Losing 10 straight games is nothing to be proud of and the Big Red (0-1) will attempt to end its losing skid this Saturday when it hosts the Elis (1-0) in both teams’ Ivy opener Saturday at Schoellkopf Field.
Last fall, Big Red failed to win a single league game and lost to Yale 7-21 at the Yale Bowl. Furthermore, last weekend’s 15-9 loss to Bucknell — the only team that Cornell beat the previous season — marked its 10th consecutive loss extending into last season, a program record.
In addition to being Cornell’s first Ivy game of the 2004 campaign, Saturday’s contest will also mark Jim Knowles’ first Ivy game at the helm of the Big Red. The new head coach, who played defensive end for Cornell and earned three varsity letters during his tenure as a player, looks to start out his Ivy coaching career by making a big impression for the rest of the Ancient Eight.
“Playing my first game as head coach was definitely an exciting experience for me, but eventually you have a reality of the scoreboard after losing your first game,” Knowles said.
The Big Red may just show their new coach his first Ivy win Saturday. Despite the final score, Cornell showed more potential against Bucknell than it did throughout the entire previous season. The Big Red defense played aggressively with safety Joel Sussman ’05 finishing the day with 10 tackles and blocking two field goal attempts.
If the Elis want to continue their winning ways, they will first have to make sure Sussman does not repeat this performance.
“We want to beat [Sussman] on play action and complete some deep balls behind the safeties,” Yale tight end Alex Faherty ’05 said. “We want to keep them off balance.”
Up front, the Big Red’s starting defensive end Ryan Lempa has returned for a fifth season with the home team, and he and his fellow defensive end Mike McGinty have a combined history of 84 career tackles. Last year, Lempa and his defense held the Elis to a mere 83 yards passing and pulled down three sacks. With Cornell still retaining most of its defensive players from last year, it may give the Yale offense a few bumps.
“Cornell is a big and physical team up front,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said.
The same cannot be said about the Big Red offense, though.
Last week, Bucknell held Cornell to only 86 yards rushing, and last year the Big Red averaged less than half the rushing yards per game (102.0) than the average for the rest of the Ivy League (205.0).
Cornell’s passing game has been fairly decent last fall, averaging 216.7 per game, and last Saturday starting quarterback D.J. Busch was 19 for 38 and 193 yards in the air. But it may not be enough against the Bulldogs’ offense, which averaged 35.4 points per game last year while Cornell only averaged 20.0.
But as a consolation to Cornell, the Big Red is also planning to host the Schoellkopf Sellout II, a returning Big Red tradition in which they attempt to fill every one of the 25,597 seats in the stadium with fans to welcome their new head coach.
“Although [Cornell] hasn’t been very successful in the past, I believe the Schoellkopf Sellout will establish home field advantage,” Knowles said.
Siedlecki has great confidence in his squad as they prepare to play their first Ivy away game of the season, despite the uncomfortably close 24-17 win against Dayton last Saturday.
“As with all Ivy games, we have to be ready physically and emotionally for a great game. We need to play four top-level quarters of football to come away with a victory,” Siedlecki said.
With Eli tailback Robert Carr ’05 finishing with 172 rushing yards last Saturday and wide receiver Chandler Henley ’06 completing seven catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns, the Bulldogs just might have the top-level plays they need to win big tomorrow and extend Cornell’s losing streak to 11.