Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

The Red will suit up at Schoellkopf one last time this year.

November 16, 2023

PREVIEW: Football Ends the Season with the Empire State Bowl

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With 90 percent of the season played, football’s 2023 campaign is nearly at a close. Having lost its past three games, Cornell is not in contention for an Ivy title, and is currently trying to avoid finishing in seventh in the conference. Nevertheless, with one game left this Saturday, Nov. 18, against Columbia, the team has a chance to improve its conference record from last year by a game.

The Red (3-6, 2-4 Ivy) is coming off a 16-point loss to Dartmouth on Saturday, Nov. 11. Cornell never led in the game, and the Big Green rushed for 196 yards en route to a 30-14 win. For the third time this season, the Red did not win the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 29:10.

“It was really disappointing, but I was really proud of the effort the kids played with,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “We’re banged up, we’re playing with some different guys in different positions. It’s not ideal, but every football team deals with it, and the kids go out there and they play incredibly hard.”

The season has been disappointing for a Cornell team that had expectations of competing for a conference title. After starting the season 2-0, the Red went on a three-game skid. The team beat Brown on Oct. 21 to keep its hopes alive, but another three-game losing streak has left it at risk of regressing from last year. 

“I think in a couple of the games we’ve gotten down and had to come from behind,” Archer said. “We showed we could do it against Yale, but it’s tough to be able to do that. So we just weren’t able to execute the way we needed to in the last three games.”

The Lions (2-7, 0-6 Ivy) lost its final home game in overtime against Brown on Nov. 11. Columbia tied the game at 14 in the fourth quarter but was unable to respond to a Brown overtime touchdown, falling, 21-14.

Columbia has struggled more than any team in the conference this year. The team’s two wins came early in the season against Georgetown and Marist. Columbia is at risk of going winless in the Ivy League, which has not happened since Brown went 0-10 in 2018. The Lions’ last winless conference campaign was in 2014.

Despite its woes, Columbia has been strong on the defensive side this year, ranking second in the Ivy League in scoring defense. The Lions is holding opponents to 18.7 points per game.

“We need a spark,” Archer said. “We need to be able to hit some big plays, whether that’s in the run game or the pass game or trick plays. We need to be able to provide a spark and then execute in the red zone.”

Columbia has not had the same level of success on offense, ranking last in the conference in scoring and total offense. The Lions is fourth in rushing offense, but last in passing.

Though the game has no implications in the conference, both teams still have causes to play for. Columbia is looking to pick up a conference win to end the season and finish on a high note, while Cornell with a win can finish 3-4 in conference, improving upon a 2-5 record last year. Both teams will also have the chance to claim the trophy that comes with winning the Empire State Bowl.

“[The Ivy League] is such a competitive league on any given Saturday,” Archer said. “Here’s a chance to come play our best, for our seniors, in front of their family. A chance to finish with a better record in the Ivy League than last year, a chance to win the Empire Bowl — win a trophy — one of the trophy games over our rivals. So there’s a lot to play for and a lot that the seniors can be proud about how they’re pushing the program forward.”

Prediction: Cornell 21 Columbia 17

A home finale against Columbia is the perfect opportunity for the Red to break its losing streak. On senior day, Cornell will play with heart, as the defense will shut down Columbia’s struggling attack, and the offense will do enough to get a win.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. from Schoellkopf Field. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN+.