Cornell football — a team with no chance at the Ivy title, no chance at getting over the .500 hump and no shot at playoffs — has to find something to play for again this week.
And so this week’s motivation will be friendly faces on the road.
For the final game of a season — one that’s been a mixed bag at best — Cornell football (3-6, 2-4 Ivy) will head down to the Big Apple to take on Columbia in the Empire State Bowl. Although the Red was long ago eliminated from Ivy title contention, the team is looking forward to putting on a good show for the many Cornell alumni expected to be in attendance.
“We’re all disappointed with the results but we have one more opportunity to play together as this team,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “Down there is probably, second to the homecoming game, the best Cornell crowd we’ll get all year. The alums come out awesome in the city and it’s a great atmosphere.”
“Bowl games are fun,” added junior cornerback David Jones. “Playing in New York City with so many alumni around, football alumni especially, we’re excited to go in there and give them a good game.”
Historically, Cornell has played Penn in the final week of the season, but because of this year’s Ivy league schedule shake-up, the Red will finish up at Wien Stadium on the northern tip of Manhattan.
Columbia (5-4, 2-4 Ivy) went 5-2 in the Ivy league last year, but has struggled this year, due in part to a stable of quarterbacks plagued by injury.
“[Columbia’s struggles show] the Ivy league is legit,” Archer said. “You have to come to play every week. The champ from last year [Yale] is fighting for a winning record in the league this year. This is a way better league than when I played in it however many years ago.”
Columbia’s quarterback situation presents both challenges and opportunities for the Cornell defense. The Red might have the advantage of facing an inexperienced passer, but will not have the benefit of good film on the player.
“They like to pass the ball a little bit so I’m excited for the opportunity to make some plays and get the win,” Jones said. “I’m excited to play a little more aggressive with a [backup QB] that might not have as much experience as the guy they would have in there.”
“They’ve had so many injuries at quarterback … you really don’t know what you’re gonna get,” Archer said.
Although the Red lost last week, it managed to put 24 points on the board against a top-ranked Dartmouth defense — a sign of life from an offense that has struggled all year against tough defenses.
“We just played Dartmouth, who has the best defense in the Ivy league, and put up the most points they’ve given up all year, so we’re pretty encouraged,” said junior wide receiver Dylan Otolski. “As an offense we think we can put up a lot of points.”
If nothing else, a win this week would mean a positive end for the seniors who faced defeat in their final home game last week.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to go get a win, especially for the seniors. It was tough last week,” Jones said. “We want to go off on a good note springboarding into the offseason and sending the seniors off with a win.”