Cornell football’s offense was finally firing on all cylinders last week thanks to a big day on the ground. If the Red wants to replicate those results this week and pick up its second win, it will have to do so against Harvard’s highly touted defense.
After 263 rushing yards from six different players in the win over Sacred Heart, Cornell believes it is up for the challenge.
And luckily for the Red, a shaken-up Ivy schedule has resulted in the Crimson having to make the long trek back to Ithaca, the same field on which Cornell shocked Harvard last year for its first win over its rival in 12 years.
Cornell will host the Crimson this Saturday in each team’s second Ivy contest of the season. For the Red, a win is crucial to keep hopes of a title alive: no team has won or shared an Ivy crown with two or more losses since 1982, and Cornell is already 0-1 in conference play after its homecoming loss to Yale. Harvard will come to Schoellkopf looking to impose their will on the Red’s offense and move to 2-0 in the Ancient Eight..
“They’re playing really good football,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “Their defense is really aggressive, and they have a lot of playmakers on offense.”
Harvard fell short last week against No. 20/22 Rhode Island for its first loss but ceded only 25 yards on the ground. The week before, in a victory against Brown, the Crimson let up an equally stingy 32 yards rushing.
“They just attack … they have two really powerful kids in the middle at defensive line, and they have a mic linebacker that diagnoses and reads the play well,” Archer said of Harvard’s defense.
Cornell’s experienced offensive line, which returns all starters from last season, has been heralded by Cornell’s backs and coaches as the key to the team’s success on the ground. Running the football was key in Cornell’s upset win over the Crimson last year — the Red rushed for 233 yards. The offensive is looking forward to dancing with Harvard’s run-stoppers.
“They like to run base defense so bringing them in here locking the gate and getting ready to roll will be nice,” said senior left tackle Henry Stillwell.
The run-first approach will be especially prevalent as the Red is without junior wide receiver Davy Lizana and junior tight end John Fitzgerald, who both suffered season-ending injuries against Yale. Senior running back Chris Walker is also out.
According to Archer, this is a better Harvard team than the one the Red beat 17-14 in last year’s meeting. Harvard’s offense features a number of weapons including All-Ivy running back Charlie Booker, who is set to make his season debut Saturday. The Crimson also touts All-American wideout and kick-returner Justice Shelton-Mosley
“It looks like a four-headed monster we’re going to have to shut down,” Archer said of Harvard’s depth at running back.
The Red defense that provided the spark with three turnovers in last week’s win over Sacred Heart is hungry for more this week.
“We had two picks and a strip-sack from defensive backs,” said senior linebacker Reis Seggebruch. “Hopefully we can get some big hits this week.”
Cornell will enjoy a second straight year of home field advantage against Harvard, a unique opportunity offered by this year’s schedule restructuring.
“I feel like they don’t want to come here knowing what happened last year and it’s a long trip for them,” Seggebruch said.
“Kicking their butt and running all over them last year felt really good, and hopefully we can do it again,” Stillwell said.
Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Schoellkopf Field.