Week 10 has finally arrived, and instead of the usual finale against Penn, a shaken-up Ivy schedule presents Columbia as Cornell’s final opponent. A winning record is already out of the question, but the Red will have the chance to send its 25 seniors off on a high note in front of a solid alumni presence down in New York City.
How to watch or listen:
Video with ESPN+ (subscription needed). Radio with Barry Leonard and Buck Briggs ’76 on WHCU 870 AM/97.7 FM. Online with live updates at www.cornellsun.com and on Twitter @DailySunSports.
Saturday will be the 106th meeting between New York rivals Cornell and Columbia. The Red holds the 65-37-3 edge in the matchup, but the Lions came out victorious, 18-8, the last time these two teams met to snap a 12-game win Cornell win streak.
Cornell last time out:
The Red scored the most points of any team against Dartmouth last weekend but still fell to the Green, 35-24. Dartmouth got out to a quick 21-0 lead before Cornell fought back to make the decifict just four at halftime. But the Green prevailed in the second half to send the Red to a 2-4 league record and make a winning season impossible.
Columbia last time out:
The Lions found a pick-me-up win last time out against last-place Brown in a 42-20 decision. The offense piled it on with 515 yards — 325 in the air, 190 on the ground — while holding the Bears to just 254. Brown’s scoring was limited to the first half — the Bears actually held a halftime lead.
Scouting the Lions:
The success of Columbia’s 2018 campaign, which has been a let-down from surprise title contention in 2017, has hinged mainly on the quarterbacks. Four different individuals have thrown at least 25 passes for the Lions, and a consistent presence under center has eluded the Lions. As recently as the win over Brown, wide receiver Kyle Cashner slotted in at quarterback for a few plays, going 2-for-3 for 27 yards. Both of his completions were touchdowns.
“[Columbia’s struggles show] the Ivy league is legit,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “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.”
No matter the inconsistency, Columbia’s passing offense has found more success than Cornell’s. The Lions average almost 30 more yards in the air per game than the Red. Josh Bean started the year as the starting quarterback, but after going down with an injury in week four, Dillion Davis and Ty Lenhart have seen the lion’s share of snaps at quarterback. In the past two games, it has been all Lenhart with Cashner in for some different looks. But Archer hinted Columbia may be getting some players back at quarterback this upcoming weekend.
“They like to pass the ball a little bit so I’m excited for the opportunity to make some plays and get the win,” said junior cornerback David Jones said. “I’m excited to play a little more aggressive with a [backup quarterback] that might not have as much experience as the guy they would have in there.”
On the ground, however, Columbia has struggled, averaging just 113 yards per game on the ground. On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions are in the middle of the pack in rush defense at 145 yards allowed per game but second-to-last in the secondary at 235.4 yards per game.
Cornell beats Columbia if:
… it doesn’t deviate from its gameplan despite what the stats might suggest. The Red has been most successful when junior running back Harold Coles leads the offense. Even if the Columbia secondary is its weaker link on paper, Cornell’s aerial attack has not been the cause for wins and often only turned to when things get too out of hand on the scoreboard. Feed Coles.
On defense, Cornell will need to avoid getting fooled by Columbia’s quarterback chaos. Dartmouth touts a pair of quarterbacks, both of whom gave the Red’s defense fits. Part of that was due to the absence of junior safety Jelani Taylor who lines up the defense. Regardless, Cornell’s defense, which is on the younger side, will need to finish its rocky season on a high note.
What they’re saying in Ithaca:
Archer on the season finale: “We’re all disappointed with the results but we have one more opportunity to play together as this team. 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.”
Jones on the rivalry game: “Bowl games are fun. 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.”
Junior wide receiver Dylan Otolski on getting the offense going: “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. As an offense we think we can put up a lot of points.”
Jones on sending the seniors out with a win: “We’re excited for the opportunity to go get a win, especially for the seniors. It was tough last week. We want to go off on a good note springboarding into the offseason and sending the seniors off with a win.”
What they’re saying in New York City:
Columbia head coach Al Bagnoli on quarterbacks (Columbia Daily Spectator): “I was scared to put this much pressure on a freshman quarterback so we had to increase [Castner’s] package. There was no argument. We moved forward.”
Bagnoli on depth: “The greatest thing we’ve had is flexibility, not being so hard-headed to do things that we have always done,” Bagnoli said. “It has not been that easy — it’s been draining.”
Bagnoli on recent gameplan (GoColumbiaLions.com): “We made a conscious effort this week to get Kyle more involved in the offense. We said, ‘he’s one of our most dynamic guys so we have to expand his package.’ They were forecasting rain in the weather so that was a factor. We have to generate offense the best we can and try to take some heat off our quarterback considering all of the conditions and situation involved, so we expanded his package by 4-5 plays. The pieces this week were different than last week. You try to get your best and most explosive players to touch the ball as much as you can.”
Cornell has not won in its season finale since 2013.
Fun fact about the Lions:
MGM Studios’ Lion was inspired by the Columbia mascot.