After two weeks away from Ithaca, Cornell football is finally coming home to Schoellkopf Field. The Red will face Georgetown in its Homecoming game on Saturday, hoping to move its current 1-1 record in the right direction before taking a second shot at picking up an Ivy League win.
Historically, Georgetown has been a punching bag for the Ivy League, serving as a nice early-season cupcake for Ancient Eight squads to warm up for conference play. But the Hoyas are fresh off a 24-10 road win over Columbia, proving that this Homecoming contest will be no gimme.
When Cornell met Georgetown in 2005 and 2007, the Hoyas provided the Red easy wins — 57-7 and 45-7, respectively. But this year’s Georgetown team figures to make the 500th game played under Schoellkopf’s crescent a tighter affair.
“They’re scoring a bunch, their defense is really fast and physical,” said head coach David Archer ’05, later adding: “I think they’re going to be a really great top quality opponent.”
After a season-opening loss to Davidson, Georgetown has won three straight games in dominant fashion, outscoring opponents 136-13. The Hoyas annihilated Marist, Cornell’s week one opponent, 43-3 on Sept. 7. In last week’s win over Columbia, the Georgetown defense recorded three interceptions.
The story for Cornell through two weeks has been an impressive defense and a lackluster offense: The Red suffocated Marist’s running game in a season-opening win before holding Yale’s playmakers in check in a loss at the Yale Bowl.
“I think what has been different [for the defense] has just been devised through this offseason and this past spring, really come together as a unit and really trust each other to make plays,” said senior linebacker Mo Bradford.
Meanwhile, a Cornell offense led by senior running back Harold Coles has struggled. Senior quarterback Mike Catanese led the way in week one but missed the Yale game with an injury. In Catanese’s place, junior Richie Kenney threw four interceptions, including a momentum-shifting pick-six that erased Cornell’s lead.
Archer said six major problems offensively — two stalled red zone drives and four giveaways — kept the Red from knocking off the preseason Ivy favorite Bulldogs.
“I feel like we were the better team, we gave it to them,” Archer said of the game at Yale.
Being in front of the Homecoming crowd — what will be the Red’s largest crowd of the year — gives Cornell an opportunity to show it can reverse its recent trend of losing seasons. Before the season, Archer said he had totally revamped the team’s approach. This is the first chance to showcase it all — “hybrid warfare,” a defensive stack and more — at home.
“Our first home game is Homecoming, so [it’s exciting to] get a chance to show everybody what we are about this year,” said sophomore running back Delonte Harrell, who had two touchdown in the loss to Yale.
Cornell’s defense will look to replicate its strong performances from weeks one and two. The Red held Marist to just two rushing yards in a dominant week one performance, bailing out a rusty offense. At Yale, the defense only surrendered 13 of Yale’s 27 points — and the touchdown it allowed came on a short field.
“Defensively, I thought, I thought we were schematically really good,” Archer said of the game at Yale. “And I thought our communication was really good. And I thought we were tough as nails … especially on those short yardage [situations].”
Cornell’s offense will face a tough non-conference test — the Hoyas have been strong defensively through four weeks, ranking first nationally in pass efficiency defense (96.63) and turnover margin (+2.25) and second in scoring defense (10.0 points per game).
Saturday’s matchup is Cornell’s second of three nonconference games on its schedule, and ushers in a tough stretch of games — after Georgetown, the Red faces Harvard, reigning Patriot League champion Colgate and Brown before four more Ivy League games to end the season.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Schoellkopf Field.