A year ago, in piercing wind and driving rain, the men of Cornell football let a comeback victory over Brown slip away. The squad trailed Brown early and used a 14-point third quarter to get back in the game and send it to overtime. But in the second period of extra time, the Red couldn’t keep up, and the Bears issued Cornell its third straight loss after a 3-0 start.
That defeat has not left the minds of Cornell 365 days after its occurrence.
“That day has been referenced more than once this week, there is no question about that,” said head coach David Archer ’05.
The goal of flipping losses like that one has helped the Red’s 2017 season earn the nickname “The Revenge Tour,” said junior linebacker Maxwell McCormick.
“Last year it came down to inches,” McCormick said. “It all comes down to preparation. We have been preparing even better for Brown this year. I think hopefully we’ll be able to close that gap and come out with a big win in front of the crowd.”
With Homecoming on Saturday, Cornell will likely play in front of the most spectators at home that it will all season. That extra attention ratchets up the team’s anticipation for the clash against the Bears.
“It’s just an energy thing that people feed off of when you have friends in town, when you have family in town and you’re kind of in the spotlight,” Archer said.
Senior captain and running back Jack Gellatly assured that while excitement levels will be high on Saturday, it’s just another Ivy League game.
“Obviously we love to ride the highs when those times come,” he said, “but we’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of all the details regardless of what else is going on in the stadium or anywhere else.”
On the field, unlike Harvard two weeks ago, Brown will likely load the box on defense. Against the Crimson, Cornell took advantage and hung up 233 rushing yards on Harvard’s defense en route to the squad’s first victory over its Cambridge rival in 12 years. The Bears’ defensive strategy calls for the Red to reshape its offensive attack once again.
“They’re going to put the whole student body in the box to try to stop the run,” Archer said.
But Gellatly was quick to point out, despite the imposing upfront attack, Cornell will not shy away from the rushing game.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure no matter how many guys they put in the box, that we can punish them with the run because that just helps the whole offense so much,” Gellatly said.
Brown will throw several different defensive looks at Cornell, trying to spark confusion on offense. With preseason FCS All-American Richard Jarvis — a defensive end Archer has said “will make Colgate’s guys look slow” — leading the way, Brown has relied on its defense to be one of the most consistent teams in the Ivy League over the past two decades, with 16 top-half conference finishes in the past 19 years.
A week after a non-conference loss to Bucknell with a depleted backfield and linebacker corps due to injury, several players will likely be healthy this week and return to the field. Gellatly and sophomore Harold Coles will return to the backfield, with junior Chris Walker questionable for the game. Senior linebacker and captain Kurt Frimel and fellow linebacker sophomore Dylan Otolski are probable for Brown, while Daniel Crochet, who last saw the field against Yale, is doubtful.
With a rejuvenated roster, the team could capture its first 2-1 Ivy League start since 2000.
“It gives everyone here a sense of life every week and a sense of drive and motivation to get this done,” McCormick said of Cornell’s ability to control its own destiny. “It’s a new exciting experience, and everyone is ready and grinding and coming together.”
With five straight Ivy games to end the season, including two against the league’s current undefeated squads, Cornell enters its most critical, and difficult, part of the 2017 campaign. Archer said the team will treat these next five weeks as one-game playoffs.
“If we can get better in October, we can be relevant in November,” he said.