Cornell football’s 2019 season gets underway at Marist on Sept. 21. Here are a few thoughts and mini storylines to follow as the Red seeks its first winning season since head coach David Archer ’05 was a senior playing at Schoellkopf Field:
Archer said he spent the offseason totally revamping his team’s schemes, reflecting on what has prevented his team from winning in the past and establishing a “player cabinet” of leaders to bolster communication.
“[We’re] really [reinventing] the way we’re doing things: We’re running a different scheme on offense, we’re on a different defense. The theme is going to be like a hybrid warfare approach, right? So conventional methods mixed with unconventional methods … attacking thought processes and beliefs, while you’re also attacking the weaknesses where [opponents] line up.”
“I felt like my approach was ‘Hey, I’m going to recruit the best players, I’m gonna develop them, I’m gonna run really sound schemes, and we’re gonna beat people. And looking back on it, I don’t think I gave us a good enough of a chance, schematically. And so trying to really open up the bag of tricks, if you will, and be really creative with what we’re doing.”
“I don’t think I had enough schematic answers for us late in the season. Right, we finished in 2017, 0-3, 2018 finished 0-4. I think once we put too much stuff on film, I didn’t give our team enough of a chance. I didn’t have a good curveball … off my fastball.”
McClurge’s move to offense
Junior Phazione McClurge, who committed to Cornell after nearly joining national powerhouse North Dakota State, played his first two seasons at cornerback. But McClurge is one of the first players Archer listed when asked about playmakers on offense. The Chicago native is listed at wide receiver this season. Archer said McClurge might play corner in a defensive “package” but will be primarily an offensive player.
“He was absolutely insistent on it. ‘Coach, let me try receiver, coach, let me try receiver.’ I was like ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ And then in the offseason, I was like ‘hey, let me listen, let me try it out.’ He had a couple [of] injuries the spring so we didn’t really get a good answer on it. And then he was dynamic in the first couple practices at training camp as a receiver so it was like, he was ready.”
Ivy League outlook
Archer said “yes and no” about whether there’s added confidence given that two of his team’s Ivy losses were close games. The tough nature of the Ivy League is what led him to spend the offseason changing up his plans of attack.
“It’s a winner-take-all league, right? Like, there’s no blinking. This isn’t like Ivy basketball, where you can finish in the top half and go to the tournament. You’re the champion [or] you’re not. And obviously, it’s better to win more than lose more. But I think what that caused me to do was … take a look at what I was doing and say, ‘wait a minute, there must be a different way or better way to do this, because it’s not getting the results I want. It’s not getting the results that are representative of the work that the kids put in, or the coaches put in.’”
Looking ahead to week 7
After a 66-0 embarrassment at the hands of Princeton last year, Cornell gets its 2019 shot at the Tigers on Nov. 1, a Friday night clash on ESPNU.
“I’m trying to take the approach of like, hey, let’s play our best, let’s go 1-0 each week, but oh, yeah. Anytime you can play a Friday night game at home, on national TV, definitely circle that one.”
Archer and his wife welcomed their son, Rhys Davidson Archer, earlier this year. Rhys weighed under six pounds when born, but now appears to be following in his dad’s footsteps.
“I thought, ‘oh my gosh, I had a chance for a skill [position] kid, right?’ He’s now like 18 pounds. My guy, he’s a lineman, there’s no doubt about it.”