Last week’s disastrous 17-14 road loss to underdog San Diego had Yale (0-1, 0-0 Ivy) seeing red for the whole charter flight back to Hartford. Tomorrow the Elis will again see red – lots of it, as Cornell (1-0, 0-0) visits the Yale Bowl — and they could not be more excited about it.

“After the game was over, everybody was saying ‘I can’t wait to get back on the field next week and turn this thing around,'” safety Matt Handlon ’06 said.

Games like last Saturday’s can do that to players. Yale carried a 14-3 lead into halftime, only to watch its offense stall, its beleaguered defense bend from exhaustion, and the game altogether curdle into an historic Bulldog breakdown.

“I think everybody realizes that we probably shouldn’t have lost to that team,” said tight end Alex Faherty ’06, who was limited to jumbo sets a week ago due to a sore groin. “But everyone’s very excited to get back on the field Saturday.”

Jeff Mroz’s ’06 favorite safety valve is now close to 100 percent and slated to start tomorrow. He and the rest of the Yale offense will have a tough test as they prepare for a Cornell defense that held Bucknell scoreless for the first 58 minutes of its 24-7 win last week in Ithaca.

Leading the Big Red on defense will be Joel Sussman, a preseason All-Ivy selection teeming with talent. Due to various injuries, Sussman has played sparingly since 2002 and was inactive for the opener, but three years ago he led Cornell in tackles (90) and already owns the school record for blocked kicks (6). At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Sussman plays the “whip” position, a sort of linebacker-safety hybrid not unlike that which Brian Urlacher manned at New Mexico.

The NFL-caliber talent does not end there for Cornell. On the other side of the ball, mammoth left tackle Kevin Boothe is a two-time All-Ivy recipient who has drawn the interest of many pro scouts.

The fanfare does not bother Brandt Hollander ’08, however. Yale’s second-year starter at middle guard, who lines up over the center before the snap, is seldom forced to fend off tackles. Still, in a limited sample against Boothe last year, Hollander emerged with a sterling record.

“Last year I had the same situation [of not facing him often],” Hollander said. “But we lined up once and I beat him. So basically I own Kevin Boothe. You can put that in the paper. What is he? Like a sixth-year player now?”

Fifth year, actually.

“Whatever. Most people should have a job by now.”

Boothe’s job, for the time being, will be to clear the way for Cornell’s rushing attack. The Big Red rumbled for 293 yards last week, with option quarterback Ryan Kuhn accounting for 151 of them.

“He’s a big QB who can run it and throw it,” Handlon said of the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Kuhn. “It’s going to be tough for our D. He poses two threats. Last week he ran for 150 yards but he’s capable of throwing for 250.”

Kuhn usually operates out of the shotgun, a formation out of which Cornell coach Jim Knowles does not hesitate to run the option.

“They run more option out of shotgun than they do from under center,” Handlon said. “Coach called it like the old Utah offense — the Urban Meyer offense. [They] send guys in motion, have a lot of fake handoffs. They do it all.”

When Kuhn isn’t keeping the ball himself, he’s pitching it to Luke Siwula, a sophomore tailback who rushed for 102 yards (the same as Mike McLeod ’09) in his first career start last week.

Whether on offense or defense, Faherty expects to see a smash-mouth style from Cornell, and he invites the challenge.

“They’re a big, physical team,” he said. “They really like to bring everyone in and stop the run. Our game plan this week is just to be tougher than they are and come right at them.”

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