Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Cornell will open its season against VMI for the second consecutive year. Last season, the Red fell to the Keydets at home.

September 15, 2022

2022 Football Season Preview

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Cornell kicks off its 134th season of football on Saturday at Virginia Military Institute. After a 2-8 2021 campaign that represented a setback from a 4-6 performance in 2019, the Red will hope to turn things around in 2022.

The team, which was picked to finish last in the Ivy League in the pre-season poll, will be hampered by the loss of 51 seniors. While the preseason has brought uncertainty about the team’s youth and inexperience, it has also brought optimism surrounding a dynamic playmaker at quarterback in sophomore Jameson Wang.

Still, don’t expect Cornell to end its 32-year Ivy League title drought this season. The Red is dangerously thin on the offensive line and is resting its fate on mostly inexperienced players. Head coach David Archer ’05 is asking new players at various position groups to prove themselves for the first time in their college careers. Wang brings new promise to East Hill, but not enough to expect this team to compete for the league championship this season.

The result of the unprecedented roster turnover this season is a lot of unproven, inexperienced players. Reflecting on 2021, Archer indicated that he regretted “coaching with gratitude.” So many fifth-year seniors disrupted their lives to play for the Red in 2021 after losing the 2020 season to the pandemic. Archer, feeling a sense of gratitude and perhaps obligation, gave those players most of the opportunities. Now, with those players gone, it’s hard to know what to expect when Cornell puts its current roster to the test for the first time.


Cornell’s hopes on offense will largely be tied to the performance of Wang, who will get the nod for his first full season as the starting quarterback. Wang’s midseason debut last year sparked a resurgence in what had been a pedestrian Cornell offense. The then-freshman created opportunities with his legs, rushing for an average of 50 yards per game. However, Wang was less dynamic in the pocket, passing for just 43 yards per game, including four touchdowns and four interceptions.

In 2021, Wang was playing with a hurt shoulder and limited knowledge of the playbook. Now back to full health and with understanding of a completely redesigned, simpler offense, Wang and the coaching staff are confident in his ability to lead the offense.

“Obviously my greatest asset is my legs, I can extend plays really well, but I also want to show that I can sling the ball down field too, which I believe that I can do,” Wang said. “I think that I really am a true dual threat quarterback.”

The certainty and optimism that Wang provides under center will be tempered by inexperience and questions about his weapons on offense. Senior wide receiver Thomas Glover, who is returning for a fifth year after finishing second in the Ivy League with 767 receiving yards in 2021, will be the main weapon in the passing game. The bulk of the carries in the run game will go to sophomore running back Eddy Tillman, who made the most of just 17 carries his freshman year, rushing for 142 yards. Aside from Glover and Tillman, the rest of the offense will be trying to prove themselves and compete for playing time.

The biggest uncertainty on offense will be the offensive line. The lone returning starter of a group that was a strength for Cornell last season is senior left guard Joe Kelly. The four remaining starting spots will go to an inexperienced group with a concerning lack of depth. Two converted defensive linemen have spent the preseason preparing to make the switch to offensive line. With such a lack of depth in a group that will be critical to Wang’s success, the offensive line’s health will be a big factor in Cornell’s offense.

Over the offseason, Archer and the coaching staff completely redrew the playbook. The staff feels that Wang’s ability to create opportunities with his legs will give the team more flexibility than it has had in the past. Archer has completely turned over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Joe Villapiano, who will be running an offense that is designed to make things simpler for Wang.

“The first year, getting the experience to play live reps, that was [a] big experience for my role now,” Wang said. “The game really slowed down, I was able to read defenses well, I wasn’t panicking. I’m more calm and more comfortable with the offense.”


On the other side of the ball, Archer’s focus for the second-worst Ivy League defense in 2021 is on stopping the run. The centerpiece of that effort will be the linebackers, led by senior captain Jake Stebbins.

“We’ve got to stop the run. If you let them run for 200 yards, you’re going to lose the game,” Stebbins said. “We are going to have a big role in the defense and the team as a whole, but I think we’re ready for it.”

Cornell’s “make them beat us in the passing game” mentality will put a lot of faith in an inexperienced secondary that is led by senior safety Demetrius Harris.

“I feel confident in our secondary and their ability and schematics,” Stebbins said. “I feel like if we do shut down the run, I’m not worried about the passing game.

The defensive line brings a bit more experience, with seniors Max Lundeen, Wallace Squibb and Onome Kessington as well as junior Connor Morgan expected to see reps. In addition to plugging holes and stopping the run, Archer emphasized his expectation that the defensive line “play physical” and “create havoc.”


Cornell will face VMI in the season opener for the second consecutive season, this time on the road. Last year, VMI grabbed the lead with a field goal right before half and never looked back en-route to a 31-21 victory.

“They want to run a lot of plays, they want to run up tempo,” Archer said. “They’re a really good quality opponent. They’re well coached, they’re gonna play hard. I’m expecting a really tough test.”

Going on the road to start the season — the program’s first trip to the state of Virginia — provides its own challenges. Cornell can only bring 62 players to the game, forcing Archer and the coaching staff to make tough decisions about unproved players. As of Tuesday, Archer estimated that he had Saturday’s roster 90 percent finalized.

With so many inexperienced players getting their first real opportunities at the college level, Saturday’s contest will be a good opportunity to see what this team is capable of.

Prediction: Cornell 17 VMI 30