The five-hour bus ride to upstate New York will give the football team the perfect opportunity to get mentally ready for a game that actually matters.
This Saturday, the Bulldogs (1-0) take on Cornell (0-1) in both team’s first league game of the season. For the second weekend in a row, the Elis will be away, this time on the turf at Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y.
While the Bulldogs come into this contest with a win under their belts, the Big Red has to deal with its first loss under new head coach Jim Knowles. Cornell fell to Bucknell 15-9 last weekend. Although the Elis beat the Big Red by two touchdowns in 2003, the Big Red’s home-field advantage and physical-style of play will be a challenge. At home, Cornell has a 13-13-2 series record versus the Bulldogs.
“[Knowles] has got them playing hard,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “That’s a sign of a team that has bought into the new coaching staff and new philosophy.”
Yale tight end Alex Faherty ’05, who blocked well with the offensive line against Dayton last weekend, said the Big Red match up with the Elis more evenly up front.
“We are working on spreading out our options,” Faherty said. “If we run a balanced attack, we will keep them off balance.”
Faherty is stepping into the vacancy left by last season’s starting tight end Nate Lawrie ’04, who is now on the practice squad of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Last Saturday, Faherty only had one reception for five yards. Although he will not be the main option like Lawrie was, he will be a viable third option, Faherty said.
“I’ve got the speed so hopefully I can use that to my advantage,” Faherty said. “I’ll be running outside a lot using my speed down the field. I think as the season goes on, I will get the ball thrown my way more.”
Faherty aside, the aerial attack was somewhat lacking last week for the Bulldogs. Against Dayton, quarterback Alvin Cowan ’05 had one of his least productive games. Cowan threw for 173 yards and had -3 yards net rushing, both of which are career lows.
Even though Cowan was not quite himself, his numbers still match up fairly closely with the Big Red’s signal caller D.J. Busch, who made the Ivy Honor Roll this week with 19-of-38 completions for 193 yards. While Busch may have thrown for more yards last week, Cowan had a better average of 12.6 yards per pass. Cowan also threw for two touchdowns while Busch had none.
For offensive strength, the Elis will also be turning to their depth in the backfield. Rob Carr ’05, who also made the Ivy Honor Roll this week, has 172 yards off of 37 carries so far. Jordan Spence ’07 backs Carr up with 28 yards. As pleased as Siedlecki may be with his running game, he said he is not sure if he wants Carr to rush 37 times each week.
“There is no question that [Spence] will be in the game plan more this week,” Siedlecki said.
In order for this balanced attack to be functional, the offensive line needs to do the same job it did at Dayton. Right guard Tony Bellino ’05 said that he watches a lot of game film and visualizes the blocks he needs to make in order to get ready.
“I think we protected the quarterback really well last week,” Bellino said. “We have had another full week to practice as a unit and help us get better.”
One thing that the offense might need to watch out for is Joel Sussman, this week’s Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week. Sussman, a sometimes linebacker and sometimes safety in the 4-4 set, blocked two field goal attempts last weekend and led the Big Red in tackles with nine. Because of the Eli spread offense he will probably be lined up in the secondary, Siedlecki said.
Placekicker Andrew Sullivan ’05 said Sussman does not bother him.
“When you start trying to change things, you make mistakes,” Sullivan said. “At the end of the day, I am going to make the same kick I always make. I am going to keep my head down and take it one kick at a time.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs will be out to knock helmets with the Big Red offensive line, which did not allow any sacks last weekend against Bucknell. Defensive end Brandon Etheridge ’07 said this is a huge motivation for the Elis.
“We at least want to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback and make sure that he doesn’t have all the time in the world to throw the ball,” Etheridge said. “We will run a lot of blitzes and utilize our speed to knock the QB around.”
Yale’s cornerbacks — including Andrew Butler ’06 and Fred Jelks ’05 — will also be looking to stop Busch from connecting with his deep corps of wide outs. Busch managed to connect with seven receivers throughout the game and is described by Knowles as having a “big league arm.”
Knowles said although the team lost to Bucknell they played four quarters of solid football.
“Our biggest job is to get Cornell football back on its feet,” Knowles said. “It’s going to take a lot of physical and mental toughness.”
If the Big Red plays with this kind of determination, the Bulldogs will have to play with the same kind of intensity if they are going to come home with another win.