Three weeks left. Three teams tied for first in the Ivy League. Three teams one game back.
With more than half of the season in the books, the race for the Ivy League title is wide open. Cornell travels to Hanover on Saturday to battle Dartmouth, and, if Yale and Columbia both lose, the squad could potentially take sole possession of first place in the conference with two games left. The Green got out to a 5-0 start this season, knocking off then-No. 25 Holy Cross and defending co-champion Penn before short-circuiting twice in the past two weeks with losses to Columbia and Harvard by a combined eight points. If Cornell wants to stay in the title race, a victory this weekend is crucial.
Here are three keys to a Cornell win Saturday afternoon.
Keep Heneghan in the pocket
In the six weeks leading up to last Saturday’s clash between Cornell and Princeton, Tiger quarterback Chad Kanoff had totaled just 37 yards rushing on 18 attempts. In his team’s loss to the Red, Kanoff rushed five times for 27 yards and a touchdown. As the pocket broke down on Saturday night, Kanoff, who is far from a talented rusher, danced his way to first downs.
If Cornell makes the same mistakes against Dartmouth quarterback Jack Heneghan, he’ll do more damage than Kanoff did. The senior has 143 rushing yards this season, including 48 in the team’s loss to Columbia two weeks ago. He’s an agile rusher who could be a playmaker on the ground if he gets out of the pocket.
Control time of possession
In Cornell’s three Ivy wins this season, the team has held the ball for an average of almost 37 minutes a game. With the exception of the Red’s narrow possession edge over Yale, each time Cornell has loss the time of possession battle, the squad has similarly lost the game. Despite Dartmouth’s record, the Green sits at sixth in the league in minutes with possession per game, and both Columbia and Harvard held the ball more than Dartmouth did in their wins over the Green.
The Red needs to exploit Dartmouth’s weakness and hang onto the ball to pull off a victory in New Hampshire. Accomplishing this means the Red’s defense would have time to cool off between drives and Dartmouth’s offense would be forced to watch much of the game from the sidelines.
Beware the big-game hangover
Cornell has followed up its past two huge wins with losses. Earlier this year, the Red toppled Harvard for the first time in 12 years, upsetting the Crimson at home. A week later, Cornell lost to an inferior Bucknell team by eight. In 2016, the Red beat Colgate in thrilling fashion, earning its first win over a ranked team on the road since 1950. The very next week, Cornell lost to Harvard, the first of five straight losses.
Now, with a big win over Princeton in the rearview mirror, the Red has to make sure not to rest on its laurels and keep up the same level of competition from last week. Head coach David Archer ’05 and his team say they are optimistic the energy will not fade and that they are still hungry for more. That level of intensity is necessary to defeat Dartmouth on the road for the first time 2005.