearly 300 yards on the ground — proved the defense still has its work cut out in that department. Stopping the run was an issue all of last season, and the clock is ticking for head coach David Archer ’05 and his staff to find answers.
Saturday, it’s all about stopping the run, especially against a team that hardly ever passes. “That’s
our number one focus this week,” senior linebacker Kurt Frimel told The Sun.
“They’re probably looking at our film, and saying, ‘man let’s go right after these guys and run the ball,’” Archer said of Colgate.
So what can they do differently? The Red is not getting off blockers or filling in gaps, and the front seven can use all the help possible. Archer mentioned the possibility of putting an extra man in the box to limit Colgate’s pair of effective runners — Alex Matthews and James Holland — and this is a good start. Regardless, stopping the run is a must for the Red.
Play a Full 60 Minutes
Final scores notwithstanding, the Red has played some solid football through two games this season. But each game featured one decent half and one total collapse — the first at Delaware and the second at Yale.
Just last week, Cornell was in position to finish the first half with a two-score lead; the final score was 49-24 Yale.
Colgate may not be a great team, but a Cornell victory will still require a full team effort for all 60 minutes of action.
“That’s definitely been a big emphasis this week,” Frimel said on putting together a full game.
“Whether it comes down to improved conditioning or more thorough mental preparedness, Archer must ensure his team is ready to play come 1:30 Saturday.”
Without a long bus ride beforehand, Cornell’s roster should be fresher when it takes the field this weekend. Who knows, maybe that will be the difference maker in this one.
Protect Dalton Banks
Junior quarterback Dalton Banks is the most important player on this team. But if things don’t start to change, and change soon, Banks won’t make it to the season’s halfway point.
The San Antonio-native has been the direct victim of an inexperienced offensive line — with just one returning starter — that has struggled to keep defenders from getting their hands on Banks.
Last weekend, he had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with an unspecified injury as Yale was getting to him seemingly play-after-play.
In 2016, Banks emerged as one of the Ivy League’s best passers, and he was an X-factor in all four of Cornell’s victories. Without proper protection in the pocket, Banks won’t be able to get in a rhythm and make the type of throws he’s proven to be capable of making.
If Cornell could run the ball at least a little better than in the past two games, it would take some pressure off Banks — both literally and figuratively. But even if junior Chris Walker cannot get anything going, improved pass protection would certainly help the team’s cause. If the squad doesn’t get its act together, we may not be talking about Dalton Banks in a couple of weeks.