Cornell football is now 0-2 on the season after falling to the Yale Bulldogs, despite some late game heroics by senior-backup quarterback Ben Mays. After scoring two touchdowns in the final 75 seconds of the game, the Red finished trailing 23-17 in their first conference game since the reinstatement of Ivy League athletics.
Now with sights on the Bucknell Bison this Saturday, two main questions remain heading into the game: Who will be starting at quarterback and how can Cornell seal its first win of the season?
In last week’s matchup, the offense struggled, turning the ball over. Starting fifth-year quarterback Richie Kenney threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in the contest, finishing with a completion percentage below 48 percent for the second consecutive week.
Kenney was benched in favor of Mays, who in his first possession with over four minutes remaining capped off an 80-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown to fifth-year wide receiver Alex Kuzy. The celebration, however, would be short lived.
“It was the most unfortunate circumstance to have my first touchdown because we were still losing,” Kuzy said. “I couldn’t really celebrate. I felt like it didn’t really help us as much as I would have hoped.”
Then only trailing 16-10, the Red attempted an onside kick, only to have it returned for a touchdown. One final drive led by Mays ended with a Cornell touchdown and a final score of 23-17.
“We have not even scratched the surface of our potential,” Kuzy said when asked about the state of the offense. “We’ve played like garbage in my opinion. Our defense has played really well. They’re looking good. Our offense is what’s been holding us up and hopefully this week we can turn it around.”
The committee of running backs showed promise, with fifth-year SK Howard and senior Devon Brewer each posting over 4.5 yards-per-carry, while senior Delonte Harrell got into the end zone for a touchdown. The team is hoping that this production can continue to exploit Bucknell’s defense and offer a different dimension of playmaking on the field.
Defensively, the Red held Yale in check to ensure that the game was close throughout. However, missed opportunities at turnovers proved costly. Overall this season, the defense has posted nine pass-breakups and two forced fumbles, but only has one turnover to show for their efforts.
“Those can be some big moments for us in the game,” said fifth-year cornerback Kenan Clarke. “We’re tired of missing out on those opportunities and ready to capitalize going forward.”
Bucknell’s offense has only posted nine points across three games this season, losing by at least three scores in each of their outings to cement an 0-3 record. Last weekend they enjoyed a bye week to retune their problems. So long as their offensive struggles continue, the Red has an opportunity to solidify their problems with turnover differential.
Still, there is no such thing as a guaranteed outcome in football, and Head Coach David Archer ’05 has been making sure to be as prepared as possible to secure his first win of the season.
“We haven’t played these guys in a couple of years,” Archer said. “I’ll be interested to see what they come out of their bye week with. If they stay with what I have seen on tape, they want to be like Yale in the sense of running the ball to set up a play action pass.”
Archer is hoping to use the Red’s strong front seven to take away Bucknell’s run game, put up points and make them throw the ball. That way Cornell can get their opponents out of rhythm early.
Winning this week’s matchup is critical in getting the team back on track. A good win over Bucknell can potentially change the momentum heading into the rest of the season.
“We have a lot to prove to ourselves. We did not expect to be 0-2,” Archer said. “Saturday was a game we should have won and that’s on me that we didn’t … There’s a lot of people that care, alumni care, students care, but nobody’s gonna care more than the coaches and the kids.”
With game plans constantly changing and personnel changes at key positions becoming a real possibility, Archer is weighing how to turn around his team to face Bucknell as well as the remainder of their opponents.
The Red will face the Bison at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium on Saturday — kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.