Leilani Burke/Sun Staff Photographer

The Red is getting ready to take on No. 19 Harvard.

October 5, 2023

PREVIEW: Football Kicks off Fall Break on the Road Against Harvard

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Coming off its first loss of the season, football will look to bounce back this Friday, Oct. 6, when it travels to Cambridge, Massachusetts to take on No. 19 Harvard. This is the first  — and likely only — time the Red will face a ranked opponent this year, and it will be another major test of whether Cornell can contend in the Ivy League.

The Red (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) fell for the first time this year against Colgate this past Saturday, Sept. 30. Playing on Homecoming in front of a full Schoellkopf crowd, Cornell carried a lead for the first three quarters before allowing 21 points in the final 15 minutes and seeing the game slip away. 

“You’ve got to go on to the next,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “We take the stuff that is applicable to move on, and move on.”

The Red has an opportunity to take an early lead in the Ivy League with a win on Saturday. Cornell has not won its first two conference games of the season since 2000.

The Crimson (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) had one of the biggest wins in recent program memory this past week. Harvard went on the road against No. 12 Holy Cross (No. 5 in last week’s rankings) and won a convincing 38-28 game. 

“Harvard has a ton of weapons,” Archer said. “They’re incredibly stout defensively, but we just need to focus on us.”

The Crimson never trailed in the contest and snapped the Crusaders’ 19-game regular-season winning streak against nonconference teams. Harvard is now one of three remaining undefeated teams in FCS.

Harvard is led on offense by dual-threat quarterback Charles DePrima. DePrima has passed for 446 yards and rushed for 300 and is a big part of a Crimson offense, which leads the Ivy League in rushing at 241.7 yards per game. This will be a major factor against a Cornell defense, which struggled against Colgate’s rushing attack.

“We’ve got to be better in the open field and we’ve got to create some negative plays,” Archer said.

On defense, Harvard is led by defensive lineman Thor Griffith, who was named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl watch list, and defensive back AJ Lopez, who was just named the FCS National Defensive Player of the Week. The Crimson lead the Ivy League in interceptions with five.

“These guys are awesome — they’re really, really good,” Archer said. “They’re playing more defense than they have in the past traditionally… playing multiple three down front, four down front, man, zone. They’re excellent, so we’ve got to make sure we don’t hurt ourselves, take care of the football and attack what we believe their weaknesses are.”

This is not the first time this year the Red has faced a major test on the road — and Cornell has already answered the call once in its 23-21 win over Yale. Nevertheless, through three games Harvard has emerged at the top of the pack in the Ivy League, and it will take a full team effort for the Red to pull off a win in Cambridge.

Prediction: Harvard 35 Cornell 24

Cornell’s run defense was suspect against Colgate, and Harvard’s run game will allow it to control the ball and keep the pressure on the Red for a full 60 minutes. The Red has shown its ability to hang with anyone through three games, but with Harvard playing at an elite level on both sides of the ball, this matchup on the road will prove too much to overcome. 

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. from Harvard Stadium. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN2.