If the football team had wanted to do everything in its power to reverse last year’s outcome against San Diego, it wants nothing more than to repeat its 2005 rout of Cornell this Saturday when it travels to Ithaca.
The Bulldogs (0-1) tied two school records when the Big Red (0-1) visited town last season, with Jeff Mroz ’06 throwing five touchdown passes and wideout Ashley Wright ’07 catching three of them, as the Elis cruised to a 37-17 victory. The Bulldogs’ defense was equally effective in that game, generating three turnovers and recording three sacks.
But with a new year comes new challenges, and the Elis know that no game in the Ivy League is an easy one. The Big Red, who in a preseason poll were picked to finish fourth — just ahead of the Elis — is also coming off a disappointing season-opening loss to a non-conference opponent and are anxious to begin Ancient Eight play.
“Cornell looked similar to us on tape,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “The team that has the best week of practice and improves the most from week one to week two will win the game.”
Players said they have recognized the need for improvement this week and have had a very solid week of practice in preparation for this weekend.
“This week has been a particularly strong week of practice,” defensive lineman Brandt Hollander ’08 said. “Everyone seems very focused, and there is a clear sense of urgency as the team is preparing to win.”
A further examination of the Big Red reveals several striking similarities between them and the Elis. Both teams power their offense through an exciting running back and a relatively inexperienced, but mobile quarterback behind a senior-laden offensive line. First team All-Ivy running back Luke Siwula averaged over 100 yards per game last season on his way to a team-high 1086 yards in 2005. Last week, the junior standout ran for 105 yards on just 13 carries.
A Bulldogs defense that gave up 43 points and 567 yards of total offense against San Diego knows it must step up if the Elis are going to be successful.
“We really need to focus on tackling better this week,” safety Larry Abare ’09 said. “We need to make the plays when we have the opportunity to do so and play hard and smart, knowing what they might do by formation.”
Although the Big Red has a varied offensive scheme, its bread and butter comes on two very simple running plays, the dive and power. Cornell ran those plays over 20 times combined against Bucknell last week.
“We must be able to contain Siwula on [the dive and power],” Siedlecki said. “He runs them well, and they block them well.”
Like Matt Polhemus ’08, Cornell quarterback Nathan Ford made his first varsity start last week. He threw for 202 yards and rushed for 74 more on just 10 carries. Ford did see significant action against Yale last season, when he recorded a then-career best 112 yards on 10-for-17 passing.
With the Ivy League title very much an objective this season, the Bulldogs must work out last week’s kinks and perform at a high level against Cornell to keep their goal intact.
“Last year, we were able to generate a lot of turnovers defensively, and our offense was able to run and pass to put up a lot of points,” Hollander said. “Hopefully we’ll find that kind of balance again this year.”