Cornell football is set for its Homecoming contest and first home game of the 2018 season at 3 p.m. Saturday against defending Ivy League champion Yale. The Red will aim to kick off its conference season with a win, hoping to improve upon its 3-4 league record last year.
Yale leads the all-time series with a 48-30-2 mark. The Red and Bulldogs first met in 1889. Yale has won 12 of the last 17 contests. Last season, Cornell played a strong first half but the Bulldogs ran away in the second half with a 49-24 victory.
Cornell last time out:
The Red lost, 27-10, on the road against Delaware last weekend. A noble defensive effort couldn’t make up for an offense that failed to get much done against the Blue Hens.
Yale last time out:
After taking an early 21-0 lead in its opener against Holy Cross, Yale surrendered a lead and lost to the Crusaders in overtime, 31-28, and allowed the game’s final 17 points. Star sophomore running back Zane Dudek ran for 217 yards.
Scouting the Bulldogs:
After a tough non-conference week one opponent in Delaware, things won’t get any easier for the Red. Yale is fresh off a 9-1 season in which it established itself as the best team in the Ancient Eight. Quarterback Kurt Rawlings returns along with Dudek, and the Bulldogs — No. 1 in the preseason Ivy polls — had the best defense in the league last season, surrendering just 15.6 points per game.
Senior defensive lineman Jordan Landsman on Dudek: “He’s a playmaker. The guy can move, the guy can run, he can catch, he can cut. It’s important to get a hit on him, don’t let him bounce off, make sure you meet him at the line because if he gets open space he’s going to take advantage of it.”
Head coach David Archer ’05 on preparing to face Dudek: “We worked a lot on our pursuit angles. He’s a really elusive runner. He really sets up his runs really well not only at the line of scrimmage, but [when] next level defenders … come in, he’ll kind of dip into the B or C gap, and once he has the defender committed he bounces to the outside. He’s got great lateral quickness.”
Cornell beats Yale if:
… it can contain Dudek and create an effective running game of its own. Dudek ran all over the Red in week two last season as the Red allowed 297 second-half rushing yards in the loss. The sophomore and 2017 league rookie of the year seems to have picked up where he left off to start the 2018 season. If Cornell can stop Dudek, especially on first and second down, it can prevent Yale from piling up points. If the Red gets behind by more than a touchdown early, it could be a long afternoon of the Zane Dudek show.
Offensively, the Red struggled last week in part because of its inability to establish the run. If running backs Chris Walker and Harold Coles can get on a roll, it will open up the passing game for quarterbacks Dalton Banks, Richie Kenney and Mike Catanese and allow Cornell to pick up first downs and sustain drives — something it could only do last week on its first and last series of the game.
Yale was the Ivy League’s best on the running game on both sides of the ball last season, out-rushing opponents 216.8-73.1 yards per game on average. Running close to even with the reigning champions is the Red’s key to victory.
What they’re saying in Ithaca:
Archer on his quarterbacks and running backs: “I think maybe the reps will change. I think it’s important to get a little more rhythm established with guys that are playing better and maybe playing better during that practice week to kind of get them in there for longer chunks … I think it was a good week one non-league game plan but certainly different looking forward to a home league game … [At running back] you’re probably going to see whoever we thought was doing better for us or had a better week of practice and try to get them established [into a rhythm] … probably less names, more touches on Saturday.”
Landsman on the defensive gameplan: “A bit of switch-up gameplan wise for us knowing what they can do and now knowing how much of a threat [Dudek] is … we’re bringing it, we’re going to match what they got with some new stuff that we didn’t show them last year.”
Walker on the start of the Ivy season: “[A win] would be huge. That’s the only mindset we have, we kind of expect to get the [win]. In previous years we weren’t really competitive, it’s not really like that anymore.”
What they’re saying in New Haven:
“I felt from day one that we needed to get punched in the face,” head coach Tony Reno said, according to the Yale Daily News, about his team’s loss to Holy Cross. “I wanted us to get punched, we did, and to be honest, I’m pretty happy we did … when you go in with a young team coming off a championship season, you’re hoping that you get humbled a little bit. We did.”
Linebacker Ryan Burke: “[Against Holy Cross] I think we had a lot of bright spots. Our offense moved the ball all day, and the defense stepped up when we needed it. It’s the little steps that we needed to clean up. The first [conference] game is huge … so we’re going to have to come out with our ‘A’ game.”
Cornell defensive lineman William Baker was poked in the eye and left the Delaware game in the second quarter. Archer said on Tuesday that it “looks bad, but he can see.” Junior running back Harold Coles is day-to-day.
Senior running back Chris Walker, who went down late last season with an ACL tear and saw limited action at Delaware, said he feels 100 percent. Archer and Walker both said they expect the tailback to see more action Saturday than he did last week. The senior added that he hasn’t had a “slowdown.”
Fun fact about the Bulldogs:
Yale’s 890 all-time wins are second-most in college football history, trailing only the University of Michigan of the Big Ten Conference, whose football prowess has outpaced Yale’s in the decades since the 1890s.