Last weekend couldn’t have been more different for the Yale and Cornell football teams.
While the Big Red were mauled, surrendering 41 points in a blowout loss at Wagner, the Bulldogs, behind running back Alex Thomas ’12 and quarterback Patrick Witt ’12, triumphed in a 40–35 last-second, gut-wrenching Yale win over Georgetown. On Saturday, the two teams meet in Ithaca to begin their Ivy League schedules.
Yale lost a defensive struggle at the Bowl in the teams’ matchup last season but the Elis have got to like their chances in this year’s game: Not only is Thomas hitting his stride in terms of production, but Cornell allowed two 100-yard rushers last week and turned the ball over three times, while letting Wagner quarterback Nick Doscher burn their secondary at a rate of 20.6 yards per attempt.
Witt will lead the Eli offense at Schoellkopf Field, with hopes of having another prolific passing game. Last week Witt dissected Georgetown’s defense for 407 yards through the air, topping it off with the game-winning quarterback sneak from a yard out as time expired.
The last time these teams met, head coach Tom Williams was hoping to get a win in his first home game as head coach. For the most part, the game was a defensive stalemate. Cornell punter Drew Alston set a Cornell record with 15 punts, as the leading rusher for the Big Red ran for 33 yards.
That victory was the Big Red’s last. Cornell has lost nine straight since.
Yale has the offensive weapons to keep most defenses off-balance, but judging by Cornell’s recent performances, the Bulldogs have a clear advantage in most phases of the game. In its loss to Wagner, Cornell didn’t seem to have the push on the offensive line needed to get pressure on the quarterback on passing downs, potentially setting the stage for another big day from Witt.
Aside from the few glimpses of playmaking potential (on behalf of forced turnovers on Jordan Haynes ’12 and Will McHale ’13), both defensive units should come into this game with something to prove. Even though Witt had a prolific performance, which earned him Ivy League co-Offensive Player of the Week honors, against the Hoyas last week, the 443 yards of offense the Elis defense allowed cannot be simply ignored.
Other areas of concern for the Bulldogs include special teams, a department that almost cost them last week’s game. Against Georgetown, Yale return man Chris Smith ’13 managed 101 yards on five kickoff returns, while his Georgetown counterparts Dalen Claytor and Jeremy Moore countered with 206 yards and a touchdown on six returns.
Additionally, two Yale field goals and an extra point were blocked, making the final 67-yard drive and Witt’s heroics necessary to start the season 1–0.
The Bulldogs leave for Ithaca Friday and will stop at West Point to tour of the campus and practice there.
Kickoff is slated for Saturday at 12:30 at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field.